The Velvet Light Trap Issue #79: Serials, Seriality and Serialization

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The Velvet Light Trap

Last year's Serial found remarkable success not merely by crafting a compelling story, but by embracing the narrative form highlighted in the very title of the podcast. After nearly 100 million downloads, the multi-part, longform nonfiction narrative not only drew widespread attention to its particular narrative but also brought unprecedented attention to the medium of podcasting.

This is not without precedent. A century ago, film serials proved an effective means of enticing cinema's early audiences to the theater regularly and forging connections to more established media industries, most notably mass-market magazines and daily newspapers. Multi-part, long-form narratives did not begin with the mass production of cinema, and precedents such as mass market literature and comic strips provided sources for not only film serials but also radio and television serials. Longform narrative has always been part of media culture, though often limited to "low" or disreputable genres such as the poverty row adventure serial or the television soap opera. More recently, serialized narratives have returned to cultural prominence: now, the multi-part, continuing narrative is free of its "lowbrow" connotations of melodramatic cliff-hangers and instead associated with narrative complexity, televisual quality, and appointment viewing or listening.

The recurrence of serial narratives as central to the emergence of new media and the rejuvenation of old media raises several questions. In what cultural and historical contexts have serial narratives thrived? What are the determining economic justifications and how do these shape serial forms? What are prevailing aesthetic practices, narrative strategies, and genres in serial media forms? How do they vary among different national contexts? How have these changed over time? What unique spectatorial pleasures are afforded by seriality? What are its implications reception studies? How have technologies, industry practices, and transnational distribution influenced the proliferation and/or popularity of serial narratives? How do we conceptualize authorship and totality of serial forms?

For Issue 79 of VLT, the editors welcome work that explores serialization of media in all its forms, contexts, and aspects. We invite submissions that are transnational in scope and that examine serial media from critical, theoretical, or historical perspectives.

Possible areas of inquiry include but are not limited to:

Panoramas, serial photography, and other pre-cinematic forms
Radio serials and podcasting
Spectatorship and reception
Theories of seriality
Televisual seriality--historical and contemporary
Transmediality and intermediality
Global & transnational media
Non-narrative serials
Non-fiction serials
Silent and studio-era film serials
Serial comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels
Industrial logics and modes of production
Narratology and aesthetics
Video games and seriality
Digital seriality
Serial pornography
Seriality and immersive narrative experiences
Race, class, gender, and sexuality in serial media
Soap operas
Film series, sequels, prequels
Serials in film, television and radio history
Stardom in film/television serials
Experimental and avant-garde serials

Submission Guidelines
Submissions should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago Style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a separate one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to by January 31st, 2016.

About the Journal
VLT is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media. The journal draws on a variety of theoretical and historiographic approaches from the humanities and social sciences and welcomes any effort that will help foster the ongoing processes of evaluation and negotiation in media history and criticism. While VLT maintains its traditional commitment to the study of American film, it also expands its scope to television and other media, to adjacent institutions, and to other nations' media. The journal encourages both approaches and objects of study that have been neglected or excluded in past scholarship.

Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Texas at Austin coordinate issues in alternation, and each issue is devoted to a particular theme. VLT's Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Richard Allen, Ben Aslinger, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Mark Betz, Corey Creekmur, Michael Curtin, Kay Dickinson, Bambi Haggins, Scott Higgins, Mary Celeste Kearney, Jon Kraszewski, Lucas Hilderbrand Roberta Pearson, Nicholas Sammond, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Sterne, Cristina Venegas. VLT's graduate student editors are assisted by their local faculty advisors: Mary Beltrán, Ben Brewster, Jonathan Gray, Michele Hilmes, Lea Jacobs, Derek Johnson, Vance Kepley, Shanti Kumar, Charles Ramírez Berg, Thomas Schatz, and Janet Staiger.