UPDATE--Being Erica and Philosophy CFP (Deadline: 10-1-10)

full name / name of organization: 
Dr. Heath A. Diehl
contact email: 
williad@bgnet.bgsu.edu

Since its premiere on January 5, 2009, the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s Being Erica has delighted fans in its native Canada and gained a considerable following as a syndicated export in a number of other countries, including Australia, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At the same time, the program seems to have confounded many media critics. On one hand, precious little “writing” about the program actually exists despite its swift release to DVD (usually a sign of both popularity and potential profitability—both typically strong indicators of media interest as well as scholarly pursuit). Moreover, of the extant published writing available on Being Erica, all consists of brief (less than a single printed page and usually less than a single column of text) popular periodical-type reviews and/or “fluff features” that offer little insight into the production and reception dynamics of the program, as well as the formal and thematic properties that engage audiences from a wide variety of geopolitical locales and that mark Being Erica as a product of the current historical moment.

Despite the paucity of published writing on Being Erica currently in existence, one rather telling trend evidenced among most of the critics is to explain or to describe the program by way of analogies. Being Erica is most frequently understood (or, more aptly, misunderstood) as a primetime drama akin to Desperate Housewives, Knots Landing, and Dynasty—a not unsurprising take on the program given that it airs in the United States on the SOAPnet, “an American cable television channel that broadcasts current and past soap operas and primetime dramas” (“SOAPnet”). Sandwiched in the viewing schedule between such standard American soap fare as General Hospital and The Young and the Restless, Being Erica has been swiftly and almost unanimously written off as an entertaining but otherwise lowbrow incarnation of “chick lit”—a brand of cultural productions popularized by works like Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Yet to understand Being Erica as a mere lowbrow soap is to ignore the deep and compelling philosophical undercurrents that inform the storylines, the themes, and the characters. Indeed, the very title of the program, Being Erica, invites philosophical readings of the central character, Erica Strange, and her time-traveling journey through past regrets with the assistance of her mysterious, philosophy-quoting therapist Dr. Tom.

To this end, essay proposals are invited for a proposed volume of critical essays on the intersections of popular culture and philosophy in the television program Being Erica. Taking as its point of departure Plato’s notion that “the life which is unexamined is not worth living,” this proposed volume of essays seeks to examine what it means to “be” Erica Strange, how Erica Strange stands as a kind of “Every(wo)man” figure for the contemporary historical moment, and why so many viewers are captivated by the unusual time travels of this character. A book proposal currently is being circulated (specifically with Open Court Press for its Pop Culture and Philosophy series), but no contract has yet been issued by any press.

Possible essay topics include, but are not limited to:
 The nature of “existence” and “being”
 The function of choice and/or the burdens of “responsibility”
 The role of consequence and its relationship to choice
 The concept of “free will”
 The concept of “predestination”
 The interplay between free will and predestination
 The relationship between philosophy and psychoanalysis (specifically in the figure of Dr. Tom)
 The notion of philosophy-as-therapy (and/or therapy-as-philosophy)

Please send a proposal (approximately 300-500 words) and a brief biography that includes your name, institutional affiliation, and contact information to the editor, Heath Diehl, at williad@bgsu.edu. Proposals are due by October 1, 2010, and should be submitted as a Microsoft Word document (i.e., .doc or .docx) or as a rich text file (i.e., .rtf). Completed essays will tentatively be due May 1, 2011. Questions about the volume can also be directed to the editor.

cfp categories: 
film_and_television
gender_studies_and_sexuality
interdisciplinary
popular_culture
theory
twentieth_century_and_beyond