Television & Temporality: Exploring Narrative Time in 21st Century Programming - Edited Collection - Deadline May 15th, 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Melissa Ames
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This collection analyzes television programs of the 21st century that contain experiments with narrative time. Although the television shows of the past decade are as diverse and plentiful as that of any previous time period, there seem to be some commonalities between the programs currently creating the most engaged fan communities – the ones that have become quick cult draws or instant hits. These types of shows often fit the complexity that Steven Johnson lists in his discussion of television's role in the smartening of culture – multiple plot threads (often stopping and starting up again) spanning large durations of time, a thickening of characterization and a multiplication of cast members, a heavy reliance on audience intellect (and loyalty) in order to keep up with the narrative leaps and bounds, etc. These are all characteristics that can be attributed, in part, to existing in the current media moment. However, this anthology argues that a new characteristic is sneaking into the mix – the temporal tease.

The most popular television shows of the new millennium have at their center a narrative progression unlike many of those that came before them. These shows play with time – slowing it down to unfold the narrative at rarely before seen rates (time retardation and compression) and disrupting the chronological flow itself (extensive use of flashbacks and the insistence that viewers be able to situate themselves in both the present and past narrative threads simultaneously). Although temporal play has existed on the small screen prior to the 21st century - soap operas are well known for their use of time retardation and NBC's Seinfeld had a televisual time experiment with its 1997 episode "The Betrayal" which presented all scenes in reverse chronological order – never before has narrative time played such an important role in mainstream television. The frequency of this practice at present seems worthy of epochal note and this collection will seek to offer explanations for its presence in contemporary programming.

For this contributed volume, the editor seeks essays from a wide array of disciplines and theoretical approaches. Writing may explore, but need not be limited to, the following topics and programs:

• The use of flashbacks/flashforwards in programs such as Alias, Lost, & Flashforward
• The use of time compression/retardation in shows such as 24 & Prison Break
• Time experiments (narrative looping) in programs such as Daybreak
• The use of narrative frames in sitcoms such as How I Met Your Mother
• The depictions of time travel (or time/space alteration/parallel universes) in programming such as Fringe & Lost
• The televisual obsession with the concepts of the "do-over" (correcting the past) and fate, as seen in shows such as Heroes, Pushing Daisies, Daybreak, & Lost
• The systematic use of narrative tactics associated with the daytime soap opera (i.e. the cliffhanger) in primetime television
• The emotional effect these televisual tactics have on viewing audiences
• The implications that these narrative trends have for future programming
• The ways in which these time manipulation strategies engage fan communities
• The potential use-value of these 21st century programs
• The cultural factors that may contribute to the central motifs of these shows grounded in temporal play (i.e. post-9/11 concerns)
• Other topics related to television and time are welcome as well

Deadline for Abstract (500 word maximum): May 15th, 2010

Please send abstract and a brief biographical statement to Melissa Ames at: Include the following subject line for all submissions: "Submission for Television and Temporality".