Rethinking disciplines with Television series - An epistemological perspective

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
University Paul-Valery - Montpellier 3

In their reflection or refraction of the world, television series seem to affect the perceptions of those who watch them, whether they represent ultra-contemporary ripped-from-the-headline events or historical events, either opening up closed social worlds or offering dystopian scripts in uchronic or alternate worlds as in the real world, political and environmental crises loom large. In their activation of the collective imaginary, these fictions can in turn influence reality, in particular when spectator-citizens translate their viewing into real-life socio-political and cultural movements (for instance, demonstrators dressing up in costumes taken from the series The Handmaid's Tale [Hulu, 2017-] during the Women's Marches in the USA or within the #MeToo movement globally).

It is this agency of series taken as an object that we intend to question from an epistemological perspective by reversing our disciplinary lens. Indeed, numerous researchers in literature, the arts, humanities and social sciences have seen in television series new fields to explore, and they have brought the methodological perspective and the conceptual tools of their respective disciplines to them. This conference intends to question researchers on a possible “return effect” of the object on the discipline, i.e., to ask if this new field of study allows to rethink somewhat each discipline itself. Have series catalyzed new concepts, opened up new horizons, allowed analysis that would have been more difficult to envision, or that might even be unthinkable without them?

It is ultimately the reciprocal influence between object and disciplines that this conference will focus on, in order to measure the impact of this increasingly ubiquitous cultural object on the scientific approaches of researchers in the Humanities. In its multimodality which combines text, language, camera, musical soundtrack, actors’ performance and a viewer’s gaze over the course of entire seasons and years of real-life context, does not the very object “series” invite us to redraw disciplinary boundaries?

By inviting researchers to step outside their field to “decipher” them, do series not lead to forms of (inter)disciplinary redefinition? If each discipline tends to construct its objects, its terminologies and its instruments of analysis, this object invites us, in turn, to rethink the sovereignty of the disciplinary field, and to adopt a “different perspective,” to quote Jean-Paul Resweber (2011: 179): “without renouncing the specific logic of his discipline, the researcher comes to adopt another perspective which subverts his own and can lead him to position himself differently within that discipline”.

It is this turning of one’s gaze upon one's discipline to reveal potential disciplinary blind spots that this conference invites, in the various fields that have embraced research on series – from philosophy (Laugier 2019), to history (Faure and Taïeb 2017), political science (Faure and Taïeb 2015, 2020), linguistics (Bednarek 2018, Sorlin 2016), narratology (Favard and Machinal 2019, Hatchuel 2015, Mittell 2015), cultural studies and sociology (Bacqué et al. 2014), gender studies (LeFèvre-Berthelot 2020) and queer studies (Chambers 2009), to musicology (Carayol andRossi 2015). Because series are so often adaptations, or re-adaptations (Wells-Lassagne 2017), remakes or reboots of literary works (Bronfen 2020), of films or of older series, they do not simply increase the body of adaptations, but renew it, calling into question the demarcations between film studies, literary studies, and media studies.

We will therefore wonder not only how series as an object impact film studies (Hudelet and Crémieux 2021), but how they have participated in the development of new concepts. Although remediation (Bolter and Grusin 1998) did not emerge conceptually from a corpus of audiovisual series, Grusin has since elaborated his concept premediation (Grusin 2010) partly around these digital narratives. Given their contemporary distribution through online platforms, series also incite us to rethink the very idea of  “television”, revolutionizing television studies as a field (Leverette, Ott and Buckley 2008, Lodz 2014). As content watched (downloaded, streamed) on screens of all sizes (from widescreen sets to computers and mobile phones), contemporary series may prompt us to rethink the entire ecology of media, in a convergence culture (Jenkins 2006) affected by their proliferation. Can we still imagine transmedia studies (Cornillon 2018) without them? If series interrogate both security studies (Takacs 2012) and surveillance studies (Lefait 2013) in their mise en abyme of scopic devices in particular, have they not also become essential in screen studies, as well as in studies of the digital and/or posthuman subject (Machinal and Michlin 2018)? Can we, in fact, continue to imagine the field of digital humanities without series?

Finally, although they are still too often relegated to the status of “unserious” popular objects, series nevertheless give social, political and institutional depth to what is often beyond citizens’ actual scrutiny or experience: the backstage of power politics, the secret workings of intelligence agencies, social and professional universes and embodied lives other than their own. As such, they seem to convey forms of knowledge to civil society. In their lectures or seminars, academics are well aware of how series bridge the gap between scientific fact and common knowledge, and they often draw from series’ staging of complex social realities (can the cogs of the US political system or backchannel communication be exposed with as much force in a traditional lecture as in an episode of The West Wing?). How series can facilitate the transfer of knowledge will therefore also be a focus of the conference.

 We will welcome proposals focused on the critical study of what series “do” to established disciplines; on how series affect the constitution of knowledge; and on how they allow the transmission of knowledge.

Please send your proposals (approx. 300 words + 5 lines of bio-bibliography), by September 30, 2021 to

Authors will be notified by October 30, 2021. Papers can be delivered either in English or French.

An international publication will gather a selection of papers given at the conference.

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