- Sensing the Opaque
- Seriality and the Aesthetics of Televisual Form
- Book title
- Media of Serial Narrative
- Pages (from-to)
- Columbus: Ohio State University Press
- Theory and interpretation of narrative
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Recent work on TV seriality focuses on the deference of meaning through narrative extension. Contemporary seriality, it has been argued, exploits this expanding textuality to construct complicated narratives that tip the pleasures of seriality toward detecting the meaning of the plot's ever-increasing baroque structure. The serial text becomes a forensic text marked by at least two forms of narrative complexity: text-driven complexity and fan-driven complexity. Both dimensions of complexity are based on meaning. Either, the serial structure of the text defers, complicates and keeps meaning ascription open-ended, or serialized-extension of meaning by fans proliferates multiple meanings. Meaning is subsumed to plot, and complexity occasions a forensic practice of meaning detection and proliferation. It is a detection practice.
In The Sense of Things: The Object Mater of American Liteature, Bill Brown focuses on the sheer materiality of things rather than their explicit or implicit meanings for the narrative. Brown distinguishes between object and thing. The thing is excessive and overflows the demands of meaning, that is, its value as a signifying element in broader considerations of plot. Its sensuous material presence, prior to any meaning ascription, is forgotten in the plot-driven desire to assign meaning to narratives.
The importance of focussing on the sensuous particularity of serial texts is pressing because contemporary visual seriality while extending narratives, trades on the power of sensory intensity, often through technological changes in visualization. Yet analyses of televisual seriality disregard the sensory "thingness" proliferating in such expanded narratives. On the one hand, this lack can be explained as a function of the disciplinary history of televisual studies; on the other, attention to the sensory has a long history in aesthetics, literature and film which much televisual analyses of complexity ignore.
Neither objects, saturated with meaning, nor characters and plots, form the focus of this analyis of seriality. This paper extends the forensic perspective on plot and characters in televisual seriality to the objects that proliferate as things. How should we understand the sensuous particularity of things in contemporary televisual seriality? What power does sensory intensity exercise in the experience of serialized audovisual texts? And how does this power relate to the forensic tendency of plot-driven analyses of seriality? Is this a relation of opposition, accompaniment, interruption?
Drawing on literary, film and televisual criticism, as well as broader aesthetic analyses, the aim of this essay is to extend the analysis of televisual seriality beyond a focus on meaning. By linking the focus on plots, characters and motivation on the one hand, to the less-addressed sensuous materiality of things, the argument develops both an in-depth and expansive understanding of the pleasures and politics of televisual seriality.
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