Complex TV Launches!
by Jason Mittell — Middlebury College
March 24, 2012 – 16:24
I am pleased to announce the launch of my book Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. As I’ve written previously, I am a firm believer in open-access publishing and experimenting with new forms of peer review and digital publishing. And even though I’m still in Germany, I’m participating via Skype in a workshop on online publishing at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies conference in Boston this weekend. Thus in conjunction with my SCMS presentation, I offer a draft of my book manuscript for open peer-to-peer review online via the CommentPress system as hosted on MediaCommons Press – please visit the site to read it and provide feedback, and share the link broadly. Here is the brief abstract of the book, with the full book proposal available on the site:
Over the past two decades, American television has undergone major transformations in terms of technology, industrial structure, viewer practices, and the rise of new genres like reality programming. One of the most notable impacts of these shifts is the emergence of highly complex and elaborate forms of serial narrative, resulting in a robust period of formal experimentation and risky programming rarely seen in a medium that is typically viewed as formulaic and convention bound. Complex Television offers a sustained analysis of the poetics of television narrative in order to understand how the medium’s storytelling operates and how it fits into broader cultural contexts. Through close analyses of key programs, including The Wire, Lost, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica, Arrested Development, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, The West Wing, and How I Met Your Mother, I trace the emergence of this narrative mode, focusing on issues like viewer comprehension, transmedia storytelling, serial structures, fan engagement, and authorship. By applying theories of narratology and poetics developed in literary and film studies to the more culturally devalued medium of television, I hope to argue for a vision of television as the most vital and important storytelling medium of our time.
I will be posting it serially, with chapters going live every week or two for the next few months, with the book’s introduction and first chapter available now. This serialized format is in (large) part because I am still writing the book, but also because I want to give time for people to read each chapter and participate in the conversation, as well as the nice form/content resonance for a book about serial narrative. Much of the book’s content has been previewed here on this blog and in other publications, but hopefully the new versions are improved and more integrated into a long-form argument. As discussed in the introduction, the book’s chapters are not designed to be read cumulatively, so could certainly jump around with ease. You can follow updates for the book via Twitter, Facebook, or an email list for announcements. I hope to see you in the margins of the book!