Storytelling Conference

So, my inability to craft a decent abstract continues. I really struggle to craft a 200 word statement about a paper I haven’t written yet – and at this stage, I don’t have a store of papers built up, just waiting for the appropriate forum for presentation.

There is a local conference being held in February, run by a Languages and Literatures Association, but with an over-arching theme of storytelling. I felt that this certainly opened up room for a paper on the changing nature of storytelling in television. But as always, my abstract feels vague, generalised, and without any real direction.

I realise this is the third or fourth time I’ve put an abstract up for advice, and I do hope I am making some progress, but any advice that people might be able to give would be gratefully appreciated.

Happy holidays, everyone!


Traditionally, primetime Television has utilised an episodic mode of storytelling, mainly for practical, industrial reasons. Recent years have seen significant shifts in televisual storytelling, embracing a more serial narrative, specifically within the genres of Cult and Quality television.  Programming such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer saw a mixed model, with stand-alone episodes which also furthered an on-going series-long story arc. In the past 6 years, series based around a central enigma, such as Lost or The Event have taken this serialisation even further, requiring a more dedicated viewing model, rewarding audience engagement, and encouraging a forensic model of fandom, where active viewers work together and individually to decode the narrative (Mittell). I suggest that television has finally found its own unique narrative style, distinct from every other medium, allowed for by changing audience models and reception technologies.


-edit- I have qualified television to prime-time television to remove the complicating factor of soaps. Yes, there are primetime soaps. I realise this doesn’t quite solve the issue. But I believe this better indicates the type of programming I’m interested in. I would also argue that soaps, whilst being serial, occupy a similar space to episodic programing, as the inherent redundancy of soap operas means people can dip in and out, the same way they might with a procedural or a sitcom.

@noelrk has also pointed out that comics work to a similar form of serialisation. While I 100% agree with him as my argument stands, I truly believe that there is a fundamental difference between the serialisation of enigma television, such as Lost or The Event, and most comics. Whether it is ‘unity of purpose’, or something else, I’m just not quite sure. I’m working to put my finger on it before I submit my abstract.

But I guess this raises another question – how do you cover all the bases of your argument in a 200-word abstract. Or do you just lay out a position, and it is accepted that the details of the argument will be covered off in the final paper?


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