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Contribution to Book


This chapter considers seriality in contemporary television dramas in light of arguments that most popular culture falls within melodrama as modality (to include legal shows, police and detective programs, westerns, and medical series), instead of narrow genres, such as soap operas. The recent success of fully serialized dramas is a noteworthy development, producing highly popular and highly regarded programming. The traditions of melodrama, including its deep commitment to the uses of emotionality, address story worlds and audiences in terms of social relations, in contrast to psychological realism’s more individualized and inward turning tendencies. “Ensemble Storytelling” explores three specific strategies available in melodrama’s engagement with emotionality, by turning to the example of the British serial, River (BBC, 2015). The first strategy considers emotions as a narrative structuring device, constituted by melodrama’s abrupt shifts in emotive tone carrying viewers through fluctuating states. The second strategy focuses on melodramatic performative techniques as emotional expressionism, guided by the impulse to externalize feelings in communicative social interactions, instead of private introspection. Finally, the third strategy recognizes melodrama’s ability to put into play multiple meanings attached to any apparently ‘singular’ emotion, creating complex narratives about emotions.



Book Title

Exploring Seriality on Screen Audiovisual Narratives in Film and Television

Book Publisher


Book Editor(s)

Ariane Hudelet and Anne Crémieux



Document Version

Post Print

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