Heading to Madison


On Wednesday, I’m heading to Madison, WI – I lived there for 6 years, but haven’t been back since 2000. Beyond looking forward to some of the fineries of Madison, especially on the Union Terrace, I’ll be attending the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image conference. SCSMI is foreign terrain for me, both because nearly every paper is focused exclusively on film and because the cognitivist approach is one I need to learn much more about. So the conference will be in part a chance to learn a new subfield, rather than just attending papers from familiar faces about topics of direct interest.

My paper is called “Previously On: Prime Time Serials and the Mechanics of Memory.” It’s part of my work on television narrative, focusing on how serial creators handle the challenges of creating dense storytelling despite viewers forgetting events from previous episodes and seasons. The cognitive approach is more of an attitude rather than research method, as I’m focusing more on the poetics of serial form – the underlying assumption is that viewers are actively constructing mental maps of the storyworld, requiring cognitive engagement and active recalling. I’m presenting on Saturday (stop by if you’re in the neighborhood), so perhaps my argument will evolve in light of various presentations earlier in the conference. I’ll post my slides and notes on the conference after the fact.

Let me take advantage of my readers to fish for some TV history as well. I’ll be doing some research at the fabulous Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research, where I dug up many gems for my dissertation (and later book). What I’m looking for is early experiments in television storytelling – examples from the 1950s of primetime serialization, especially early instances of two-parters. Unfortunately, this is not a searchable term, so I’m having to hunt and peck. So if any of you know of any programs from 1950s American TV (or earlier radio) that blended episodic and serial forms, please share and I’ll try to find them in the archive.

To be continued…


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