CFP: Special issue: “Television and History. OR: The Past as a TV Series”

Printable version Thursday 26 November 2015 Last updated at 12:27

The  role of ‘History’ in television has been burgeoning over the last  decade. Historical subjects appear in all sorts of programmes, with  historical subjects making their appearances in various forms of virtual  history, alternate history, hybrid forms of docu-tainment and  docu-fiction, from re-enacted authenticity to pure fantasy.
Famous  historical figures and historical framings of a wide range of topics  are more and more frequently used in order to produce television series  and mini-series, which creates the impression that public broadcasters  and private television producers are convinced that ‘History sells’.
Indeed,  the representation of historical subjects appears to establish itself  as a universal genre next to that of crime in contemporary television.  In other words, “all human and all too human” (Nietzsche) is placed in  this genre. And in each distinctive historical framing, this contributes  to entertaining and educating the viewers (delectare / prodesse).  
For  a special issue of the interdisciplinary and international journal   SPIEL - New Series. A Journal on Media Culture we are looking for papers  addressing the growing field of research on ‘Television and History’.
Papers may address a range of issues, including, but not limited to the following questions:
•          While there is hardly any doubt that the entertainment factor is what  guarantees the success with audiences, it is less clear which role  education plays in such television production, e.g. what kind of  historical or even historiographical lessons are viewers exposed to  through such series?
•          Whether, and to what extent, and through which filmographic and aesthetic means is the past staged or re-enacted?
•          Is there a recurring dramaturgy or a typical aesthetic?
•          Are there patterns of image design that distinguish ‘real history’ from fictional re-enactment?
•          Are we seeing the emergence of a distinctive aesthetic form of ‘history on demand’?
•          On which conception of historiography are such series based? (e.g.  history as a collection of examples for correct behaviour; history as a  linear imagination with an open-ended future trajectory, etc.).
•          Is  there any connection to any generally accepted historiographical  context, i.e. can the represented past be recognized as a narrative  (re-)construction or does it remain in a ‘closed’ imagery of the past  (‘this is how it really happened’)?
•          Are these television programs  more likely to contribute to the formation of a traditional, dual  historical awareness, or specifically to a more ‘modern’ one that exists  beyond this dichotomy?
•          Or do such programs actually tend to destroy any form and every acceptance of a critical historical access to ‘history’?
Contributing authors are invited to engage with these and related questions.
We  welcome contributions that address such questions with reference to  television series of national and international calibre, as well as  publically-funded and private television productions, with a particular  focus on TV productions dating from the last 15 years.
Some  examples might include: Call the Midwife (Passion, D), Apocalypse. La  2ème guerre mondiale (France television, F), Mad Men (Lionsgate, USA),  Tut (Amazon Prime, USA), Olympus (GB, Reunion Pictures), Spartacus  (Starz, USA), Marco Polo (Netflix, USA), Wolf Hall (BBC, GB), Mit Dolch  und Degen (Arte, D/F), Versailles (Canal +, F),  Downtown Abbey (ITV, UK  und Irland), Weissensee (ARD, D),  Romanzo Criminale (Sky Italia, I),  La Piovra ( RAI, I), etc.
To express your interest, please  send your abstract of max. 500 words to both Edgar Lersch  ( and Reinhold Viehoff  (viehoff@medienkomm.uni-halle) by 15 January 2016.
The deadline  for submitting full-length papers of max 30,000 characters (incl. spaces  and incl. references, bibliography, footnotes, etc.) will be the 1st  July 2016. Papers may be submitted in English or German.
All papers will be subject to a full peer-review process.
The special issue is scheduled to appear in autumn 2016.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the editors should you have any questions.



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