8-10 sept. 2016 Paris (France)


In many ways, cinema has always been essentially linked to the notion of seriality. From the zoetrope to the devices of the Lumière brothers or Thomas Edison, cinematic movement was created by a succession of still images. When film narratives became more complex, productions like The Perils of Pauline (1914) or The Exploits of Elaine (1914) relied on the episodic form to encourage viewer loyalty. The pleasure experienced in following a story that unfolds over several hours, of parting from characters only to meet up with them after an interruption of several days or weeks, can create a feeling of familiarity and attachment, which the cinema has explored throughout its history. Today, the serial form seems increasingly dominant notably in the United States, both culturally and economically, and is associated both with television—or “post-television” if we consider Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime productions—and commercial cinema with its franchises, sequels, prequels and remakes. The 22nd SERCIA conference will set out to explore the links between the filmic form and seriality in all its manifestations. Speakers are invited to reflect on possible definitions of seriality and think about the way seriality is connected with the notions of genre, corpus or cycle. The topic also calls for a consideration of cinema within a larger history of representations: what links can be established with seriality in other arts such as graphic arts (altarpieces, frescoes, engravings, comic books, graphic novels), or the serialized novel of the XIXth centry for instance? How can we account for the fact that, culturally, series are often associated with “lowbrow” genres such as crime fiction, animation, comics, horror, science fiction (from the earliest examples of serials such as Flash Gordon?) In the age of transmedia and digital technology, the relationship between cinema and seriality inevitably leads to the question “what is cinema?” and for that matter “what is television?” TV series are today perceived as a logical extension of cinema, and many filmmakers (such as Steven Soderbergh for instance) have chosen this form which, according to some, allows for more freedom. The border between cinema and series seems increasingly blurry, with intersecting modes of production and reception that directors, screenwriters and actors freely nagivate, so that cultural hierarchies are gradually shifting. The role of fan communities has also increased, and the stories are increasingly disseminated through multiple transmediatic forms—films, series, video games, alternate reality games, by-products—making the notion of series even more complex, and raising issues of unity and fragmentation.

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