UDE ALUS Symposium 2019 Abstracts

Juliane Borosch (UDE) Channeling Urban Complexity: #OneChicago’s Cross-Seriality

At their core, cities and scripted TV-series function in very similar ways. Both are “open systems” (Benesch 12) with a tendency to proliferate and to become more complex, making them the ideal medium to tackle the depiction of urban complexity. Yet, while TV-shows have become more and more narratively complex (Mittell 32) and are frequently set in urban spaces, this increase has mostly happened on the level of character constellations (e.g. The Wire) and time (e.g. LOST, 24). However, a new form of space-based complex seriality has come about in recent years, which I term cross-seriality.

Looking at the #OneChicago set of TV-shows (NBC), I will analyze this new narrative mode, which does not just tell a single, but multiple stories across a range of television series. This interlinked network of shows thereby creates its own storytelling universe synchronized in time and – especially – space. Shooting on location and in close-cooperation with city officials the city plays a central role in the Chicago-shows. By juxtaposing three layers of cross-seriality (events, characters, structure) and cityness (places, people, structures), their compatibility and similarities create a dense, authentic, and complex city imaginary of Chicago.

Works Cited:

Benesch, Klaus. “Concepts of Space in American Culture: An Introduction.” Space in America. Theory History Culture. Eds. Klaus Benesch and Kerstin Schmidt. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi, 2005. 11-23.

Mittell, Jason. “Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television.” The Velvet Light Trap 58: 2006. 29-40.

Juliane Borosch is a doctoral student in American Studies at the University of Duisburg- Essen. She is part of the joint research group of the University Alliance Ruhr “Scripts for Postindustrial Urban Futures” funded by the VW-Foundation. Her PhD thesis is tentatively titled “Jazzing Up the Climate Friendly City – Narratives of Sustainable and Climate-Friendly Rehabilitation in Detroit and the Ruhr.” Juliane holds a BA in Anglophone Studies and History and an MA in American Studies and Literature and Media Practice.