'Don't stop': re-thinking the function of endings in narrative television

Bell, Stuart (2015) 'Don't stop': re-thinking the function of endings in narrative television. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis argues that the study of narrative television has been limited by an
adherence to accepted and commonplace conceptions of endings as derived from
literary theory, particularly a preoccupation with the terminus of the text as the ultimate
site of cohesion, structure, and meaning. Such common conceptions of endings, this
thesis argues, are largely incompatible with the realities of television’s production and
reception, and as a result the study of endings in television needs to be re-thought to pay
attention to the specificities of the medium. In this regard, this thesis proposes a model
of intra-narrative endings, islands of cohesion, structure, and meaning located within
television texts, as a possible solution to the problem of endings in television. These
intra-narrative endings maintain the functionality of traditional endings, whilst also
allowing for the specificities of television as a narrative medium.
The first two chapters set out the theoretical groundwork, first by exploring the
essential characteristics of narrative television (serialisation, fragmentation, duration,
repetition, and accumulation), then by exploring the unique relationship between
narrative television and the forces of contingency. These chapters also introduce the
concept of intra-narrative endings as a possible solution to the problems of television’s
narrative structure, and the medium’s relationship to contingency. Following on from
this my three case studies examine forms of television which have either been
traditionally defined as particularly resistant to closure (soap opera and the US sitcom)
or which have received little analysis in terms of their narrative structure (sports
coverage). Each of these case studies provides contextual material on these televisual
forms, situating them in terms of their narrative structure, before moving on to analyse
them in terms of my concept of intra-narrative endings. In the case of soap opera, the
chapter focusses on the death of the long running character Pat Butcher in the British
soap EastEnders (BBC, 1985-), while my chapter on the US sitcom focusses on the
varying levels of closure that can be located within the US sitcom, using Friends (NBC,
1993-2004) as a particular example. Finally, my chapter on sports coverage analyses the
BBC’s coverage of the 2012 London Olympics, and focusses on the narratives
surrounding cyclists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton. Each of these case studies
identifies their chosen events as intra-narrative endings within larger, ongoing texts, and
analyses the various ways in which they operate within those wider texts.
This thesis is intended to make a contribution to the emerging field of endings
studies within television by shifting the understanding of endings away from a dominant
literary model which overwhelmingly focusses on the terminus of the text, to a more
televisually specific model which pays attention to the particular contexts of the
medium’s production and reception.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Television, narrative, endings, soap opera, televised sport, sitcom, contingency, serialisation.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Funder's Name: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Holdsworth, Dr Amy and Lury, Prof. Karen
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: Dr Stuart Bell
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7282
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 May 2016 11:51
Last Modified: 26 May 2016 08:16
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7282

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