Broadcasting the body: affect, embodiment and bodily excess on contemporary television

Smit, Alexia Jayne (2010) Broadcasting the body: affect, embodiment and bodily excess on contemporary television. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In recent years television has seen a notable increase in evocative images of the human body subject to exploration and manipulation.Taking the increasing viscerality of television’s body images as a starting point, the work presented in this thesis asserts the importance of considering television viewing as an embodied experience. Through a focus on displays of the body across a range of television formats this thesis demonstrates the significance and complexity of viewers’ affective and embodied engagements with the medium and offers an alternative to accounts of television which are focussed only on the visual, narrative or semiotic aspects of television aesthetics. This work challenges approaches to television which understand the pleasures of looking at the body as simply an exercise in power by considering the role of the body in fostering the sharing of affect, specifically through feelings of intimacy, shame and erotic pleasure.
Additionally, the research presented here accounts for and situates the tendency toward bodily display that I have described in terms of traditional television aesthetics and in relation to conditions within the television industry in the United States and the United Kingdom. Rather than considering the trend toward exposing the body as a divergence from traditional television, this thesis argues that body-oriented television is a distinctly televisual phenomenon, one that implicates the bodies onscreen and the bodies of viewers located in domestic space in its attempts to breach the limitations of the screen, making viewers feel both intimately and viscerally connected to the people, characters and onscreen worlds that television constructs for us.
The methodological approach taken in this thesis is based on close textual analysis informed by a focus on affect and embodiment. This thesis relies on the author’s own embodied engagement with televisual texts as well as detailed formal analyses of the programmes themselves. In order to understand the place of explicit body images on television this thesis engages with a broad range of contemporary debates in the field of television studies and with the cannon of television studies. This thesis is also deeply informed by writing about affect developed in film studies and studies of reality television.
This thesis is structured around a set of case studies which each explore different dimensions of the trend toward bodily excess across a broad range of genres including reality television, science programming and the drama series. The chapters in this thesis are organised around four tendencies or modes related to traditional television aesthetics: Intimacy, community, public education and melodrama. Each of these case studies examines how the affective body capitalises upon and extends the traditional pleasures of television through an affective appeal to the body.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: television, affect, the body, embodiment, intimacy, domesticity, forensic science, plastic surgery, reality television, quality television drama, shame, melodrama
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Lury, Dr. Karen and Caughie, Prof. John
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr Alexia Smit
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2278
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:53

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