Publisher: Brill Publishers (series, European Perspectives on the United States) Working Title: The Platinum Age of American Television, 2000 – 2010
Editor: Ben Alexander
I am collecting chapter proposals that broadly address, The Platinum Age of American Television, 2000 – 2010. This volume is intended for inclusion in Brill’s European Perspectives on the United States series. This is not a blind (or random submission). Brill has expressed enthusiasm for this volume.
The period from 2000 – 2010 is generally regarded as “The Platinum Age of American Television.” In a 2015 interview with David Simon (creator of The Wire) President Barak Obama offered that The Wire is, “one of the greatest — not just television shows, but pieces of [American] art in the last couple of decades.” We can certainly consider that The Wire remains poignant because it does not simple depict American culture The Wire is American culture. The Wire combines hyperrealism (from a-quasi anthropological capture of syntax and dialect that recalls the language of Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston to a preference for actors who lived “the game” in Baltimore’s inner city) with the reinvention of fundamental American themes (from picaresque individualisms to challenging American exceptionalism) within a (at the time) emerging convention: the premium cable serialized drama.
The Wire, of course, did not single-handedly reshape American television. Scholars like Martin Shuster refer to this period of television history as “new television.” That is, the product of new imaginations that felt television had exhausted its normative points of reference, subject matter and narrative technique. Many of the shows from this period sought to reinvent television for interaction with an evolving zeitgeist shaped by disorientation amid a world of rapid change. Series that fall within this rubric include (in chronological order): The Sopranos; The Wire; Deadwood; Mad Men; and Breaking Bad.
These shows also share a reimagined concern for what scholars like Astrid Borger term America’s “documentary aesthetic.” Borger, however, situates this aesthetic amid artistry of the 1930s much of which was shaped by a government initiative to “introduce America to Americans” in order to justify sweeping government intervention amid national crisis. Alfred Kazin observed that, “one of the most remarkable phenomena of the era of crisis . . . the WPA guides to states and roads . . . the half-sentimental, half commercial new folklore . . . ; the endless documentation of the disposed in American life – it testified to an extraordinary national self-scrutiny . . . Never before did a nation seem so hungry for news of itself.” The corpus of television that comprises the “Platinum Age of American Television” (approximately 2000 – 2010) share an investiture in a similar aesthetic. Weather concerned with historical verisimilitude (Mad Men, Deadwood etc.) or with a Naturalist aesthetic (The Wire, Breaking Bad etc.) American culture of the early 21st century cultivated a new interest in unflinching examination of the dispossessed.
We welcome the submission of a 2000 word prospectus. Yes, you read that right. We ask for an initial submission of a 2000 word prospectus. Prospectus will serve for review. Accepted authors will be asked to submit chapter length study (between 5,000 – 7,000 words). We are especially interested in submissions that compare (or at least reference) two or more series. Additional points of entry include (but are certainly not limited to):
- America’s “documentary aesthetic”;
- A “New American Naturalism”;
- The reinvention of American literary themes:
- American exceptionalism
- Picaresque individualism
- The American Dream
- Commercialism and Consumer Culture
- “Survival of the Fittest”
- The family
- Portrayal of women;
- The female detective
- The female outlaw / gangster
- Portrayal of LGBTQ characters
- Living a double life
- Reading television scripts as literature;
- Teaching the Platinum Age of American Television;
- Race relations;
- Depictions of the American frontier
- Depictions of “the game” – the business of drugs in America;
- Depictions of the “war on drugs”;
- August 31: 2000 word prospectus due.
- Yes, (again) you read this right. Please submit a 2000 word proposal. These will be reviewed and then selected authors will be asked to submit full chapter length studies (5,000 – 7,000 words) that will be submitted, as single collection, to Brill.
- September 15. Acceptance notifications sent.
- January 15: Fully developed / formatted chapter submission (5000 – 7000 words) due.
Ben Alexander holds an MA in American Literature from Columbia University and a PhD in American Literature from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York. Across the entire of his graduate school Alexander worked as a Manuscripts and Rare Books Specialist for the New York Public Library.
Alexander has taught at UCLA (Post-Doc), Queens College City University of New York (Assistant Professor) and Sichuan University (Associate Professor and Associate of American Studies). Alexander spent a year at Stanford University where he was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English and Digital Lit Lab and is a Visiting Scholar in the English Department at Harvard University where he is also developing trans-national (comparativist) Digital Humanities projects.
Alexander is completing his first monograph entitled, Yaddo: Arts Matronage, ‘A Usable Past and the Politics of American Artistry which will be published by Cornell University Press. Has co-edited volumes entitled, Community Archives and Archiving Activism. He is currently editing a special edition of the European Journal of American Studies entitled, From Memory to Marriage: The Archive, Political Agency and the Advance of LGBTQ Rights in America. He has published article studies in The New England Quarterly, English Studies Canada, American Archivist, Archival Science etc. Alexander has taught and lectured across the United States, China and Europe.