Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Naomi Mandel

Abstract

Seriality has maintained a pervasive presence across media for over a century. Despite widespread critical and popular interest into seriality and serial texts, very few book-length theories of seriality have been attempted. Though uncommented upon critically, Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan have both offered insights into seriality that this dissertation puts in dialogue with serial media texts. My dissertation begins in the Victorian era with Freud’s encounter with serial fiction through Charles Dickens. I then turn to looking at new media texts such as the “Twitterature” of Jennifer Egan and Joshua Clover, the first season of Sarah Koenig’s and WEBZ-Chicago’s Serial podcast, and Netflix’s streaming television series Stranger Things. This dissertation imagines a double intervention into the study of seriality and into psychoanalytic theory: I explicate and develop the extant serial concerns of psychoanalysis and then, through serial media examples, I advance a theory of seriality. This is a new reading of psychoanalytic theory as a body of thought primarily concerned with seriality and the consequences of theorizing the gap constitutive of seriality. I find that by attending to the psychic impact of the serial form in early Freudian psychoanalysis, and later in work from Jacques Lacan, we can understand the foundational influence of media texts in understanding our psychic lives. While it is common to find in scholarship today that psychoanalysis is a theoretical relic of the past and has nothing new to teach us, I argue that—amidst a so-called crisis of theory in the academy since deconstruction—psychoanalysis may be the only theory that is ready to grapple with our contemporary serial media landscape, as it is uniquely able to examine serial media’s ubiquity in our daily lives.

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