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Policing Propp: Toward a Textualist Definition of the Procedural Drama

Policing Propp: Toward a Textualist Definition of the Procedural Drama chandler harriss a l arge degree of unex amined complexit y attends each individual act of television viewing. Viewers negotiate narrative mazes and give little thought to the work they expend in that negotiation or to the organizing design of the maze itself. There are, of course, many ways that the critic can bring that design to the foreground. In the 1970s and 1980s, attempts were made to import Russian formalist methods--originally developed for literary criticism in the 1920s--into film and television studies. These attempts were most successful when applied to genre and narrative--providing systematic methods for making that step from the specifics of numerous, potentially related narrative texts to the general, recurring design of a true genre. Interest in such methods has waned in recent years, but I argue here that they can still provide valuable insights into the taken-for-granted narrative structures of contemporary television. In particular, I adapt Vladimir Propp's method for analyzing Russian folktales to a single television genre--the procedural drama. For the purpose of this study, the procedural is a variant of the detective story, which is itself a variant of the mystery, globally speaking. Procedurals filter the ratiocinative action through characters who actively http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Film and Video University of Illinois Press

Policing Propp: Toward a Textualist Definition of the Procedural Drama

Journal of Film and Video , Volume 60 (1) – Mar 31, 2008

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1934-6018
Publisher site
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Abstract

chandler harriss a l arge degree of unex amined complexit y attends each individual act of television viewing. Viewers negotiate narrative mazes and give little thought to the work they expend in that negotiation or to the organizing design of the maze itself. There are, of course, many ways that the critic can bring that design to the foreground. In the 1970s and 1980s, attempts were made to import Russian formalist methods--originally developed for literary criticism in the 1920s--into film and television studies. These attempts were most successful when applied to genre and narrative--providing systematic methods for making that step from the specifics of numerous, potentially related narrative texts to the general, recurring design of a true genre. Interest in such methods has waned in recent years, but I argue here that they can still provide valuable insights into the taken-for-granted narrative structures of contemporary television. In particular, I adapt Vladimir Propp's method for analyzing Russian folktales to a single television genre--the procedural drama. For the purpose of this study, the procedural is a variant of the detective story, which is itself a variant of the mystery, globally speaking. Procedurals filter the ratiocinative action through characters who actively

Journal

Journal of Film and VideoUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Mar 31, 2008

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