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Network Aesthetics$
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Patrick Jagoda

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226346489

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226346656.001.0001

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Realist Aesthetics: Televisual Networks

Realist Aesthetics: Televisual Networks

(p.103) 3 Realist Aesthetics: Televisual Networks
Network Aesthetics

Patrick Jagoda

University of Chicago Press

Televisual narratives have experimented for several decades with multi-protagonist structures and complex plotting, since the rise of 1950s soap operas. The development of narrative complexity in television serials, especially since the 1990s, has enabled the medium to engage in unique ways with the network imaginary. This chapter focuses on a single series, David Simon’s The Wire. This show offers insight into how dramatic television series aestheticize social networks and put forward a type of realism proper to them. The Wire, which ran for five seasons between 2002 and 2008, follows a wide-ranging assemblage of social actors who relate in a variety of both extraordinary and ordinary ways to early-twenty-first century American institutions and systems, including law enforcement, the drug trade, the legal apparatus, the prison complex, the school system, segregated city zones, political parties, media outlets, and the growing mass of the homeless. The analysis in this chapter concerns the ways that The Wire’s aesthetic makes sensible associations among its featured social actors through a form of network realism. The series enters into conversation with the sociological approach of actor network theory.

Keywords:   actor network theory, Bruno Latour, multiplot novel, realism, Raymond Williams, seriality, social, sociology, television, The Wire

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