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Serial Figures and Media Change

Sub-Project 2

Looking at various stock figures that are firmly established in the popular-cultural imagination of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (e.g. Frankenstein, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, Fu-Manchu, Superman, Batman), this research project investigates the complex reciprocities between the principles of seriality and mediality in the course of their historical development. At the heart of the project are figures whose popular careers have been shaped by multiple media (i.e. who have undergone one or more media shifts). In this context, we are particularly interested in the impact of various medial forms on serial narrative contents. In terms of serialization processes, we concentrate on the figures' explicit or subtle revisions as they are linked to transformations of media and representational forms.

Our thesis is that serial figures are not only enacted through various media, but that mediality and media are themselves thematized in these enactments, so that serial figures display an inevitable moment of medial self-reflexivity (with significant formal and narrative consequences). In terms of methodology, the research project is informed by approaches developed in the fields of media studies, reader response theory, and the history of technology and science. Within the context of the larger Research Unit, the project aims at elucidating the material conditions of serial aesthetics.

Director: Prof. Dr. Ruth Mayer, American Studies, Hanover
Research Associate: Dr. Shane Denson, American Studies, Hanover