November 27th — Susan Reichelt: Authenticity and authorship in fictional television series

Authenticity and authorship in fictional television series

In this talk I will provide insights into two interrelated angles from which sociolinguistic findings in fictional television series can be investigated. Most of my project deals with an analysis of the immersive narrative (the “downstream” engagement with the diegetic world), that is, the characters’ linguistic choices and how these reflect processes of characterization, recognition, and authenticity.
In addition to this, I will also take a more outwardly oriented (or “upstream”) approach in considering authorial impact on the sociolinguistic profiles of fictional television series. Authorship within the frame of fictional television series is rather complex and exceeds the idea of a singular initiator by far. Production means, network regulations and showrunners’ procedures are only a few of the points that are compiled in the all-encompassing notion of ‘author’ (cf. Mittell 2015).
Differing production values for instance, as my data shows, directly contributes to the scripted dialogue for individual characters, as well as whole series. In a comparison of semantic fields across two thematically similar, but distinctly produced series shows how not only the authors’ intent, but also their means, need to be taken into consideration when interpreting linguistic variation.
Authorship here is defined as an outside factor that contributes to a fictional character’s linguistic persona, aiding stability and authenticity, and sparking recognition with the audience. Linguistic authenticity, I argue, is most relevant in creating a fictional character and is actively and creatively used by the authors to give cues on character state and development within the diegetic world.
This is very much work in progress and feedback is greatly appreciated!

Mittell, Jason. 2015. Complex Tv – the Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling. New York, London: New York University Press.
Queen, Robin. 2015a. Keynote: Indexical Authenticity and Linguistic Variation in Fictional Audiovisual Media. In: Language in the Media 6. Hamburg, 08/09/2015.
—. 2015b. Vox Popular – the Surprising Life of Language in the Media. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.



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