Screening the commune:Popular tele/visions of domestic discontent

Lawrence, Will (2021) Screening the commune:Popular tele/visions of domestic discontent. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis investigates the phenomenon of communes being brought to life as a device and setting in popular television narratives between the mid-2000s and the late-2010s. I ask: how is the commune imagined on popular television of this period? Why does the commune have imaginary vitality at this juncture? I explore the imaginary vitality of the commune in the context of what I call a “decade of domestic discontent”: a period of discontent and unease in contemporary life regarding matters of the domestic. The “domestic discontent” to which I refer corresponds with concerns about climate change, intergenerational inequalities, and sexual politics. I examine four case study television programmes that feature particularly notable instances of the commune’s animation in the mid-2000s to late-2010s. I deploy a “figurative” analysis, in which a key focus of analytical attention is the fictional characters or factual television participants that feature in narratives about communes. I explore how these characters are constructed as having intertextual characteristics and qualities such that they bring to life figures that circulate in wider culture. The set of figures that I identify as imaginatively bound up with the commune are: “the low impact pioneer”, “the boomerang child”, “the selfish feminist”, “the cult leader”, “the acid casualty”, and “the raving brute”. This set of figures, I argue, is made up of both “discontented figures” and “figures of discontent”, that is, figures that express various kinds of discontent and figures that are objects of discontent. I argue that the commune is a signifier of multifarious kinds of discontent that have particular resonance in the contemporary moment. The thesis highlights television narratives featuring communes as presenting scenarios that evoke some of the most pressing current issues of domestic discontent.

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Thesis (PhD)
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11 Jan 2021 09:35
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 03:36