We “other victorians”? Novelistic remains, therapeutic devices, contemporary televisual dramas
In reference to the work of Michel Foucault and to residual Victorian novelistic features, this essay explores the biopolitical dimension of contemporary televisual dramas, focusing on the popular crime genre as seen in The Sopranos (1999– 2007), Breaking Bad (2008–2013), and The Fall (2013–2016). Emphasizing the confessional context of criminality and policing, we demonstrate how such shows rely on the conventions of modern psychological discourse in depicting criminals, thus foregrounding what Eva Illouz in Saving the Modern Soul (2008) has called the “therapeutic emotional style.” By updating aspects of D. A. Miller’s conception of the policing plot in The Novel and the Police (1988), we argue that confession in contemporary televisual dramas exemplifies a cultural transition from power as force to power as communication. The ascendance of communicative power pathologizes aspects of masculinity and introduces a new dramatic/narra-tive device: the therapeutic couplet.
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