William Trevor’s screenfictions:
‘No interest. Not suitable for treatment’
The television version of The Ballroom of Romance struck a chord in the folk memory
of its audience, some of whom remembered their youthful excursions to similar
dancehalls with nostalgia.1
This essay contests the view that Trevor’s work for the screen is somehow secondary to his many and notable accomplishments as a novelist and short-story writer.
Instead, it suggests that his career demonstrates the pervasive inter-connections
between these different forms, and that
William Trevor is one of the most accomplished and celebrated contemporary prose writers in the English language. This book offers a comprehensive examination of the oeuvre of one of the most accomplished and celebrated practitioners writing in the English language. Trevor is very interested in popular literature and how certain genres run through people's lives like tunes or family memories. His characters are often 'turned in on themselves', strange, extreme, at odds with the world. The various betrayals, manipulations and acts of cruelty that constitute the representative events of The Old Boys are typical of Trevor's England. The book also explores the ways in which Trevor's liberal humanist premises condition his response to issues of historical consciousness, ideological commitment and political violence. Trevor's short story, 'Lost Ground', from After Rain, conforms to Aristotle's vision of tragedy because it depicts a truly horrendous situation inside a family in Northern Ireland. Notable screen fictions illustrating long-term migrant themes include Attracta, Beyond the Pale and Fools of Fortune. Trevor's short story 'The Ballroom of Romance' evokes memories of dancehall days, partly explains this public appeal, which was enhanced by the BAFTA award-winning film adaptation of the story by Pat O'Connor. Love and Summer is a lyrical, evocative story of the emotional turbulence based on a critical variety of nostalgia that recognises both the stifling limitations of a small-town environment and the crucial connection between ethics and place.
The New Zealand television series Mataku as Indigenous gothic
creation of gothic screenfiction. It has been drawn mainly to its
immediate Indigenous groups and stories of the Native American people,
for gothic fantasies of alternative and ancient cultures that are
commonly depicted threatening and assaulting the intruder or white
settler. Examples appear in some of the genre’s most celebrated
and mainstream films, such as Poltergeist ( 1982 ), in which the source of the heightened
The late twentieth century saw growing number of articles and books appearing on new national gothic; however, the wider context for this had not really been addressed. This collection of essays explores an emerging globalgothic useful for all students and academics interested in the gothic, in international literature, cinema, and cyberspace, presenting examples of globalgothic in the 21st-century forms. It analyses a global dance practice first performed in Japan, Ankoku butoh, and surveys the ways in which Indigenous cultures have been appropriated for gothic screen fictions. To do this, it looks at the New Zealand television series on Maori mythologies, Mataku. The unlocated 'vagabonds' of Michel Faber's "The Fahrenheit Twins" are doubles (twins) of a gothic trajectory as well as globalgothic figures of environmental change. The book considers the degree to which the online vampire communities reveal cultural homogenisation and the imposition of Western forms. Global culture has created a signature phantasmagoric spatial experience which is uncanny. Funny Games U.S. (2008) reproduces this process on the material level of production, distribution and reception. The difference between the supposedly 'primitive' local associated with China and a progressive global city associated with Hong Kong is brought out through an analysis of cannibal culture. In contemporary Thai horror films, the figure of horror produced is neither local nor global but simultaneously both. The book also traces the development, rise and decline of American gothic, and looks at one of the central gothic figures of the twenty-first century: the zombie.
“Edgy” TV drama Queer as Folk, Sex and the City, Carnivàle
This chapter explores a risky, ‘edgy’ television which flouts the historic tendency for small-screen fictions to be conservative, particularly in the USA where a Least Objectionable Programming (LOP) strategy dominated the ‘network era’. Three chosen examples of ‘edgy’ television, QaF, comes out of a small independent company in the UK, whilst SatC and Carnivale are produced by a substantial, and even more independent, subscription channel in the USA. In the past, commercial companies were thought to be chasing large audiences to please advertisers in a context where a disposition to bland product to achieve ratings held sway. Niche marketing opportunities today allow bold companies to aim to attract primary audiences with distinctive product and only subsequently to seek to build bigger audiences by new means of secondary distribution. Given the nature of the younger, more affluent target-market demographic, there is room furthermore for products which set out to shock. As these examples suggest, creative treatments can render the material such as to elicit a shock of new insight rather than merely shock for the sake of shock.
This chapter examines the relationship between issues concerning substance and style in relation to acting, specifically, the performance of laughing. It considers the significance of an act that is widely considered to be involuntary, spontaneous and authentic – thus, substantive – but that, in the context of performance, is marked by planning and technical execution – thus becoming a matter of style. The chapter begins by outlining the critical terrain, setting up the argument that the substantive event of laughter depends, in the context of screen fiction, on the stylistic act. It then moves on to its main case study, namely the sitcom Friends. Specifically, it explores the scene in Series 5, Episode 2 in which Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston) laughs after confessing to a recently married Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) that she still loves him. Through in-depth close analysis of Aniston’s and Schwimmer’s performance choices, the chapter unpicks the different layers (both character and actor) that frame the laughter. It demonstrates that Aniston’s is unconvincing laughter that appears self-conscious and not properly embodied, which is contrasted with Schwimmer’s performance choices. As the chapter argues, this is not a failure of performance by Aniston, but actually a deliberate acting choice, as she is using this unconvincing laughter as a tool for her character to manage the awkward moment and to convey her character’s embarrassment and emotional vulnerability. With a successful performance by the actor of an unsuccessful performance by the character, Aniston also adds a reflexive quality to the scene, which aids the characterisation.
Eliot, Dickens) with high-art connotations, in the USA it might indicate the philosophical dimensions of Star Trek. Hopefully, the idea of “high end” will become
clearer by exemplification as the book progresses but an indication at the outset
of some conscious exclusions might assist.
There are many important kinds of small-screenfictions which my selection
of “high-end” American and British examples inevitably excludes. Thus I do not
in this book directly discuss examples of regular TV fare, daytime television, the
soaps or series and serials which elsewhere I have
potential and the limitations of cultural imagining, in which documentary (overlooked by Scarry) plays an important part.
Of course, such consequences may also be encountered by viewers of fiction film and television, and it would be both sweeping and
wrong to suggest that this kind of material is entirely divorced from
the ‘real world’ or irrelevant to audiences’ understandings of that
world.8 Moreover, the categories of screenfiction and documentary
are fluid, shifting, and far from monolithic; each encompasses a
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, this book will provide an example of some of the insights that can be achieved by turning attention to this unaccountably neglected object of study. Investigations like this are long
overdue if viewers of documentary are to be treated with the seriousness with which audiences for screenfictions are now being
The politics of location
Ideas of location, both literal and figurative, are central to my
analysis. If documentary is about gaining mediated access to ‘the
world’, where exactly is this world in relation to the audience?
How is it framed and
understanding of those images will be the same. This reductionism can be seen in many of the discussions of myth and film in Martin and Ostwalt’s edited collection, as well in monographs such as Geoffrey Hill’s Illuminating Shadows: The Mythic Power of Film ( 1992 ) and Terrie Waddell’s Mis/takes: Archetype, Myth, and Identity in ScreenFiction ( 2006 ).
Another trap that lies in wait for explorers into the realm of myth and cinema is to confuse those genres of ‘oral folk narrative’ which Bascom takes great care to separate. Again, I’m not using Bascom as any kind of