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TV-series: van Soap en Sitcom tot Must-See-TV


Admission requirements



In recent years, the television series has undergone a renaissance. It has transformed from a particularly low form of entertainment to a new form of high culture. In this course we study this change. In the first half of the course we will study the narrative strategies of classic genres such as the police procedural, melodrama, the sitcom and sci-fi. The second part of the course will focus on the emergence of contemporary forms of ‘complex’ storytelling in TV series, and the new cultural practices that they invite, such as binge-watching and the writing of fan fiction. We will study series that depict contemporary social and political issues, such as the war on drugs (in The Wire and Breaking Bad) the downfall of the USSR (in Chernobyl), comedies about gender and sex (Transparent, Girls & Fleabag), and we will explore the wild frontier of television animation (Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, Adventure Time). Special attention will be paid to new forms of academic TV criticism which seek to understand the relations between narrative forms and ideological, political-economical and technological developments. We will read essays by Umberto Eco, Tania Modleski, Jason Mittell, Fredric Jameson, and Mark Fisher.

Course objectives

On completion of the course, students will

  • Have an overview of the history of serial forms of storytelling in cinema and television;

  • Are familiar with the major serial genres and their narrative conventions;

  • Have learned how to analyze complex narrative texts;

  • Have reflected on the relation between popular narrative forms and the political, economic and cultural contexts in which they are produced and consumed;

  • Have learned how to write a paper and to give a classroom presentation.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Class Presentation


Paper 80 %
Class Presentation 20%


Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Readings will be made available on Brightspace


Enrolment through uSis for classes, exams and final papers is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher ms. Dr. J.J.M. Houwen or mr. Dr. J.A. Ross

Student administration: Arsenaal
Coordinator of studies: ms. M.E. Dijkgraaf MA


For more information please check the website of the study program Film and Literature Studies.