Call for Papers, 25th SERCIA Conference

Trouble on Screen in English-speaking Cinema and Television
Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France
September 4-6, 2019

It is a truth universally acknowledged that cinema and television are popular means of entertainment that can allow people to escape their everyday troubles. And yet from their inception, films have been seen as a source of trouble, at times cashing in on sensationalism through visual and aural — consider for instance the cinema of attractions that characterized early films, or the disturbing advent of sound in Hitchcock’s 1929 Blackmail and Hawks’s 1932 Scarface — sometimes featuring disturbing storylines which soon led to the implementation of codes of production, classification and rating systems.

The notion of trouble on screen encapsulates the ambivalence of films and television programs that explore troubling themes either to transcend or exploit them, as a source of comfort when foiled, of dismay or excitement, or of comfort when foiled, paradoxically turning trouble into a source of pleasure.

It also encompasses seemingly opposite trends of cinema; on the one hand, figuring out trouble on screen can help to document the complexities of the world and its troubled times, to strive for more psychological authenticity and convey characters’ physical or moral states; on the other hand, tapping into disturbing themes and devices and departing from everyday realism can plunge the viewers into generic and spectacular formulae.

Thus, exploring cinema through the notion of trouble raises questions of the powers and limits of film representation, at times strengthening its power of immersion or questioning the medium itself and the “actuality” of what is represented.  Accordingly, it questions viewers’ reception of disturbing themes and effects, not to mention the troubled (and/or troubling) reception of controversial or marginal works.

This conference will examine the ways in which trouble is represented on big and small screens, as well as how film and television production can inspire or provoke trouble in terms of audience reception. Additionally, it will explore how the screen itself as a medium can become “troubled”, questioning the reliability of what is reflected there or making aesthetic use of blurring, murkiness or obscurity.

The admittedly vast notion of “trouble” will thus enable us to delve into a broad spectrum of critical perspectives that contribute to film and television studies: phenomenological, psychoanalytical, and aesthetic perspectives, as well as questions of audience reception, of generic conventions, or again from a historical perspective, examining the evolution of trouble in mainstream and independent cinema and television.

Areas to be explored include, but are not limited to:

• Representations of troubled or troubling mental and/or physical states
• Notions of trouble within specific genres (horror, the fantastic, film noir, etc.) or across genres.
• Trouble and the documentary film (production, reception, aesthetics; issues raised by the filmmakers’ ethical positions towards their subjects, the trouble created by the reality effect, etc.) 
• Gender trouble, queer trouble, questioning norms on screen
• Making trouble: underground, kitsch, camp, trash cinema/tv
• Trouble and race (aesthetics, production, reception, historical perspectives, independently or in conjunction with questions of gender and/or sexuality)
• Trouble and censorship in current cinema or television
• Aesthetic uses of trouble (image, sound, music, editing, etc.)
• Marketing trouble: controversy as advertising technique?
• Historical perspectives on trouble in cinema or television
• Making and watching movies and/or television series in troubled times (traditional screens in trouble in the face of new platforms, the impact of movements like #MeToo, etc.)

Keynote Speakers
Timothy Corrigan (University of Pennsylvania)
Janet Staiger (University of Texas at Austin)

Scientific Committee
Jean-François Baillon (Université Bordeaux Montaigne), Hélène Charlery (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès), Nicole Cloarec (Université de Rennes 1), Timothy Corrigan (University of Pennsylvania), Anne Crémieux (Université Paris Nanterre), Celestino Deleyto (University of Zaragoza), Gaïd Girard (Université de Brest Occidentale), Isabelle Le Corff (Université de Brest Occidentale), Hélène Machinal (Université de Brest Occidentale), Elizabeth Mullen (Université de Brest Occidentale), David Roche (Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès), Janet Staiger (University of Texas at Austin), Melvyn Stokes (University College London)

300-500 word submissions and mini-biographies in English or French are due by March 17, 2019 via the platform EasyChair here:

View the program and register on the conference website:

Select Bibliography

Berthet, Dominique (ed), Une esthétique du trouble, L’Harmattan, 2015.

Berthet, Dominique (ed), Recherches en Esthétique, n°17, "Le trouble", CEREAP, 2012.

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, 1990.

Bordun, Troy, Genre Trouble and Extreme Cinema: Film Theory at the Fringes of Contemporary Art Cinema, Springer, 2017.

Corrigan, Timothy, A Cinema Without Walls: Movies and Culture After Vietnam, Rutgers University Press, 1991.

Dupont, Jocelyn (ed), CinémAction n°159 – Les écrans de la déraison, 2016.

Ferrell, Jeff and Websdale, Neil, Making Trouble: Cultural Constructions of Crime, Deviance, and Control, Transaction Publishers, 1999.

Gagnebin, Murielle (ed), Cinéma et inconscient, Champ-Vallon, 2001.

Haraway, Donna, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Duke University Press, 2016.

Jost, François, Télévision n° 9 : Troubles personnages, CNRS Editions, 2018.

Martin, Marie (ed), Le remake : généalogies secrètes dans l’histoire du cinéma, Cinémas, Vol. 25, Number 2-3, Spring 2015.

Menegaldo, Gilles (ed) CinémAction n°120 – Jacques Tourneur, une esthétique du trouble, 2006.

Mittell, Jason, Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling, NYU Press, 2015.

Roche, David, L’imagination malsaine : Russell Banks, Raymond Carver, David Cronenberg, Bret Easton Ellis, David Lynch, L’Harmattan, 2008.

Schaefer, Eric,  "Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!": A History of Exploitation Films, 1919-1959, Duke University, 1999.

Staiger, Janet, Perverse Spectators: The Practices of Film Reception, NYU Press, 2000.

Taylor, Alison, Troubled Everyday: The Aesthetics of Violence and the Everyday in European art Cinema, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2017.

Walsh, F, Male Trouble: Masculinity and the Performance of Crisis, Springer, 2010.