FAVz084 Serial Bonds: The 007 Saga and the Poetics of Franchise Storytelling

Faculty of Arts
Spring 2022
Extent and Intensity
2/0/0. 5 credit(s). Type of Completion: zk (examination).
Colin Burnett (lecturer), Mgr. Radomír D. Kokeš, Ph.D. (deputy)
Mgr. Martin Kos (assistant)
Mgr. Ondřej Pavlík, Ph.D. (assistant)
Guaranteed by
Mgr. Radomír D. Kokeš, Ph.D.
Department of Film Studies and Audiovisual Culture – Faculty of Arts
Supplier department: Department of Film Studies and Audiovisual Culture – Faculty of Arts
Mon 16. 5. 14:00–15:40 C34, Tue 17. 5. 12:00–15:40 C34, Wed 18. 5. 12:00–15:40 C34, Thu 19. 5. 10:00–11:40 C34
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is also offered to the students of the fields other than those the course is directly associated with.
fields of study / plans the course is directly associated with
Course objectives
This course poses and seeks to answer a fundamental question: how do media franchises tell stories? Until now, media scholars have viewed the franchise phenomenon as a twofold opportunity: 1) to theorize relatively recent developments in industry structure and strategy such as convergence and 2) to empower marginalized social formations by situating the participatory fan cultures fostered by franchises at the center of their research. Thus, despite the proliferation of new formal categories like “transmedia storytelling,” media studies has largely left the formal operations of interconnected franchise texts (i.e., “poetics”) an underdeveloped area of study. As a result, the aesthetic history of franchise storytelling has yet to be told. This course seeks to provide students with the tools to correct this erasure. We begin by developing a model of serial narration based on the principles of constructivist film theory. This model will apply to multiple media, including literature, film, TV, comics, and video games, as well as to the narrative techniques that connect these media as a franchise story unfolds. We then test the value of this model by applying it to one of the world’s longest-running media franchises, James Bond. From a constructivist perspective, the franchise reader, viewer, or player is an active story-follower who seeks to comprehend and feel engaged by the stories they tell through such activities as hypothesis- and inference-testing, both within and between media texts. However, as we will see, different franchises rely on different formal structures and devices, and by extension, develop different types and cultures of hypothesis-formation as their stories are spread across media. If such franchises as Star Wars encourage story-followers to look for unity and consistency among their stories (aka, transmedia storytelling), James Bond, not unlike the Alien/s saga, favors a multiplicity of serial continuities that compete with one another in distinct media, a “choose your own adventure”-style formal structure in which followers pursue and contrast the various timelines that comprise the “discontinuous” biographies of James Bond. We will call this alternative to the transmedia paradigm “threaded media storytelling.” Lectures and readings track the formal processes that have created these mutually exclusive, “threaded” narratives in 007 media. Like other approaches to narrative poetics, this one is grounded in history. We uncover the roots of Bond’s seriality in the original licensing network author Ian Fleming created in the 1950s and 1960s. From there, we examine the storytelling techniques and forms that licensed 007 producers have deployed in literature, film, comics, and video games to construct numerous serial continuities since the 1950s. Finally, we explore how unlicensed 007 media, such as parodies and LBGTQ fiction, further court the Bondian story-follower with stories that radically diverge from, and even critique, the franchise’s official continuities while still relying on its tradition of “discontinuous” serial operations. With a new analytical model and an extended case study, these lectures lay the groundwork for a comparative formal history of media franchises.
Learning outcomes
This course seeks to develop three types of knowledge. First, it has a theoretical component. It aims to provide students with a theoretical/conceptual understanding of media franchises, the methods that media scholars have used to study them, and the benefits of developing a constructivist approach to cross-media, serial narration. Second, it has a historical component. It gives students the tools for studying the development of franchise and serial storytelling throughout history, from L. Frank Baum’s Oz stories to modern properties like Star Wars. Finally, it has an analytical component. It seeks to promote analytical skills by proposing a model for studying fine-grained storytelling operations employed in multiple media, such as film, TV, comics, and video games.
Using Jason Mittell’s essay “Operational Seriality and the Operation of Seriality” (2018) as a jumping-off point, the course’s seminar invites participants to ponder the prospects for a comprehensive history of franchise storytelling.
  • Lecture 1: “Franchise Storytelling Yesterday and Today: Transmedia and Its Alternatives”
  • Lecture 2: “Fleming’s Bond and Its Origins”
  • Lecture 3: “Bonds of the Big and Small Screen: EON Productions’ Divergent Continuities”
  • Lecture 4: “Bonds in the Gutter: The Alternative Timelines of Graphic Fiction”
  • Lecture 5: “Unauthorized Bonds: Revisions to the 007 Biography in Parodies and LBGTQ, Slash, and Fan Fiction” + Course Conclusions
  • Seminar: “The History of Franchise Storytelling—a Lost Cause? A Skeptic’s Look at the Prospects of a Research Program”
Teaching methods
Lectures, reading, class discussion (seminar). Students are obliged to read the items on the reading list marked as required - these will be provided in the student materials - and familiarise themselves with the suggested titles as a way of preparation for the course. The 100% attendance at the lectures is compulsory and will be checked throughout every lecture.
Assessment methods
Apart from the compulsory attendance students will have to pass two test. First test is preliminary and it will take place just before the start of the first lecture. With two questions, the test will check the knowledge of the required items from the reading list below. The third question will check the knowledge of Ian Fleming's novel CASINO ROYALE. The other test is final, consisting of three questions testing both students' acquaintance with the reading list as well as their knowledge and skills gained throughout the course itself. Ten points maximum can be gathered from both of the tests; five points are the necessary minimum in order to pass the course successfully.
Language of instruction
Further comments (probably available only in Czech)
Study Materials
The course is taught only once.
Teacher's information

Required literature for preliminary test before the lecture series:

Fleming, Ian. Casino Royale. London: Thomas & Mercer, 2012. (The book does exist in Czech translation also.)

Houser, Jody. James Bond 007: Moneypenny. Mt. Laurel, NJ: Dynamite Comics, 2016.

Freeman, Matthew. “Advertising the Yellow Brick Road: Historicizing the Industrial Emergence of Transmedia Storytelling.” International Journal of Communication 8 (2014): 2362-2381.

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia 202—Further Reflections.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan (July 31, 2011), http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2011/08/defining_transmedia_further_re.html.

Required literature for the final exam at the end of the semester:

Bordwell, David. “The Viewer’s Activity.” In Narration in the Fiction Film, 29-47. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.

Freeman, Matthew. “The Wonderful Games of Oz and Tarzan Jigsaws: Commodifying Transmedia in Early Twentieth Century Consumer Culture.” Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media 7 (2014): 44-54.

Hills, Matt. “Traversing the ‘Whoniverse’: Dr. Who’s Hyperdiegesis and Transmedia Discontinuity/Diachony.” In World Building: Transmedia, Fans, Industries, edited by Marta Boni, 343-361. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017.

Proctor, William. “The Many Lives of 007: Negotiating Continuity in the Official James Bond Film Series.” In Fan Phenomenon: James Bond, edited by Claire Hines, 11-19. Bristol, UK: Intellect Books, 2015.

Sconce, Jeffrey. “What If? Charting Television’s New Textual Boundaries.” In Television After TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, edited by Jan Olsson and Lynn Spigel, 91-112. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

Smith, Murray. “Altered States: Character and Emotional Response in the Cinema.” Cinema Journal 33.4 (Summer 1994): 34-56.

The course is also listed under the following terms Spring 2020.
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