Serial Agencies

Serial Agencies

The Wire and Its Readers

Serial Agencies investigates how public and academic reactions to The Wire have contributed to the narrative's serial evolution and cultural performance


Serial Agencies investigates how public and academic reactions to the TV show "The Wire" have contributed to the narrative's serial evolution and cultural performance.


Frank Kelleter's Serial Agencies is sharp, savvy, and sophisticated, offering a fresh angle of vision on a much-discussed TV drama. This is a must-read book for fans of The Wire as well as anyone interested in the relations between actor-network-theory and media studies. ~ Rita Felski, University of Virginia, author of Uses of Literature

Frank Kelleter's Serial Agencies is a model of the kind of work we dream about but so rarely see in the study of popular serialities—a book that eschews both the easy and threadbare options of by-the-numbers ideological critique and digital age utopianism that imagines unfettered possibilities for readerly agency and empowerment. Kelleter offers a critique of The Wire and its cult that is witty, nuanced, and utterly compelling—from his account of how the text produces the conditions of its own reading as the "greatest show in the history of television," to his account of the show's nostalgia for models of labor lost in the post-industrial and digital age. Kelleter's analysis extends beyond the show's producers and creators to include the growing army of reviewers, bloggers, and academic critics who all play a role in its circulation. For TV Studies, there is a cautionary tale here very much worth pausing over, wherein the academic celebration of a program confers cultural value with institutional benefits not only to the program's producers but also to the scholars who underwrite the fantasy that "it's not TV, it's HBO." It is very much TV, Kelleter reminds us, but a 21st-century TV that expertly manages the post-industrial economies of capital, culture, and citizenship. ~ Jared Gardner, Ohio State University, author of /Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling

Kelleter succeeds in letting us hear what The Wire says about itself, what its readers do in their reading practices, and how scholarship shapes its critical objects of serialized culture. In doing so, this engaging book does more than just illuminate this canonical television text; it provides an original approach to understanding serial media and its critical practices. Serial Agencies will hopefully prove to be a powerful actor on the future of media and cultural studies. ~ Jason Mittell, Middlebury College, author of Television and American Culture

Frank Kelleter's analysis of The Wire skillfully interrogates the ways in which this TV show has been authorially promoted, journalistically valued, and industrially described. Relating texts to paratexts (whilst cutting across TV Studies and American Studies), Kelleter critically threads together The Wire's pop-cultural circulations, tapping into its serial "outbidding" and placing its claims to realistic, novelistic, and mythic resonances under the closest of surveillance. Always vigilant and thoughtful, this smart book tackles how The Wire has been used, all in the game of cultural and national status. Serial Agencies is essential reading for scholars, fans, and aca-fans alike. ~ Matt Hills, Aberystwyth University, author of Fan Cultures

Frank Kelleter
Frank Kelleter Frank Kelleter is Chair of the Department of Culture and Einstein Professor of North American Cultural History at John F. Kennedy Institut, ...
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