Honorary Fellow in the School of Arts; Sarah Cardwell publishes four new books

Dr Sarah Cardwell joined the University of Kent in 2000 as Lecturer in Film and Television Studies. Whilst at Kent, Sarah launched the study of television in the department, and with a very particular brief: to teach ‘television aesthetics’, not media studies or conventional television studies. She was one of the people who established television aesthetics as a field within TV studies. It’s an approach that considers TV as an art, and that recommends an aesthetically-inspired approach which appreciates the creative and artistic achievements of individual programmes. Television aesthetics was very different from mainstream TV studies, which tended to focus on TV in socio-cultural and ideological terms.

Unfortunately, due to poor health Sarah had to leave her lecturing role in 2007 but after a full recovery she was appointed as an Honorary Fellow in the School of Arts at Kent.

“Without that, I couldn’t have continued my work and published my articles and these books. I’m also so glad that ‘television aesthetics’ is still associated with me at Kent. These books are part of that project.”

Dr Cardwell is currently publishing four new books as a part of Manchester University Press’ ‘The Television Series’. This new collection is a fresh strand in the series, which celebrates a variety of key moments in the television landscape, covering a genuinely eclectic range of dramatic and comedic programmes. Sarah was keen to encourage greater meta-critical reflection within TV aesthetics – to get people thinking about and debating the terms they rely upon for criticism and evaluation. She and her co-editors, Jonathan Bignell (Reading) and Lucy Fife Donaldson (St Andrews) decided to create a series of edited collections, each one organised around key concepts that are important in wider TV studies – and the ’Moments in Television’ strand was born.

“Reading the draft chapters, commenting on them, discussing, revising, copyediting – even though it was all done by email, it felt as if I were having so many fascinating conversations with so many television scholars at the same time. It was a challenging but very rewarding experience. We are very happy to see the first three books published. (The fourth should come out later this year or early 2023.)”

The ‘Moments in Television’ collections celebrate the power and artistry of television, whilst interrogating key critical concepts in television scholarship. Each ‘Moments’ book is organised around a provocative binary theme. The books explore an eclectic range of TV fictions, dramatic and comedic. Contributors from diverse perspectives come together to expand and enrich the kind of close analysis most commonly found in television aesthetics. Sustained, detailed programme analyses are sensitively framed within historical, technological, institutional, cultural, creative and art-historical contexts.

With the publication of these first three ‘Moments’ books, and a fourth one just submitted to the Press, there are now almost twenty books in the umbrella Television Series.

Doing four books at once was my idea. On reflection, it was ambitious, and at times perhaps we thought it might have been simpler to start with one and go on from there! But the books seemed to work together as a group, and we had a sense of the overall project – the ‘Moments’ project – which developed as the individual books developed, so in the end, I think it was the right decision.

Dr Sarah Cardwell remains an Honorary Fellow in the School of Arts at Kent. She is now working on a commissioned monograph that looks at episodic TV from the perspective of television aesthetics, as well as continuing her work in adaptation studies. And she and her co-editors are looking to commission more books in The Television Series, too.