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Frank Kelleter (Freie Universität Berlin)

Short Bio

Frank Kelleter is chair of the Department of Culture and Einstein professor of North American Cultural History at the John F. Kennedy Institute, Free University of Berlin. He is the director of the Research Unit "Popular Seriality: Aesthetics and Practice." His main fields of interest include the American colonial and Enlightenment periods, theories of American modernity, and American media and popular culture since the 19th century. Recent publications include Serial Agencies: The Wire and Its Readers (2014) and Populäre Serialität: Narration - Evolution - Distinktion (ed., 2012). He is currently editing a volume on Media of Serial Narrative. 


Abstract: "Managing the Crisis: Depression Radio and FDR's Fireside Chats" 

Franklin Roosevelt's media management of the Great Depression took the explicit shape of a continuing series of immensely popular radio addresses collectively promoted as Fireside Chats. The serial structures of these programs, their recursive unfolding of a narrative of national crisis management, their self-dramatization as an ongoing sequence of public policy announcements, and their reflexive media practices attest to the conflicted nature of America's commercial and national reproduction in the 1930s and beyond. In particular, the Fireside Chats developed the New Deal as a serial narrative for a mass media audience with all the problems of coherence-building this entailed. This paper investigates how, in doing so, the Chats developed an increasingly complex serial protagonist (the federal executive) whose character-function (embodied by the President) constantly had to be re-negotiated with its narrator-function (the friendly voice of FDR, speaking from one national neighbor to another).