Her Stories

Daytime Soap Opera and US Television History

Her Stories

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 62 illustrations Published: February 2020

Author: Elana Levine

American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > TV

Since the debut of These Are My Children in 1949, the daytime television soap opera has been foundational to the history of the medium as an economic, creative, technological, social, and cultural institution. In Her Stories, Elana Levine draws on archival research and her experience as a longtime soap fan to provide an in-depth history of the daytime television soap opera as a uniquely gendered cultural form and a central force in the economic and social influence of network television. Closely observing the production, promotion, reception, and narrative strategies of the soaps, Levine examines two intersecting developments: the role soap operas have played in shaping cultural understandings of gender and the rise and fall of broadcast network television as a culture industry. In so doing, she foregrounds how soap operas have revealed changing conceptions of gender and femininity as imagined by and reflected on the television screen.


Her Stories is the definitive account of a sphere of televisual expression long overlooked and too often maligned, told clearly and compellingly by an accomplished historian and committed viewer whose research has left few stones unturned. A major contribution to our understanding of American television and its intersection with women's lives, traced across more than seven decades.” — Michele Hilmes, Professor Emerita of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Her Stories offers an important history of American soap operas, from the genre's transition from radio to television in the 1950s and its heyday in the classic network era to its diminished significance in the age of streaming. Elana Levine's rich industrial history smartly mines scripts, trade journals, and production notes, and sponsors' memos. Most significantly, it places these developments into the larger context of women's everyday lives and the changing politics of gender.” — Lynn Spigel, author of TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television

"For soap fans, past and present, who wonder why the shows they love have disappeared, or deteriorated beyond recognition, or who think they know what could-have-should-have been done, if only, Elana Levine’s new book, Her Stories, connects the dots with a combination of nuance and rigorous research." — Lynn Liccardo, Soap Opera Critic and author of as the world stopped turning...

"Elana Levine has crafted a comprehensive history that is about so much more than daytime dramas. In Levine's research, soap operas are also about cultural impacts, articulations of gender, and the production of media texts as both economic and cultural objects. . . . As soap opera become relics of television past, Her Stories becomes a valuable account of media history." — Linda Levitt, Popmatters

"A fascinating study of the history of soap opera . . . full of wonderful details. . . .  Levine makes clear that despite the widespread dismissal of soap operas, they were far from marginal to the history of television, but rather absolutely central." — Kelly Faircloth, Jezebel

"Elana Levine is a longtime fan of soap operas, so in Her Stories, she merges personal experience with extensive research to examine how the genre has shaped our understanding of gender and predicted the potential decline of broadcast network television." — Evette Dionne, Bitch Magazine

Her Stories makes a compelling and rigorous case that soap opera indeed plays a leading role in shaping U.S. histories of both gender and television.... Levine’s study also, by its very existence, shows that television’s gendered past remains largely unsettled and unacknowledged – a search that is still worth pursuing.”
  — Madeline Ullrich, View


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Elana Levine is Professor of Media, Cinema and Digital Studies in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. She is the author of Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television, also published by Duke University Press; editor of Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn: Feminized Popular Culture in the Early Twenty-First Century; and coauthor of Legitimating Television: Media Convergence and Cultural Status.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction  1
Part I. The New TV Soap: Late 1940s to Early 1960s
1. Serials in Transition: From Radio to Television  19
2. Daytime Therapy: Help and Healing in the Postwar Soap  44
Part II. The Classic Network Era: Mid-1960s to Late 1980s
3. Building Network Power: The Broadcasting Business and the Craft of Soap Opera  73
4. Turning to Relevance: Social Issue Storytelling  106
5. Love in the Afternoon: The Fracturing Fantasies of the Soap Boom  153
Part III. A Post-Network Age: Late 1980s to 2010s
6. Struggles for Survival: Stagnation and Innovation 199
7. Reckoning with the Past: Reimagining Characters and Stories  236
8. Can Her Stories Go On? Soap Opera in a Digital Age  280
Notes  299
Bibliography  357
Index  369
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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