Devouring Time: Circling Existential Crises in Dark (2017) and Russian Doll (2019)

Alex Vickery-Howe, Lisa Harper Campbell

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


The majority of audiences in North America and Europe, broadly categorised as ‘Western’, are accustomed to tightly controlled episodic structures, culturally engrained storytelling conventions, and deep-rooted expectations of a linear system of cause and effect. This tradition has been popularised by contemporary narratologists, such as Joseph Campbell with his hero’s journey (1993, 1972), but can be traced to the few extant writings of the ancient philosopher Aristotle (approx. 335BCE), interpreted ad hoc by dramaturgs and script editors in both the theatrical craft of the ‘well-made play’ (see Eugène Scribe discussed by Cardwell 1983) and the conformist Hollywood studio system. In this narrative context, both Dark and Russian Doll seem like wildly inventive – even game-changing – creative works. They follow a cyclical logic, replacing the straight line of past and present, then and now, with a circle. Past and present exist, simultaneously, in the same world, the same scene, the same interaction. Scholars from a range of fields, including philosophy, health and cultural studies, have provided frameworks in order to recognise and unpack this non-linear concept of time. Ivanova & Vickery-Howe (2017) calls this space the ‘now-here’ (p. 177), which may be a difficult concept for many ‘Westerners’ to accept, but something familiar – even passé – to other, older storytelling traditions from around the world, including but not limited to those that emerged from a Buddhist spiritual perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Specialist publicationScreening the Past
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2022


  • Television
  • Cultural Studies
  • Screen
  • Fiction


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