zum Inhalt springen

Dissertationsprojekt von Verena Wurth

TV Snow (fdecomite/flickr.com)

Crime-cene: Ecocrime in New Golden Age TV

In my project, I investigate American crime TV series, ecocritically, with regards to their conscious and unconscious depictions of environmental harm, crime, and in/justice. In conceptualizing the interdependences of seriality and Anthropocene ecology, I discuss media-ecological and econarratological metaphors and conceptions in relation to popular seriality, with special attention to the iconicity of place, and the non-linear temporalities of New Golden Age TV series from 2000-present. In bringing together Anthropocenology and Environmental Criminology with serial motifs and character tropes, such as the figure of the antihero, I conceptualize the Anthropocene as a Crime-cene. In developing the analytical perspective of an eco-detective, I look specifically at Waste Lands, Toxic Waters, and (Petro-)Extraction in TV series such as Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Stranger Things, Too Old to Die Young, and Outer Range. As these series do not necessarily deal with environmental issues on their narrative surface, my approach is informed by different versions of the Anthropocene, such as Heather Anne Swanson’s Banal Anthropocene, and Julia Leyda’s notion of the Climate Unconscious, arguing that the depicted crimes in the TV series entail various ecocrimes, ranging from unnarrated, unvisualized, and uncriminalized instances of ecosystem harm, to visually and narratively overt forms of long-term and large-scale environmental destruction. 

The project is supervised by Jun.-Prof. Dr. Judith Rauscher and Jun.-Prof. Dr. Roman Bartosch.



Verena Wurth studied in English, History and Educational Sciences at the Universities of Passau and Cologne, Germany. She holds a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Rochester, NY (2019) and a second Master's in English, History, Educational Sciences at the University of Cologne (2020), where she has been teaching American literary studies courses since 2016, and worked as research assistant and lecturer at the Chair for American Literature and Culture. Her research interests include Modernist Literature, Feminist Theory, African American Studies, Ecocriticism, and Seriality Studies. Especially the latter two research fields touch upon the topic of her PhD thesis on Serial Ecologies of New Golden Age TV: Conceptualizing Ecology, Seriality and Ecopedagogy in the Anthropocene, a project she began in April 2021 as a scholarship holder at the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School. At a.r.t.e.s., she acts as graduate student representative in the academic year of 2021/22 and is an active member in the interdisciplinary a.r.t.e.s. reading group for the Environmental Humanities* and in the Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities Working Group.




Profile page at the Department of English I



10/2021 "Missing Persons, Vanishing Places: Crime, Environmental Catastrophe, and Seriality in True Detective," (Narrating) Environmental Displacements: Virtual Workshop, University of Augsburg.

09/2021 “Pains, Planes, and Automobiles: Disguising Extractivism through Nostalgic Aesthetics in Mad Men (2007-2015),” Sentimental Extraction: Virtual Workshop on Fossil Fuel Extraction, Gender, and Sentimentality, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Chair of American Studies: Culture and Literature.

03/2021: “Serial Ecologies of New Golden Age Television: Conceptualizing Seriality, Ecology, and Eco-Pedagogy,” Workshop on Critical Environmental Education and American Popular Culture, University of Cologne, English Seminar I.



Summer Semester 2021
“Black Feminist Texts,”  Proseminar, English Seminar I, University of Cologne, with an incorporated guestlecture by Dr. Natasha A. Kelly entitled “Schwarzer Feminismus, Rassismus und Intersektionalität“ (7/7/2021)


Scholarships and Grants

Grant from the “Finanzfonds zur Umsetzung des gesetzlichen Gleichstellungsauftrages der Universität zu Köln,” to finance a guestlecture by Dr. Natasha A. Kelly entitled “Schwarzer Feminismus, Rassismus und Intersektionalität“ (7/7/2021)


* The reading group welcomes all PhD students who address ecological or environmental questions. If you are interested in participating, feel free to contact me.