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Journal Articles Open Philosophy Year : 2022

The Bureau and the Realism of Spy Fiction


This article addresses the issue of realism in relationship to contemporary serial fiction. Drawing on The Bureau (Canal+, 2015-2020), it argues that spy TV series are "realistic" not because they correspond to reality but because of their impact on reality. It begins by giving an overview of the many ways in which "realism," in the ordinary sense of a resemblance with reality, served as the working framework for The Bureau's team. It then identifies three distinct types of realisms in the series. The first is a "fictional realism," namely the ability of The Bureau to conform to the aesthetic and narrative conventions of realistic fictions. The second type of realism, which I qualify as "ordinary," refers to the possibilities offered by the show's aesthetics and the enmeshment of The Bureau with viewers' ordinary experience. The third type of "performative realism" refers to the series' impact on shared representations and reality. By providing a common language about the secret activities of the state, The Bureau has gone from being a framed version of reality to being one of the defining frameworks through which state secrecy is experienced both individually and collectively, by insiders and the public at large.
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hal-03754914 , version 1 (20-08-2022)



Pauline Blistène. The Bureau and the Realism of Spy Fiction. Open Philosophy, 2022, 5 (1), pp.231 - 249. ⟨10.1515/opphil-2020-0178⟩. ⟨hal-03754914⟩
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