The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018
Episodic structure: The form of a work containing a series of incidents or episodes that are loosely connected by a larger subject or theme but that could stand on their own. A text that has a sustained story line or that would not be complete without one of its parts does not exhibit episodic structure.
EXAMPLES: Tobias Smollett’s picaresque novel Roderick Random (1748); Laurence Sterne’s sentimental novel A Sentimental Journey (1768); the Sleeping Beauty trilogy (1983—85) by Anne Rice, writing under the nom de plume A. N. Roquelaure; Bill Bryson’s travel narrative Notes from a Small Island (1995). Sitcoms typically feature episodic structure; characters may grow and develop over time, as in Sex and the City (1998—2004), but each episode can stand on its own. Movies with episodic structure include Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s Amores Perros (2000), in which the stories of three characters, who all have dogs and are briefly linked by an accident, are told in separate segments; Paul Haggis’s Crash (2004), which explores themes of racism and stereotypes through a number of separate story lines, some of which ultimately converge; and Barry Jenkins’s film Moonlight (2016), which presents three chapters in the life of the protagonist Chiron: as a young boy whose mother is fast sliding into addiction, a gay teenager who faces bullying, and an adult who has himself turned to dealing drugs.