Dirty Words in Deadwood
Literature and the Postwestern
Publication Year: 2013
Dirty Words in “Deadwood” showcases literary analyses of the Deadwood television series by leading western American literary critics. Whereas previous reaction to the series has largely addressed the question of historical accuracy rather than intertextuality or literary complexity, Melody Graulich and Nicolas S. Witschi’s edited volume brings a much-needed perspective to Deadwood’s representation of the frontier West.
As Graulich observes in her introduction: “With its emotional coherence, compelling characterizations, compressed structural brilliance, moral ambiguity, language experiments, interpretation of the past, relevance to the present, and engagement with its literary forebears, Deadwood is an aesthetic triumph as historical fiction and, like much great literature, makes a case for the humanistic value of storytelling.” From previously unpublished interviews with series creator David Milch to explorations of sexuality, disability, cinematic technique, and western narrative, this collection focuses on Deadwood as a series ultimately about the imagination, as a verbal and visual construct, and as a literary masterpiece that richly rewards close analysis and interpretation.
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
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We would like to thank three editorial fellows from the Western American Literature offi ce for their considerable professional help. Diane Bush kept track of fi les, copyedited manuscripts, compiled an early bibliography, and consulted with authors. Jaquelin Pelzer helped with the fi nal copyediting and bibliography, compiled cast ...
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When discussing the genesis of Deadwood, David Milch has often declared, “I did want to do a show on the American West, but I didn’t want to do a Western. I’ve never really understood or cared for the conventions of the West-ern.” This does not mean, however, that the series is free of conventions. As Melody Graulich demonstrates in her literary historian’s approach to Milch’s ...
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Episode 1: “Deadwood.” Directed by Walter Hill. Written by David Episode 2: “Deep Water.” Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Written Episode 4: “Here Was a Man.” Directed by Alan Taylor. Written by Episode 5: “The Trial of Jack McCall.” Directed by Ed Bianchi. Episode 6: “Plague.” Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Written by ...
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Seth Bullock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Timothy OlyphantAl Swearengen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ian McShaneAlma Garret . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Molly ParkerSol Star . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John HawkesTrixie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Paula Malcomson...
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Art and Tradition. Philosophy and Religion. Literature and Storytelling. Fa-thers and Sons. These are some of the topics that interest David Milch, and they are among the topics through which he and Nathaniel Lewis maneuver in their conversation about Deadwood. Whereas Graulich begins with a liter-ary historian’s eye for narrative and language, Lewis approaches the series and ...
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...“I was interested in how people improvised the structures of a society when there was no law to guide them,” David Milch told Mark Singer. One way, Brian McCuskey argues, is by writing, by making a “transition from orality to liter-acy, from oaths and handshakes to contracts and signatures.” Chronicling a “pivotal moment in frontier history,” the series, he argues, “tell[s] the story of ...
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...“Deadwood is a show about how order arises out of the mud,” says Milch (Deadwood 135). Describing Deadwood’s main street as “a mixture of mud and animal feces puddled with snowmelt and urine and spit,” Tim Steckline considers whether order ever really comes to Deadwood and what blocks its emer-As Brian McCuskey turns to Derrida to make sense of “paper trails,” Steck-...
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Like Tim Steckline, John Dudley examines Deadwood’s “penchant for the ma-cabre,” its treatment of “corpses, bodily fl uids, fi lth,” focusing in particular on its treatment of female bodies and sexual violence. Dudley turns to Julia Kriste-va’s conception of “abjection,” arguing that “like Trixie’s battered body, im-ages of abjection haunt the streets of Deadwood, inviting our fascination and ...
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Pointing out Deadwood’s “generic cross-fertilization,” Wendy Witherspoon ini-tiates in her essay on Milch’s use of the gothic a group of essays in this volume exploring how the series exploits generic conventions. Some of the “macabre” elements that Tim Steckline and John Dudley explore from theoretical perspec-tives Witherspoon recognizes as situating Deadwood at the intersection of two ...
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While Wendy Witherspoon explores Deadwood’s “generic cross-fertilization” from gothic and frontier traditions, Nicolas Witschi uses a similar term, “cross-genre borrowings and adaptation,” to argue that “for all its distinctive Western features, Deadwood connects itself just as emphatically to the conventions of the hard-boiled tradition of fi lm noir [as to the Western], with the two aesthet-...
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...“Violence,” says David Milch, “like any other human activity has the capabil-ity to evolve in all kinds of complicated ways, to have all kinds of accidental outcomes associated with it, including kindness and generosity” (Deadwood 153). Describing Deadwood as “a Western about being a Western,” Jennilyn Merten argues that the series self-consciously and often playfully explores — and ...
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David Fenimore provocatively explores how another kind of “generic cross-fer-tilization” impacts the “feeling” and meaning of Deadwood: music and espe-cially the music that accompanies the closing credits. Unconventional choices yet thematically evocative, the songs originate in and evoke the U.S. folk tradi-tions, from bluegrass to spirituals, establishing “a badge of authenticity that ...
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While Linda Mizejewski, like other essayists in this collection, considers genre, using revisionist critics of the Western who read “this genre as a space where masculinity, far from being bulletproof and monolithic, has always been un-settled and confl icted,” she also initiates a series of essays that use recent meth-odologies — the construction and performance of gender, queer studies, spatial ...
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Building on the way Linda Mizejewski closes her essay by exploring the sig-nifi cance of the lesbian relationship between Jane and Joanie, Michael Johnson argues that “theories of queer space and postmodern theories of sociology, each of which is concerned with the relationship between public space and private space and with movements between the two,” offer particularly fruitful ap-...
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Like Michael K. Johnson, Nicole Tonkovich focuses on issues of mobility and imagines a “fuller life” for the character of Jewel, certainly one of the “diverse bodies” whom Linda Mizejewski mentions, but she does so through the lens of disability studies. What she calls “the sheer profusion of maladjusted, diseased, and wounded bodies in the series” confronts every viewer, and Tonkovich offers ...
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John Dudley, associate professor and chair of the English department at the University of South Dakota, is the author of ,A Man’s Game: Masculinity and the Anti-Aesthetics of American Literary Naturalism (University of Alabama Press, 2004). ...
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Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2013