Reading The Sopranos: Hit TV from HBO

"This is the kind of academic study that could give Cultural Studies a good name. It also raises Sopranos discussion to a new level. The balance between the “close up” of an individual episode and the “long shot” of an overview or context proves the show’s seriousness and depth. The writers’ critical perspectives are so varied that even the most devoted fans should find something new and provocative. The arguments are all original, insightful, well supported. In the parlance of the academic Family, this is 'a palpable hit.'”

--Maurice Yacowar, author of The Sopranos on the Couch

Edited by David Lavery

To be published by I. B. Tauris in the Reading Contemporary Television Series, edited by Janet McCabe and Kim Akass

Table of Contents



Introduction David Lavery (Middle Tennessee State University, USA), Can This be the End of Tony Soprano? [3-14]

1. Michael M. Epstein (Southwestern University School of Law, USA), Jimmie L. Reeves (Texas Tech, USA), and Mark C. Rogers (Walsh University, USA), Surviving the "Hit": Will The Sopranos Still Sing for HBO? [15-25]

2. David Johansson (Brevard Community College, USA), Homeward Bound: Those Sopranos Titles Come Heavy [27-36]

Sopranos Women

3. Janet McCabe and Kim Akass (Manchester Metropolitan University and University of North London, UK), What has Carmela Ever Done for Feminism? [39-55]

4. Valerie Palmer-Mehta (Oakland University, USA), Disciplining the Masculine: The Disruptive Power of Janice Soprano [56-68]

5. Bruce Plourde (Temple University, USA), Eve of Destruction: Dr. Melfi as Reader of The Sopranos [69-76]


6. Jessica Baldanzi (Indiana University, USA), Bloodlust for the Common Man: The Sopranos Confronts Its Vengeful Audience [on "Employee of the Month" and "Another Toothpick"] [79-89]

7. Cameron Golden (UNC Greensboro, USA), "You're Annette Bening?": Dreams and Hollywood as Subtext in The Sopranos [on "The Test Dream"] [91-103]

8. Christopher Kocela (Georgia State University, USA), From Columbus to Gary Cooper: Mourning the Lost White Father in The Sopranos [on "Christopher"] [104-17]

Music, Theatricality, Aesthetics

9. Chris Neal (McMurry University, USA), Gangstas, Divas, and Breaking Tony’s Balls: Musical Reference in The Sopranos [121-26]

10. Gwyn Symonds (University of Sydney, Australia), Show Business or Dirty Business?: The Theatrics of Mafia Narrative and Empathy for the Last Mob Boss Standing in The Sopranos [127-37]

11. Franco Ricci (University of Ottawa, Canada), Art Imitating Life Imitating Art: Aesthetics and Ammunition in The Sopranos [138-59]

Criminal Justice, Politics, Race

12. Douglas L. Howard (Suffolk County Community College, USA), Tasting Brylcreem: Law, Disorder, and the FBI in The Sopranos [163-78]

13. Dean DeFino (Iona College, USA), The Prince of North Jersey [179-93]

14. Brian Gibson (University of Alberta, Canada), "Black Guys My Ass": The Queerness of Racism in The Sopranos [194-213]

Back Pages


A: Episode/Writer/Director Guide [214]

B: Intertextual Moments and Allusions in The Sopranos (Seasons Four and Five) [217]

C: Characters [233]

Notes [236]

Bibliography [246]

Index [257]



Kim Akass is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at London Metropolitan University. She has written with Janet McCabe on female narratives and narration in American TV drama and is currently working on motherhood in contemporary American television. She has co-edited and contributed to Reading Sex and the City (I.B. Tauris, 2003) and Six Feet Under: TV to Die For (I.B. Tauris, 2005) and is one of the founding editors of Critical Studies in Television.

Jessica Baldanzi is a Visiting Lecturer in the English Department at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research and writing focus on eugenics, reproduction, and stereotype in Twentieth Century American literature. Her most recent publication, "Stillborns, Orphans, and Self-Proclaimed Virgins," is forthcoming in Genders in Fall 2005.

Dean DeFino is Assistant Professor of English and director of Film Studies at Iona College. He earned his PhD at SUNY Binghamton.

Michael M. Epstein is Professor at the Southwestern University School of Law, where he teaches courses on media and entertainment law. With Reeves and Rogers, he has authored articles on The X-Files, The Sopranos, and Seinfeld.

Brian Gibson is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He has published papers on African masculinities, the male gaze in Patriot Games, and Jim Hawkins' adolescence in Treasure Island. He is writing his dissertation on Saki (H. H. Munro). His first novel, Bleeding Daylight, was published in 2004.

Cameron Golden is completing her Ph.D. in English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her dissertation looks closely at autobiographical writer figures within the novels of Paul Auster, Charles Baxter, Philip Roth, and Mark Leyner. She has published articles in Mosaic, Critique (forthcoming), and The Midwest Quarterly (forthcoming).

Douglas L. Howard is Assistant Chair in the English Department at Suffolk County Community College. His work has appeared in Literature and Theology, The Chronicle of Higher Education, PopPolitics, The Gothic Other (co-editor and contributor) and in This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos.

David Johansson's work appears in Issues and Identities in Literature, Masterplots I and II, and Cyclopedia of World Authors. In 2005 he lectured on drama at Lund University, Sweden and on poetry at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He currently teaches literature and film at Brevard Community College on the Atlantic coast of Florida.

Christopher Kocela earned his PhD at McGill University. He teaches courses in 20th Century American literature, contemporary theory, and popular culture at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He has published in Pynchon Notes, Genders, The Steinbeck Newsletter.

David Lavery is professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University and the author of over ninety published essays and reviews and author/editor/co-editor of eleven books, including Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks and Reading Deadwood: Realizing the Western. He co-edits the e-journal Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies and is one of the founding editors of the new journal Critical Studies in Television: Scholarly Studies of Small Screen Fictions.

Janet McCabe is a Research Fellow in television drama at Manchester Metropolitan University and Managing Editor of Critical Studies in Television. She has written on American TV drama on British screens, as well as with Kim Akass on female narratives and narration in American TV drama. She is author of Feminist Film Theory: Writing the Woman into Cinema (Wallflower), and has co-edited (with Akass) and contributed to Reading Sex and the City (I.B Tauris, 2003) and Six Feet Under: TV to Die For (I.B. Tauris, 2005).

Chris Neal is the Director of Bands at McMurry University. Additionally, he teaches courses in the Music Education sequence, including Orchestration and Arranging, Instrumental Practicum, and Brass Methods. 

Valerie Palmer-Mehta (Ph.D., Wayne State University) communication theory, persuasion and multicultural communication at Oakland University in Michigan. Her research focuses on the intersection of hegemony, ideology, and the representation of gender, race, and sexuality in the media.

Bruce Plourde is a doctoral candidate in English at Temple University.

Jimmie L. Reeves is Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Texas Tech University. In addition to articles on subjects ranging from Mr. T to The X-Files. Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, and Seinfeld, he is the co-author of Cracked Coverage: Television News, the Anti-Cocaine Crusade, and the Reagan Legacy (1994).

Franco Ricci teaches in the department of Langauges and Literature at the Univesity of Ottawa. He is the editor of Calvino Revisited and author of Difficult Games: A Reading of I racconti by Italo Calvino and Painting with Words, Writing with Pictures: Word and Image Relations in the Work of Italo Calvino.

Mark C. Rogers is an Associate Professor of Communication at Walsh University. His previous publications include collaborative pieces on Twin Peaks, The X-Files, The Sopranos, and Seinfeld.

Gwyn Symonds is a special education teacher and doctoral candidate in the Department of English, University of Sydney. Her essays have appeared in Refractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media and Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies.