The Essential Sopranos Reader


The Sopranos is recognized as the most successful cable series in the history of television. The Washington Post has called the popular series, winner of twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes, "the television landmark that leaves other landmarks in the dust." In every aspect — narrative structure, visual artistry, writing, intertextuality, ensemble acting, controversial themes, dark humor, and unflinching examinations of American life — The Sopranos has had few equals.


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The Essential Sopranos Reader

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The Sopranos is recognized as the most successful cable series in the history of television. The Washington Post has called the popular series, winner of twenty-one Emmys and five Golden Globes, "the television landmark that leaves other landmarks in the dust." In every aspect — narrative structure, visual artistry, writing, intertextuality, ensemble acting, controversial themes, dark humor, and unflinching examinations of American life — The Sopranos has had few equals.

Offering a definitive final assessment of the series, The Essential Sopranos Reader aims to comprehensively examine the show's themes and enduring cultural significance. Gender and ethnicity, the role of dreams, the rebirth of HBO, the series' controversial finale, and other topics come under scrutiny in this highly accessible, engaging collection. The book concludes with an interview with Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior in all six seasons of the show.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is the first major academic exploration of the series, and it is must reading for both fans and scholars of 'The Sopranos.'" —King Features Syndicate" —

"'The Essential Sopranos Reader' explores the series' themes, its legacy, its unforgettable characters and how its writers and producers handled some of the most controversial subject metter ever seen on American TV."— Farmville Herald" —

"The collection bows out with an entertaining and sometimes insightful excerptfrom an interview with Sopranos actor Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior), whichLevinson and Lavery moderated, and a list of the cast and their respective roles on theseries, an episode guide, and an extensive catalogue of the sixth season's intertextualreferences and allusions"— Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television" —

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Product Details

Meet the Author

David Lavery, professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University, is the editor of The Essential Cult TV Reader. He lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Douglas L. Howard, assistant academic chair and associate professor in the English Department at Suffolk County Community College, is the editor of Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge Television. He lives in Plainview, New York.

Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, is the award-winning author of several science fiction novels as well as books on new media. He lives in White Plains, New York.

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Table of Contents

Foreword David Bianculli ix

Introduction David Lavery 1

Part 1 The Sopranos, David Chase, HBO, and Television

The Sopranos as Tipping Point in the Second Coming of HBO Gary R. Edgerton 7

From Made Men to Mad Men: What Matthew Weiner Learned from David Chase David Lavery 17

The Sopranos: If Nothing Is Real, You Have Overpaid for Your Carpet Martha P. Nochimson 23

Author(iz)ing Chase Robin Nelson 41

Part 2 Characters

"Half a Wiseguy": Paulie Walnuts, Meet Tom Stoppard Paul Wright 57

Christopher, Osama, and A.J.: Contemporary Narcissism and Terrorism in The Sopranos Jason Jacobs 65

"When It Comes to Daughters, All Bets Are Off": The Seductive Father-Daughter Relationship of Tony and Meadow Soprano Marisa Carroll 81

Part 3 Gendering The Sopranos

"Blabbermouth Cunts"; or, Speaking in Tongues: Narrative Crises for Women in The Sopranos and Feminist Dilemmas Kim Akass Janet McCabe 93

Honoring the Social Compact: The Last Temptation of Melfi Nancy McGuire Roche 105

A "Finook" in the Crew: Vito Spatafore, The Sopranos, and the Queering of the Mafia Genre George De Stefano 114

Part 4 Cinematic Concerns

The Producers: The Dangers of Filmmaking in The Sopranos Cameron Golden 127

Comfortably Numb? The Sopranos, New Brutalism, and the Last Temptation of Chris Glen Creeber 137

Part 5 Dreams and Therapy

Fishes and Football Coaches: The Narrative Necessity of Dreams in The Sopranos Cynthia Burkhead 149

From Here to InFinnerty: Tony Soprano and the American Way Terri Carney 157

"Whatever Happened to Stop and Smell the Roses?": The Sopranos as Anti-therapeutic Narrative David Pattie 166

Part 6 Ethnic and Social Concerns

Mangia Mafia! Food, Punishment, and Cultural Identity in The Sopranos Michael M. Grynbaum 183

The Guinea as Tragic Hero: The Complex Representation of Italian Americans in The Sopranos Frank P. Tomasulo 196

"All Caucasians Look Alike": Dreams of Whiteness at the End of The Sopranos Christopher Kocela 208

Part 7 Images of Justice and The Sopranos

Representations of Law and Justice in The Sopranos: An Introduction Barbara Villez 221

Lawyer-Client Relations as Seen in The Sopranos James M. Keneally 229

"This Isn't a Negotiation": "Getting to Yes" with Tony Soprano Sharon Sutherland Sarah Swan 232

The Price of Stereotype: The Representation of the Mafia in Italy and the United States in The Sopranos Antonio Ingroia 243

The Image of Justice in The Sopranos Fahio Licata 246

Part 8 Narrative and Intertextuality

"Funny about God, and Fate, and Shit Like That": The Imminent Unexpected in The Sopranos Robert Piluso 257

The Sopranos and History Albert Auster 266

Silence in The Sopranos Steven Peacock 277

Part 9 Cut to Black: The Finale and the Sopranos Legacy

"What's Different between You and Me": Carmela, the Audience, and the End Joseph S. Walker 289

Unpredictable but Inevitable: That Last Scene Maurice Yacowar 297

No Justice for All: The FBI, Cut to Black, and David Chase's Final Hit Douglas L. Howard 303

The Sopranos and the Closure Junkies Paul Levinson 313

Acknowledgments 317

Appendix A Characters 319

Appendix B Episode Guide 323

Appendix C Intertextual References and Allusions in Season Six 327

Appendix D A Conversation with Dominic Chianese, The Sopranos' Uncle Junior 339

Bibliography 363

List of Contributors 377

Index 383

Additional Essays Available Online at

"Even Brendan Filone's Got an Identity and He's Dead": Christopher Moltisanti and the Reflexive Subjectivity of the Constructed Self Carl Wilson

Carmela Soprano as Emma Bovary: European Culture, Taste, and Class in The Sopranos Elizabeth Mauldin

The Sopranos as Art Cinema William Siska

Tony and Dora: Mastering the Art of Countertransference Bruce Plourde

The Sopranos: Asleep Sven Weber

Hospital Scenes, Nursing, and Health Care in The Sopranos Dianna Lipp Rivers

The New Serial Television Narrative: The Sopranos and Relay Race Structure Ilaria Bistegh

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