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‘Message for Posterity’: The Singing Detective (1986) 25 years on

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This article offers a reappraisal of Dennis Potter’s television script for The Singing Detective (BBC, 1986) in the 25th anniversary period of the production’s first broadcast. The article reviews the history of the author’s intellectual engagement with The Singing Detective – of what it meant to him then, when he first saw the production in 1986 and of what it means to him now. It discusses the relationship of The Singing Detective to literary modernism, particularly James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses published in 1922. It examines debates on whether Potter is a postmodern writer and also explores the relationship of The Singing Detective to psychoanalysis. It concludes by arguing that Potter’s TV screenplay for The Singing Detective is best seen as a religious work in which spirituality is redefined as the capacity for human beings to reshape their own reality. In this lies Potter’s Christian optimism and The Singing Detective stands as his message for posterity in this regard.
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Keywords: Potter; modernism; postmodernism; psychoanalysis; religion; spirituality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Glasgow Caledonian University

Publication date: August 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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