Author: David R. Shumway

What Genre is “Succession”?

[Critic David Shumway offers both a deadpan account of HBO’s blockbuster success and an elegant tribute to the classificatory genius of the late Hayden White, who saw flourishing genres where others saw disconnected events.]   The recently completed HBO series Succession has generated a lot of commentary, but I haven’t seen any that addresses in any detail the question of its genre. Most critics have called the show “comedy” or “satire,” but have not done much to explain why these terms apply. I will argue that these terms are in different ways accurate, but for surprising reasons and only...

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Woodstock, Altamont, and the Sixties

Woodstock, Altamont, and the Sixties David R. Shumway   Last August, we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Woodstock festival, and analyses of the event’s significance were seemingly everywhere. Most took the event seriously, and my impression is that most commentators saw the event in positive terms. What was notably missing from these discussions, however, was the second part of the narrative that emerged in 1969, the one that ends at the December 6th Altamont festival, where one of the attendees, Meredith Hunter, was stabbed to death by Hell’s Angels who were engaged to provide security for the performers....

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It’s [Not] a Wonderful Life: How Capra’s Film Explains Trump’s Election

Most people in the U.S. today know Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life mainly as a Christmas movie. If you haven’t seen Capra’s film recently or only know it by its association with the Christmas season, you may be surprised by how much the film is explicitly about economics. Equally surprising is the unhappiness of the economics, which is not entirely erased by the famous happy ending.  In what follows, I will suggest that It’s a Wonderful Life can help us to understand the unhappiness of Donald Trump’s America. Since Trump’s election two years ago, one might...

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