Abstract

This article proposes a new interpretation of The Singing Detective, the renowned TV-series that is the major work of the British screenwriter Dennis Potter (1935–1994). It suggests reading Potter’s screenplay as one about the understanding and shaping of identity by means of narrative. Philip Marlow, the series’ protagonist, overcomes a major personal crisis by reconstructing and subsequently rewriting the story of his life. The Singing Detective thus illustrates the hermeneutical anthropology of philosophers such as Charles Taylor and Paul Ricoeur, who consider humans to be self-interpreting, story-telling beings. Interpreted this way, Potter’s work is an evocation of the humanist belief in human agency and the expression of a profound existential optimism.

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