Abstract Deadline Extended: Special Issue on Yellowstone (2018) (Journal of Literary Studies)
Yellowstone (2018, Paramount Network), Taylor Sheridan’s neo-Western television series that premiered in 2018, has grown into a cultural phenomenon. Not only has the show itself been enormously popular (as measured by its ratings and fan following within the United States and South Africa, for example), but its characters, and the Dutton family that are central to the story, have since been incorporated into a shared story universe covering a period from 1881 to the present day. This story is centred around the fictional Yellowstone ranch in Montana, which is both the main setting and metaphorical heart of the show.
The production quality of the show, and the scope of its locations and narrative events, have seen the show being labelled as “prestige TV for conservatives” (Mathews 2018; Horton 2022) and a “Heartland drama” (Hibberd 2022). At the same time, it has been contrasted with shows that cater for a (perceived) more progressive audience – in particular with the HBO series and critical darling Succession (2018-2023), which, like Yellowstone, is centred around a wealthy patriarch and his children. As Horton (2022) and Wanzo (2022) have argued, however, it is a mistake to label Yellowstone as “red-state-Succession”. As Wanzo explains, “Yellowstone is certainly in the tradition of settler colonialism entertainment, but surely something interpretative is lost in understanding it only as that” (Wanzo 2022, 81). Furthermore, she writes, “there are some contexts in which the category of ‘conservative’ may not do analytical justice to the complicated ways in which pleasure, genre history, and politics work. Taylor Sheridan’s work certainly deserves more rigorous – and more interesting – categorization than that one word can deliver”.
Besides Wanzo (2022), there is a dearth of scholarly work on Yellowstone and its attendant prequel series, 1881 and 1923. This is clearly a critical lacuna, especially when one considers the popularity of the series. Popular cultural texts can provide the reader with access to the social realities of a specific moment in time and can be read as mimetic of societal views (Kellner 1996). Consequently Yellowstone, with its enormous popularity both within and outside of the United States of America, offers an opportunity to explore multiple, and intersecting, transnational discourses both within and surrounding the show. While the show has been produced as a high-budget television series, there are numerous narrative elements therein that draw from a multitude of cultural and literary influences, including constructed cultural memory (such as the idea of Manifest Destiny and embellished folk tales set during the expansion of the Western frontier of the United States) and popular narratives of the Old West (in film, television, video games, and novels). Furthermore, the series keys into discourses around identity, belonging, nationality, gender, and race. As such, the critical lenses of both literary and cultural studies are well-suited to analyse the multivalent themes and discourses, as well as narrative techniques, utilised in the show.
The Journal of Literary Studies calls for submissions to a special issue that explores the multiple sites of analysis in Yellowstone. The issue will be edited by Hannelie Marx Knoetze (Department of Communication Sciences, University of South Africa) and Reinhardt Fourie (Department of Afrikaans and Theory of Literature, University of South Africa).
The focal points of submissions are to fall within the broad fields of cultural and literary studies. Some potential areas of exploration include, but are not limited to:
- gender and sexuality
- narrative techniques
- genre and reception
- culture and identity
- ecocritical readings
- postcolonial and decolonial approaches
- postmodern approaches such as adaptation, homage, parody and pastiche
- comparative studies (popular culture and literature)
- transnational cultural and political discourses
Abstracts of around 300 words can be submitted for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 December 2023. The deadline for the submission of final papers will be 1 February 2024, with publication after peer review expected during 2024.
The Journal of Literary Studies is an open access journal published in collaboration between the Literature Association of South Africa (LASA) and Unisa Press.It is indexed in the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI) of Web of Science (formerly ISI), Index to South African Periodicals, British Humanities Index, Humanities International Index, Scopus, MLA International Bibliography and the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO). It is also listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and is accredited by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training. Articles that appear in the journal are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence, which means that authors may freely disseminate their articles on other platforms such as Academia.edu and Researchgate, as well as via their own institutional repositories.
Hibberd, J. 2022. ‘Yellowstone’ Season 5 Premiere Breaks Ratings Record With 12.1 Million Viewers. The Hollywood Reporter, November 14, 2022. Accessed August 14, 2023. https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-news/yellowstone-season-5-premiere-ratings-1235261644/
Horton, A. 2022. Yellowstone: the smash-hit TV show that exposed a cultural divide. The Guardian, January 12, 2022. Accessed August 14, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2022/jan/12/yellowstone-the-smash-hit-tv-show-that-exposed-a-cultural-divide
Kellner, Douglas. 1996. Media culture: Cultural Studies, identity and politics between the modern and the postmodern. London & New York: Routledge.
Mathews, L. 2023. There’s Nothing on TV Quite Like Yellowstone, but That Will Change. TV Guide, April 23, 2018. Accessed August 14, 2023. https://www.tvguide.com/news/yellowstone-paramount-network-conservative-prestige-tv/
Wanzo, R. 2022. “Taylor Sheridan is sorry but his characters are not: the messiness of categorizing conservative television.” Film Quarterly 76 (2): 78-82. https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2022.76.2.78.