'This is our city': Realism and the sentimentality of place in David Simon’s The Wire

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Drawing upon theories of aesthetic realism, this article argues that The Wire develops a tension between the kind of representative typicality characteristic of realism and the exchangeability of labourers and goods in a capitalist system. By developing this tension, The Wire offers a nuanced critique of the ways in which capitalism renders individuals and geographical places as interchangeable placeholders, like pawns in a game of chess. The Wire’s use of realism retains the individualism of person and place, even as these figures represent something more than themselves in the fictional space of the show. I conclude by arguing that The Wire’s realism is mingled with an affective sentimentality associated with the idea of Baltimore.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-209
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of American Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015


  • Capitalism
  • David Simon
  • Realism
  • Sentimentality
  • Serial television
  • The novel

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