Fall 2017

Dangerous Playgrounds: Hemispheric Imaginaries and Domestic Insecurity in Contemporary US Tourism Narratives

by Daniel Lanza Rivers


This article explores a network of “dangerous playgrounds” narratives amid the backdrop of then President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” and the revitalization of the “self-deportation movement” following the passage of SB1070. Tracing the journeys of young, white US American tourists traveling to Latin America to release their inhibitions, stories working in the dangerous playgrounds mode use figurations of insurrectionary violence to wed the narrative arc of the bildungsroman to the generic conventions of melodrama and horror, and so cast the Americas south of the US border as a source of danger to US American youth. By reading these narrative negotiations in relation to the legacies of US American hemispheric interventionism, post-9/11 immigration policy, and US American travel narratives, this article unpacks the ways Jessica Abel’s critically acclaimed comic La Perdida (2006) and the films Turistas (2006), Borderland (2007), The Ruins (2008), and Indigenous (2014) create slippages in meaning that project anxieties about terrorism and domestic security onto Latinx bodies and Latin American nations through figurations of imperiled white femininity. By using literary and cultural analysis to explore how popular sentiment, generic convention, and policy negotiations draw on, shape, and extend neo-Monroeist structures of feeling, this article ultimately finds that the emergence of domestic policies aimed at institutionalizing the surveillance of Latinx subjects arises in popular culture as a remarkably predictable narrative mode, which uses the conventions of adventure, melodrama, and horror to frame the nativist project of securing domestic borders and incarcerating and expelling undocumented Latinx subjects as one of the necessary compromises of a mature nation.

George Lippard’s “Theatre of Hell”: Apocalyptic Melodrama and Working-Class Spectatorship in the Quaker City

by Michael D’Alessandro


This essay, “George Lippard’s ‘Theatre of Hell’: Apocalyptic Melodrama and Working-Class Spectatorship in the Quaker City,” centers on the best-selling sensation novel The Quaker City; or the Monks of Monk Hall (1844-45) and antebellum Philadelphia theatergoing. I claim that by reproducing climactic scenes from cheap-admission spectacle melodramas, Lippard activates the communion and the politics of working-class spectatorship within the reading experience itself. Several Quaker City scenes restage images of ruling-class collapse originating within Philadelphia’s working-class playhouses. Especially important is a dream sequence that follows the novel’s web-fingered, dwarfed doorman Devil-Bug and his fantasy about a crumbling Philadelphia monarchy. In this extended scene, Lippard imports and re-dramatizes earthquakes, revolutionary parades, storms, floods, and fires from several melodramas including The Last Days of Pompeii (1835), El Hyder, The Chief of the Ghaut Mountains (1839), and Undine, Spirit of the Waters (1841). In constructing Quaker City’s climactic motifs, Lippard attempts to galvanize a working-class, theatergoing readership already programmed to recognize the apocalyptic symbols of class conflict. More precisely, he seeks to channel this familiarity into an analogous overthrow of the ruling class in real life.

“Film Melodrama and Opera: La Tosca in Italian Cinema” by Bernhard Kuhn


This article focuses on the relationship between film melodrama and opera from an intermedial perspective. In addition to drawing on relevant literature in the fields of intermediality and melodrama studies, it incorporates literary and musicological theories. It argues that while opera and melodrama are related, the operatic and the melodramatic are distinct modes of artistic expression. Comparable to the melodramatic mode, the operatic mode appears in many media and is highly relevant for the Italian cinema. In the first part, the article distinguishes between the operatic and melodramatic mode and points to relevant elements of the relationship between melodrama, opera, and the Italian cinema. To illustrate significant aspects of this connection, the second part of this article reflects on two films based on Victorien Sardou’s drama La Tosca (1887): Carlo Koch’s Tosca (1941) and Luigi Magni’s La Tosca (1973). The two films incorporate operatic and melodramatic elements very differently. While in Koch’s version the musical discours is at times comparable to arias in opera, the film also incorporates instances of melodrama. Magni’s film, on the other hand, transforms Sardou’s drama into a musical film reminiscent of opera buffa. It communicates less on the affective level and rather evokes a cognitive reflection on Italy’s reality of the early 1970s.

Feels like home: Since You Went Away and the 1940s family melodrama

by Chad Newsom
Screen, Volume 58, Issue 3, 1 September 2017, Pages 285–308,

David O. Selznick’s Since You Went Away (John Cromwell, 1944) is a meandering, three-hour film about one year in the everyday life of an average American household while the father is away at war. The film prompted a flood of letters to Selznick from soldiers who saw in the film not only glimpses of their own homes and families but also a concrete reason to fight or even die in battle. In one of these letters a soldier tells a clumsy, long-winded anecdote that nonetheless ends with a punch. He recalls conversing with a young child and realizing that the child’s sense of reality was largely formed by Hollywood cinema’s image bank. Only a child, he initially assumes, would find such fiction credible. But the soldier then connects this anecdote to his experience of…