Melodrama Unbound: Across History, Media, and National Cultures
Edited by Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams
Columbia University Press
For too long melodrama has been associated with outdated and morally simplistic stereotypes of the Victorian stage; for too long film studies has construed it as a singular domestic genre of familial and emotional crises, either subversively excessive or narrowly focused on the dilemmas of women. Drawing on new scholarship in transnational theatrical, film, and cultural histories, this collection demonstrates that melodrama is a transgeneric mode that has long spoken to fundamental aspects of modern life and feeling.
Pointing to melodrama’s roots in the ancient Greek combination of melos and drama, and to medieval Christian iconography focused on the pathos of Christ as suffering human body, the volume highlights the importance to modernity of melodrama as a mode of emotional dramaturgy, the social and aesthetic conditions for which emerged long before the French Revolution. Contributors articulate new ways of thinking about melodrama that underscore its pervasiveness across national cultures and in a variety of genres. They examine how melodrama has traveled to and been transformed in India, China, Japan, and South America, whether through colonial circuits or later, globalization; how melodrama mixes with other modes such as romance, comedy, and realism; and finally how melodrama has modernized the dramatic functions of gender, class, and race by orchestrating vital aesthetic and emotional experiences for diverse audiences.
About the Author
Christine Gledhill is a visiting professor in cinema studies at the University of Sunderland. She is the author of Reframing British Cinema, 1918–1928: Between Restraint and Passion (2003); editor of Home Is Where the Heart Is (1987); and coeditor of Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinemas Past and Future (2015).
Linda Williams is professor emerita in film & media and rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and the “Frenzy of the Visible” (1989/1999); Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson (2001); and On The Wire (2014).