Spring 2022

Deaf Education and the Rise of English Melodrama

by Terry F. Robinson

in Essays in Romanticism


This essay links the prevalence of nonverbal characters in English melodrama to eighteenth-century deaf education and Enlightenment linguistic anthropology. It reveals how Thomas Holcroft’s Deaf and Dumb (1801) and A Tale of Mystery (1802) draw upon the instructional practices of the Abbé de l’Épée, the founder of the first free school for the deaf; upon the origin of language debate; and upon the idea that gestural communication had the power to resolve linguistic conflict. Analyzing these associations advances insight into the rise of English melodrama, complicates notions of its inherent conservatism, and suggests that nonverbal signs, as they were practiced by deaf people and performed by actors on stage, provided one of Romanticism’s most salient points of imagined access to expressive truth—a truth Holcroft believed to be key to social and political reform

Intersectionality in Contemporary Melodrama: Normal People (McDonald/Abrahamson, 2020) and Kissing Candice (McArdle, 2018)

by Zélie Asava

in Austerity and Irish Women’s Writing and Culture, 1980–2020


This chapter explores contemporary screen productions written, directed and led by women, which interrogate questions of race, gender, class and sexuality, probing the socio-political impact of austerity on personal relationships. TV series Normal People (2020) and independent film Kissing Candice (2018) both foreground young, female and minority ethnic characters in their examination of formative experiences, structural inequalities and social membership. While each production reinforces heteronormativity and colourism through a focus on straight, white protagonists and their mixed-race lovers, they also reconceptualise constructions of Irishness, producing a multiracial snapshot of the nation. Utilising melodrama’s potential for exposing the precaritisation produced by neoliberal systems, Normal People and Kissing Candice examine how individual lives are imbricated within systems of power as well as the channels of resistance open to the minoritised individual. Through their protagonists failure to overcome or reform systemic barriers, these narratives offer a critique of the social order and a provocation to reimagine it, refusing the order of narrative closure by allowing more structurally emancipatory semiotics to escape the boundaries of the frame.

‘Damn all White Men and Down with Labor’: Race and Genre in Wilkie Collins & Charles Fechter’s Black and White

by Joshua Gooch

in Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film


This essay examines Wilkie Collins’s theatrical collaborations with actor-stage manager Charles Albert Fechter from 1867 to 1869, paying particular attention to the ways in which Fechter and Collins focused on questions of race and empire. By historicising their 1869 play Black and White in light of the Morant Bay uprising and its discursive appearances in Britain, the essay argues that Collins and Fechter aimed to reinvent the race melodrama using the model of the imperial melodrama. The failure of this ambivalent play, which presents a critique of racial domination for its all-but-white protagonist alongside racist minstrelsy comedy, affected Collins’s subsequent presentation of racialised characters in his work.

Orientalism, deterritorialization and the universe of refugees in the Brazilian Telenovela: The Case of Orphans of a Nation

by Andreza Patricia Almeida, dos Santos, Lucas Martins Néia

in Border Crossings and Mobilities on Screen


This chapter investigates the representation of people with refugee status promoted by Orphans of a Nation ( Órfãos da Terra, Globo, 2019), a Brazilian telenovela based on the story of a Syrian family seeking to settle in Brazil after fleeing from war in their homeland. Drawing on a theoretical discussion on place, culture and identity, the chapter argues that globalisation and the consequent formation of transnational markets expanded the experiences of locality, as the territory of both production and circulation of audio-visual meaning. These reconfigurations are visible in the narratives of contemporary Brazilian telenovelas, which invest in disseminating more hybrid cultural identities as well as in a diversity-based national appeal without overlooking their melodramatic core. Following a review of how the Orient is represented in Brazil-made TV fiction, Santos and Néia demonstrate that, in combining fiction and reality, Orphans of a Nation puts forth less-dichotomous stances on the relation between “us” (Western and Brazilian) and “others” (Eastern and refugees) in spite of resorting to a migration imaginary that has already been consolidated by the media.

Beyond Melodrama: A Jungian Reevaluation of Steinbeck’s East of Eden

by: Carter Davis Johnson

in Steinbeck Review


East of Eden is often criticized as overly symbolic and melodramatic. However, such characterizations overlook Steinbeck’s latent innovations in characterization. Rather than developing stiff allegorical figures, Steinbeck makes creative use of Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes, forming personalities that manifest psychological potentialities and transformations. In this essay, I trace the manifestations of Jungian theory across several characters in East of Eden, contrasting Steinbeck’s use of Jungian archetypes with traditional literary archetypes. Additionally, I outline how this artistic feature also displays Steinbeck’s opposition to the exclusivity of Freudian theory. If the characters and plot are viewed in the entirety of their complex Jungian influences and careful criticism of Freud, the novel is reinvigorated with creative energy that surpasses melodrama.