Category Archives: Publications

Publications

Fall 2019

Dickens’s Tableaux
Melodrama and Sexual Opacity in David Copperfield and Bleak House
by Victoria Wiet
Abstract:
This essay examines the features and function of tableaux in two novels by Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850) and Bleak House (1853), in order to rethink the influence of melodramatic conventions on the form of narrative fiction, particularly the understanding of female sexuality that melodrama afforded novelists. Taking Dickens as an important example, literary critics have typically associated melodrama with ostentatious legibility, but recent scholarship on the theatrical tableau has illuminated the complex ways the melodramatic stage both produced and occluded revelation. Drawing on this work, I demonstrate that the adaptation of the tableau into the novel form increases the possibility of illegibility because readers necessarily rely on the narrator’s description and interpretation of the material world. In David Copperfield and Bleak House, this remediation has particularly significant consequences for the representation of sexually compromised women. By inadequately revealing the sexual histories of suspected “fallen women,” densely visual but opaque scenes featuring Annie Strong, Martha Endell, and Honoria Dedlock defer judgment on their characters, with Lady Dedlock’s protracted illegibility preventing her plot from culminating in a decisive narrative or moral conclusion. Because the narrators of both novels depict these female characters as deliberately making themselves illegible, the novel tableau becomes an important way for Dickens to dramatize the fallibility of the omniscient and quasi-omniscient narrators of realist fiction.

Recycling melodrama: HBO’s “quality television” discourse and the place of women’s testimony

by Michael Reinhard

Blurb:
Over the past decade, HBO has turned towards domestic melodramas like OliveKitteridge(2014), Sharp Objects(2018), and Big Little Lies(2017) to cultivate its aesthetic brand of“quality television”for women (Imre2009; McCabe& Akass2007) . These series frequently position their themes in dialogue with popular feminisms through melodrama’s documented capacity to seize upon the social problems that mark everyday public life (Linda Williams2001; Christine Gledhill1987). The identification of a“quality television”discourse in the development of HBO’s television slate for women has seized on this melodramatic tradition during a period in which social media networks have provided communities of feminists and allies space to reconsider the value, authenticity,and place of women’s testimony in the public sphere. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings,The New York Times captured the“#WhyIDidn’tReport”phenomena where survivors of sexual assault testified to their silenced experiences on social media. That many recent“quality”domestic melodramas on HBO feature Academy Award-winning or nominated film actresses, such as Frances McDormand and Reese Witherspoon, who advocate feminist storytelling as well as the Time’s Up legal defense fund is a relationship worth examining. While careers of film-turned-TV actresses have previously been thought through heuristics like recycling (Mary R. Desjardins2015), the present circumstances of these actresses reflect not only the renewed cultural place of television but also clear tensions between the re-emergence of middle-class feminist political discourse on television today and its relationship to the racial underpinnings of the film industry’s cultures of prestige. It is precisely this tension that now marks the function of HBO’s recycling of domestic melodrama in its development of television branded as“quality.”

Not Your Mother’s Melodrama: Three Twenty-First-Century Women’s Films

by E.L. McCallum

This essay argues that twenty-first-century melodrama films by female directors rework the core components of classic melodrama form—not only its timing, but also narrative form, agnition, and the underlying fantasy of union. While they retain a focus on objects and setting as bearers of emotion, and on a crisis in intimate relations, the three films by Chantal Akerman, Claire Denis, and Ann Hui considered here reconsider melodrama’s possibilities. They all broach ways of rethinking Oedipal fantasy, moving beyond a story of the fraught emergence of the individual to one focused on a collective problem of how we negotiate a proper proximity to cherished others. All three films turn from what could have been to what the past makes possible now and thus change melodrama from a melancholic genre to a generative one.

Vamps and Virgins: The Women of 1920s Hollywood War Romances

by Liz Clarke

Liz Clarke suggests moving beyond surveying the canonical combat films in order to take a closer look at the representations of women and war in early Hollywood. She points out that in the 1920s, Hollywood studios considered females to be their target audience and so geared their narratives and complex female protagonists accordingly. Exploring films from that time era, Clarke connects melodrama and war and observes the broader relationship between heroism, gender, war, and nation that arises in these films. She argues that when we define war films beyond military training and combat narratives alone, more possibilities exist to look at the multifaceted ways women and war are on screen.

May 2019

978-3-030-14872-0

The Pedagogy of Queer TV
by Ava Laure Paresemain

This book examines queer characters in popular American television, demonstrating how entertainment can educate audiences about LGBT identities and social issues like homophobia and transphobia. Through case studies of musical soap operas (Glee and Empire), reality shows (RuPaul’s Drag Race, The Prancing Elites Project and I Am Cait) and “quality” dramas (Looking, Transparent and Sense8), it argues that entertainment elements such as music, humour, storytelling and melodrama function as pedagogical tools, inviting viewers to empathise with and understand queer characters. Each chapter focuses on a particular programme, looking at what it teaches—its representation of queerness—and how it teaches this—its pedagogy. Situating the programmes in their broader historical context, this study also shows how these televisual texts exemplify a specific moment in American television.

Summer 2019

Indiscretions of an Italian Lover: Montgomery Clift, Masculinity, and Melodrama

in The Italianist
by Sam Gaglio

Abstract: This article utilizes production documents found in the David O. Selznick
Collection to explore the role of masculinity as it is constructed in Stazione Termini (1953). More specifically, it seeks to reframe Montgomery Clift, the film’s lead actor, as an inetto: an inept masculine character who repeatedly submits to the commands of both Mary, his lover, and her adolescent nephew, Paul. Traditionally an archetype found in Italian comedy, Clift’s performance exemplifies the role of the inetto in the context of melodrama. While the comedic inetto demands centre stage in its film, the melodramatic inetto is instead pushed into the periphery, queering the heteronormative representation of the male leading character and undermining traditional notions of masculinity. The production files reinforce this reading.

Courtroom Melodrama: Dramatizing Characters and Audiences in A Tale of Two Cities

in Victorians: A Journal of Culture and Literature
by Brittany Reid

Abstract:In the preface to A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens recalls that he conceived of the idea for the novel while staging a scene from Collins’ play The Frozen Deep with his children. Building on this account of the story’s theatrical inspiration, public displays or acts of performance are prominently featured throughout the novel and punctuate moments of collective unrest, false behavior, or political corruption. From the showcasing of the guillotine executions to the characterization of crowds as active audiences, dramatic tropes, forms, and terms are frequently employed throughout the text. This article explores the theatrical imagery of A Tale of Two Cities as it communicates a political statement, contributes to the narrative as a whole, and engages with established dramatic traditions from the period, such as melodrama. To that end, it specifically considers the use of melodramatic conventions in the court scenes to demonstrate Dickens’s “politics of performance” in the novel.

Darkness in the spotlight: Binaries and brutality in Zhang Yimou’s ‘Shadow’

in Metro Magazine: Media and Education Magazine
by Debbie Zhou

Abstract: While Zhang Yimou’s latest Wuxia offering bears the hallmark action and melodrama elements of his earlier work, it stands apart in terms of visuals, featuring a subdued, largely monochromatic palette and unfurling, brushstroke-like compositions. With this calculated stylistic move, the Chinese director allows the violence, corruption and conflict at the core of his historical tale to starkly taint each frame

“Melodrama, Purimspiel, and Jewish Emancipation”

in Victorian Literature and Culture

by Sharon Aronofsky Weltman

Abstract

Long forgotten, Elizabeth Polack (fl. 1835–43) is the earliest known Jewish woman playwright in England. This essay argues that her first play, Esther, the Royal Jewess, or the Death of Haman! (1835), performed at a public playhouse in the Jewish working-class neighborhood of London’s East End, radically realigns diverse genres and populations in advocating both Jewish emancipation and a voice for women. By way of a very brief introduction, I first point out the applicability here of Judith Butler’s Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. Butler explores how group protest, such as Tahir Square or Occupy Wall Street, serves as a kind of communal bodily signification. Of course, her point is not to address how people come together in a public theater, where the cast arrives daily for salaried jobs and the audience plunks down cold cash for a fun night out. Yet something else meaningful can occur in assembly within the theater. Theatrical performances can take on the discursive power of political assembly that Butler defines, signifying “in excess of what is said,” bringing actors and audience together with potentially political valence. Butler helps us understand the stakes of theatrical performance and public assembly and why it is important to examine Esther, the Royal Jewess beyond recovering a neglected author, though that too is part of my object.

Spring 2019

Melodrama: The Role of Imitation, Melody, Speech, and Gesture in a Post-Enlightenment “Mixed Form”

by Monique Rooney

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature

Abstract:

Melodrama is a mixed or transmedial artform that, having migrated from stage to film, television and digital screens, typically combines plastic arts (tableau, mise en scène, filmic close-up, sculptural poses) with performative arts (stage and screen acting, declamation, singing, orchestral or other music). It emerged first in the 18th century when Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote and composed his “scène lyrique” Pygmalion, a formally innovative and experimental adaptation of the story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the context of the speculative and neoAristotelian ideas that Rousseau contributed to public debate about the significance of imitation or mimesis in the development of language, Rousseau’s foundational melodrama represented the coming-to-life of Pygmalion’s beloved statue, Galatea, as a mimetic scene in which metamorphosis takes place through the statue’s responsiveness to the artist and vice versa. More than simply a theme, imitation is intrinsic to the musical-dramatic and, thus, transmedial structure of the ur-melodrama, through which the alternation of spoken lyric with musical phrasing was intended to draw attention to the mimetic role of vocal accent within the arrangement. This aesthetic structure opened the possibility of representing a diversity of voices on the metropolitan stage and beyond. Since its Enlightenment-era beginnings, the mixed form of melodrama has persisted even as it has been transformed in its itinerary from the 18th century to the early 21st century, transmedially adapting to new modalities and formats as it has moved from stage to print formats and then to film, television, and digital platforms. The transmedial form and reach of melodrama is discernible in latter-day performance and film, in which the mixed form—particularly vocal accent, melody, and gesture—continue to disrupt normative identities and hegemonic systems.

“Cartography of Representation: Western Melodrama and Indian Cinema”

in International Journal of Management & Social Science

by Bannerjee Baishakhi

Understanding the melodramatic intervention in Indian cinema would require us to reformulate the insights of Western melodramatic studies. But it is essential to remember that any attempt to sum up the theoretical formulation of the Western melodramatic studies is a mammoth task and might end up in formulating certain simplistic and generalized observations. The situation becomes all the more complicated when we try to comprehend the nature of melodramatic interventions in Indian cinemas because melodramatic situations differ from county to country. It is essentially a historically and socially conditioned mode of experience. So what may constitute a melodramatic mode of expression in the West may not be the same in India. This paper seeks to narrate the conflict and confrontation between the sacred and the secular and how differently they are perceived by the two countries. In the final analysis, the paper deals with the interface between the Western concept of melodrama and its influence on Indian cinema and how the great Indian directors incorporate indigenous forms of melodrama to overcome that influence.

“Bernard Shaw’s Unproduced Melodrama: The Gadfly, or The Son of the Cardinal”

in English Literature in Translation: 1880-1920

by Stanley Weintraub

Abstract

On 23 March 1898, Bernard Shaw arranged a “copyright performance” of a new play advertised as at the Victoria Hall in Bayswater. Typical for uncommercial exposure, the script was stapled between brown endpapers. Unlike another of his plays also “performed” then to protect the copyright, the delicious farce You Never Can Tell, the melodramatic The Gadfly then vanished from the English stage. He had been asked by Ethel Voynich to adapt her novel for a single, minimally advertised performance to secure it from exploitation by hack dramatists always on the prowl for such prey. This article offers a discussion of all that surrounds the writing of the play, with a close exegesis of the The Gadfly, or The Son of the Cardinal.

“Melodrama, Sex, Beaches, and Other Interests”

in Michael Winterbottom

by Brian McFarlane and Deane Williams

Abstract

A film such as Go Now, made for television but shown in cinemas in some countries, is a case in point: it exhibits some of the informing traits of melodrama but its treatment is in certain essentials realistic, avoiding the gratifications of melodrama, at least as the mode is practised in Hollywood cinema. With or Without You raises expectations of romantic comedy but deflects – or dissipates – these with a surprising acridity of tone; and the noir-influenced I Want You hovers between thriller and erotic drama. Realist sex and concert scenes, to the point where there is almost a whiff of documentary in the film’s short footage, but it also has a vestigial narrative continuity. As in so many of Winter-bottom’s films, there are insistent stress on movement, an almost mandatory beach scene as a somewhat simplistic signifier of release and ‘naturalness’, and stress on music.

“The Spectacle of Affect: Postwar South Korean Melodrama Films”

in East Asian Transwar Popular Culture

by Kelly Y. Jeong

This chapter explores the melodramas of Korea’s cinematic golden age, particularly focusing on those from the 1950s. They abound with narratives fissures, ruptures, and heterodoxy from gender and cultural norms, and their narratives unfold through a hybridity of genres, to create more nuanced works that seem to self-reflect or even subversively play off the genre rules and conventions of melodrama. In looking at this group of films, I argue that they comprise a spectacle of affect. I first focus on the empty mise-en-scène, a feature often exhibited by the decade’s films that brings their generic hybridity and experimental filmmaking into relief, then trace the meaning and place of sinp’a (new wave) in postwar cinema, which will lead to the conclusion that, for postwar South Korean filmmakers—and for the audiences that loved their films—the West, represented by America, was a source of cinematic imagination and an awe-inspiring sublimity.

“Feminine spaces of memory: Mourning and melodrama in Para que no me olvides (2005)”

in Hispanic and Lusophone Women Filmmakers

by Patricia Ferreira

Coinciding with the excavations of the Spanish Civil War’s mass graves, media is playing a crucial role in the construction and dissemination of ‘spaces of memory’ of the war. This chapter discusses the contribution of Patricia Ferreira, who in her Para que no me olvides, relocates in the present the collective response to loss and pain caused by the war, as well as the subsequent oblivion and remembrance, all from an individual perspective that attempts to connect personal trauma to socio-political awareness, while bridging the differences of three generations of Spaniards. Ferreira’s melodramatic mode provides a means through which individual memory can become official history, as well as a potential therapeutic model for dealing with the trauma. The film articulates the unfulfilled needs of individual Republican victims and exposes the still incomplete collective and institutional work of mourning implicit in the shortcomings of Law of Historical Memory project.

Melodrama”

in Journal of Singing

by Leslie De’Ath

The lines of demarcation between the subdisciplines of voice pedagogy are porous. The siloed nature of the standing columns in the Journal of Singing on occasion call for an intradisciplinary flexibility of approach, just as any college music program must be on guard against an array of courses that give the impression that they have little to do with one another…Studies of specific repertoire usually appear as feature articles in the Journal of Singing, but on occasion, those with a particular focus on text have been issued under the “Language and Diction” rubric. The present article is a case in point. It focuses on melodrama–an often overlooked genre, in which the text and its style of delivery are crucial to a persuasive performance.

“Mediating Melodrama, Staging Sergeant Cuff”

in Nineteenth-Century Theatre and Film

by Isabel Stowell-Kaplan

When Sergeant Cuff stepped off the page and onto the stage of the Olympic Theatre in Wilkie Collins’s 1877 adaptation of his own wildly successful novel, The Moonstone, he both joined the earliest ranks of the British stage detective and entered the world of melodrama. Though we might expect the rational figure of a detective such as Sergeant Cuff to be incompatible with the emotional excess of melodrama, in this article I show that such an assumption oversimplifies his relationship to melodramatic emotion and overlooks the surprising compatibility of the detective with melodrama’s epistemological and moral investments. I argue that in distinct contrast to the ambiguity and multiplicity instilled by the novel, Cuff allows for the clear resolution expected on the melodramatic stage, proving himself an agent of and for melodramatic style and substance.

November 2018

The Victorian Actress in the Novel and on the Stage

by Renata Kobetts Miller

millerThis book analyses how Victorian novels and plays used the actress, a significant figure for the relationship between women and the public sphere, to define their own place within and among genres and in relation to audiences. Providing new understandings of how the novel and theatre developed, Miller explores how their representations shaped the position of the actress in Victorian culture with regard to her authenticity, her ability to foster sympathetic bonds, and her relationships to social class and the domestic sphere. The book traces how this cultural history led actresses to appropriate the pen themselves by becoming suffragette playwrights, thereby writing new social roles for women.

August 2018

Mélodrames” de Pixerécourt (in French)

Volume 4

Edited by: Lemaire (Marion), Martin (Roxane), Melai (Maurizio)

This volume presents a critical edition of three melodramas (La Citerne, Marguerite d’Anjou, The Ruins of Babylon), accompanied by their original stage music.