Tag Archives: articles

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.

Fall 2018

One Evening in Mayotte

By: Lee Haring

Marvels and Tales 32.1

Excerpt:

Melodrama

Making the local women his concubines is not only a wink at the men listening. The move also links to the narrator’s final story, which begins with an argument about them between Kôto and his jealous wife: “I warn you, Kôto, you have mistresses, you’re not a good husband. Can you marry the whole village? I want some explanations, Kôto!” The teller now reveals the ending he will use: “Kôto-finally the king’s daughter is going to kill him, he’s not aware of the situation.” Already we are in a different genre. Even when they tell the most familiar trickster tales, African, Malagasy, and Mahorais storytellers never give away the endings. The switch in genre is worthy of Kôto himself: to launch his final story (over 4,000 words long), he will narrate in a different genre. He adapts into the trickster context the conspiring schemes and vituperative dialogue of screen melodrama, film noir in particular. Generically no doubt, the Philip Marlowe or Maigret of film, ever marginal, ever the social critic, is a descendant of trickster (Paulme 33). Perhaps some zealous cinéaste will uncover a specific source for this part of the Mahorais tale; one could look in the combination of pessimism and romance of the Popular Front films, or the dialogue style of post-World War Two thrillers by Henri-Georges Clouzot or Yves Allégret. But even without a specific source text, the Hakoa narrator shows great skill, in the middle of a religious celebration, in adapting cinematic dialogue and character relations to a solo performance. Is his genre switch anti-traditional? Hardly: in Mayotte, the frequent language-mixing sets the model for genre-mixing in verbal art.

 

Space and Place in Alejandro Galindo’s 1950 Film Adaptation of Benito Pérez Galdós’s Doña Perfecta (1876)

By: Rhian Davies

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 95:4

Abstract

In his 1950 film adaptation of Galdós’s 1876 novel Doña Perfecta the Mexican director Alejandro Galindo transferred the action from the imaginary Spanish city of Orbajosa to Santa Fe in Mexico. To date critics have focussed largely upon assessing the ‘Mexicanism’ of the film, coming to the conclusion that the film, like the novel, is an overblown melodrama. This article will now pay close attention to the artistic qualities of the film, specifically its use of space and place, and will seek to demonstrate how Galindo, responding as a reader of Galdós’s novel, produces a work that not only invites new ways of reading Doña Perfecta but also highlights its timelessness and universality.

“The Makings of a Contradictory Franchise: Revolutionary Melodrama and Cynicism in The Hunger Games”

By: Joe Tompkins
JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies

 

Abstract:

This article examines The Hunger Games franchise (THG) as a case study for how capitalist media cynically mobilize revolutionary desire as a commercial strategy. It integrates ideology critique and media-industry analysis to examine THG as a melodramatic fantasy that, on the one hand, bids spectators to enjoy the act of desiring class revolution in the films while, on the other hand, deploying various textual and paratextual strategies that invite audiences to be cynical about such desire. As such, THG epitomizes the contradictions of spectacular “revolution”: asking viewers to simultaneously buy into and deconstruct the mediated pleasures of class war.

Spectral Spectacle: Traps, Disappearances, and Disembodiment in Nineteenth-Century British Melodrama

by: Eliza Dickinson Urban

Abstract: Two nineteenth-century melodramas, J.R. Planché’s The Vampire (1820) and Dion Boucicault’s The Corsican Brothers (1852) exert a haunting influence on how we in the present conceptualise ghosts. Through rendering the seemingly invisible – that is, the ghostly body – spectacular through technology, while simultaneously concealing the mechanism behind that feat, the plays’ eponymous traps heighten the effect of the spectral even as their workings elude visual perception. My study elucidates the mediation of the traps through other facets of production. To accomplish this task, I undertake a phenomenological inquiry into the play’s sound, lighting, and scene design via an examination of the plays’ production materials as well as modern reconstructions of the traps. The sensory signifiers associated with the traps, including musical motifs and lighting cues, linger in the public consciousness even when the technology behind them has been rendered obsolete by later technological iterations.

 

 

 

Spring 2018

Joan goes to Hollywood: Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman (1916) as Heritage Melodrama

by Dan Clarke

Joan of Arc is as much an artistic muse as she is an historical figure, a view widely reflected in critical discussion on her persistence in the cultural imagination. In her study, Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism, Marina Warner writes:

[Joan] is literally a cypher. Just as a feather in the cap, green doublet and hose and a merry gallantry signify the figure of Robin Hood, so Joan is instantly present in the mind’s eye: a boyish stance, cropped hair, medievalised clothes, armour an air of spiritual exaltation mixed with physical courage.

Warner’s reading neatly encapsulates the notion that there is an idea of Joan of Arc, one based upon consensually recognised aspects of her hagiography and iconography. Building upon the premise of a female acolyte of God sent to save medieval France in its hour of need, artists rework new versions of her character and narrative to fit their various political agendas. As Susan Hayward writes, ‘[…] each interpretation is designed to suit the ideological cloth of either the filmmaker or the nation producing the film.’

Hong Kong in the Hollywood imaginary: Deterritorialization and reterritorialization in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow and The Killer

by Wimal Dissanayake

This article examines the way Hong Kong figures in the Hollywood imaginary by examining John Woo’s films A Better Tomorrow and The Killer. For the purpose of my investigation, I show how the two films exemplify the twin concepts of deterritorialization and reterritorialization with regard to a variety of analytical categories including genre, gender, values, somatic pleasure, affect, melodrama, religion, nostalgia, morals, and the social and cultural context. My analysis demonstrates the hybrid nature of John Woo’s films and provides evidence that cultural identities are flexible and change as they are faced with different contexts and challenges.

 

 

Televisual Experiences of Iran’s Isolation: Turkish Melodrama and Homegrown Comedy in the Sanctions Era
by Pedram Partovi

Abstract
This essay examines the television viewing habits of Iranians since 2010, when the first of a series of crippling international sanctions were imposed on Iran after diplomatic efforts to curb the country’s nuclear program stalled. Like many others in the region, viewers in Iran have been swept up by the recent wave of Turkish serials, which a new generation of offshore private networks dubbed into Persian and beamed to households with illegal satellite television dishes. These glossy melodramas provided access to consumerist utopias increasingly beyond the reach of Iranians living under the shadow of sanctions. Despite the enormous popularity of Turkish television imports with Iranian audiences, the Islamic Republic’s networks managed to broadcast some successful “counter-programming” during this era of economic and political isolation. The comedy Paytakht/Capital (2011–15), more specifically, eschewed the glamour and glitz of many Turkish serials for ordinary characters living rather ordinary lives in small town Iran. In doing so, the series highlighted not only the problems that the sanctions regime created or exacerbated in Iranian society but also the virtues of remaining on the margins of a neoliberal global economic order. The essay concludes by asking how Iranian audiences might enjoy both Capital and Turkish melodramas simultaneously.

Hearing the Difference: Sexuality, Xenophobia, and South African Melodrama by Madhumita Lahiri

Abstract

This essay demonstrates the political exigency of melodramatic cinema in twenty-first-century South Africa, focusing on the short film cane/cain (dir. Joradache A. Ellapen, 2011) and the feature film Zulu Love Letter (dir. Ramadan Suleman, 2004). I a4gue that the displacement of speech in these films–signaled in cane/cain‘s homonymic title and in Zulu Love Letter’s seemingly logocentric one–suggests a powerful challenge to the Truth and Reconciliation  Commission’s model of producing national truth through spoken testimony. Building on this insight, I examine how cane/cain narrativizes the problem of xenophobic violence in democratic South Africa by conjoining the experiences of minority ethnicity and minority sexuality. Connecting this filmic vision with the scholarship on xenophobic violence, I argue that the deployment of male-male sexual desire across the divide of national origin enables the characters of cane/cain to encourage more complex audience relations to those perceived as foreigners. Wheras a singular focus on decrying xenophobia might suggest that the solution would be a xenophilic position, cane/cain points to the interplay of identification and desire, even if disavowed, across politicized lines of national difference.

A Forcible Return to the Womb: Elfriede Jelinek’s Lust (1989) and the Melodramatic Mode
by Claire E. Scott

Abstract

This article explores the interplay between the genre conventions of pornography and melodrama in Elfriede Jelinek’s novel Lust. Moving beyond readings that focus on this text as a work of anti‐pornography, this article uses close readings of the novel’s melodramatic narratorial techniques to argue that Jelinek’s social critique involves more than an unmasking of sexual violence. Ultimately, Jelinek contends with the way literary modes restrict our ability to represent women as anything other than objectified victims. Jelinek reveals the limitations of both pornographic and melodramatic tropes by implicating her readers in the violence of the text and denying them access to the anticipated telos of both of these modes. When the protagonist unexpectedly kills her young son, it provides not a miraculous liberation from androcentric oppression, but rather a necessary pause for reflection and an opportunity for imagining a feminist political rebirth.

“Irish Nights”: Paratheatrical Performances of Melodrama on and off the Belfast Stage

by Mark Phelan

Abstract

Until relatively recently, melodrama has been an unfairly maligned genre of theatre history; its pejorative associations based on the prejudiced assumptions that its aesthetics of excess (in terms of its extravagant emotion, sensationalism and popularity amongst predominantly working class audiences) meant, therefore, that it was for simpletons. What Walter Benjamin excoriated as the “ancient lament that the masses seek distraction whereas art demands concentration from the spectator” fuelled bourgeois disdain for this theatrical form and the derision of the Theatrical Inquisitor’s dismissal of melodrama as “aris[ing] from an inertness in the minds of the spectators, and a wish to be amused without the slightest exertion on their own parts, or any exercise whatever of their intellectual powers” remained the dominant critical response throughout the nineteenth century. Indeed, such views continued well into the twentieth century and certainly characterized the modernist reactions of the founding figures of the Irish national theatre in this period. Frank Fay, cofounder of the National Dramatic Society, denounced both the aesthetics of Dublin’s Queen’s Theatre as the “home of the shoddiest kind of melodrama,” and the intelligence of its audiences who, “wouldn’t, at present, understand anything else.”

Melodrama and Soap Opera
by Elana Levine

Abstract

Feminist film and television studies shared a crucial period of development in the late 1970s and early 1980s, taking shape into influential fields and helping to establish central questions for media scholarship that would carry through to the twenty-first century. Laura Mulvey’s mid-1970s theorization of male spectatorship revolutionized the field, but left many feminist scholars wondering about female spectatorship, specifically the potential for feminized forms of “visual pleasure,” whether in cinema or other media.1 The result was a turn by feminist thinkers toward two objects: melodrama and soap opera. The work generated amid the Western world’s second wave of feminism focused on women’s engagement with screen cultures, but in so doing explored conceptions of spectatorship and audiencehood, the relationship between textual analysis and contextual inquiry, and the specificity of film and television as narrative forms and sites for the construction of identity.2

The study of film melodrama preceded the study of soap opera in an explicitly feminist vein. Beginning in the 1970s, film scholars began to attend to the category of “melodrama,” a grouping of films that were often seen as synonymous with the “family melodrama,” particularly of the post–World War II era. Such films had long been dismissed as insignificant for film study due to their feminized emotional excess, but in the 1970s such works as those of Douglas Sirk were “rediscovered” as ironic commentaries on the ideological tendencies of patriarchal capitalism, expressed largely through visual style.3 In the same period, Mulvey, writing about Sirk as well as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, began to define a more overtly feminist concern, declaring the specific “interest to women” in such films, given their emphasis on “the way that sexual difference under patriarchy is fraught, explosive, and erupts dramatically into violence within its own private stamping ground, the family.”4

The Mortara Case and the Literary Imagination: Jewish Melodrama and the Pleasures of Victimhood

by Jonathan M. Hess

Abstract

The 1858 kidnapping of six-year-old Edgardo Mortara by officials of the Papal States in Bologna unleashed a media frenzy across Europe and North America, giving voice to widespread expressions of outrage over the overreach of the Catholic church and the anachronism of Papal rule. Jews in the German-speaking world did not just follow the sensationalized reporting on the fate of this Italian Jewish boy baptized by his Catholic nurse. They also produced a body of melodramatic fiction and drama that took the Mortara case as its inspiration. This literature, written by rabbis and those with close ties to rabbnical leadership, responded to the Mortara affair by creating narratives with happy endings where Jewish children taken into custody by the church inevitably return to their parents and embrace Jewish tradition. Discussing literary texts by Salomon Formstecher, Leopold Stein, Abraham Treu, and Sara Hirsch Guggenheim, this article explores how German-Jewish writers self-consciously transformed the Mortara affair into melodramatic literature designed for the purposes of entertainment. Melodrama hardly marked a withdrawal from the arena of political protest, however. Studying how these texts functioned to entertain their readers, this article explores how this body of literature drew its energy from an interplay of fantasies of Jewish power and vicarious experiences of Jewish victimhood. In doing so, the analysis reflects on the social function of melodrama in nineteenth-century Jewish life, bringing to light the mechanisms that Mortara fiction used to produce pleasurable feelings of self-righteousness in its Jewish readers.

Winter 2017

The Neo-Futurists(‘) Take on Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude in Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre by Adrian Curtin

Abstract

In 2009, Greg Allen, founder of the US experimental theatre company The Neo-Futurists, offered a distinctive take on Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 play Strange Interlude. The five-and-a-half-hour-long production was both rapturously and rancorously received, prompting standing ovations and walkouts in its short run. This was a twenty-first century, ironic presentation of Strange Interlude that exploited and revelled in the play’s strangeness by revealing it anew. The production offers insight not only into O’Neill’s play but also into his authorial presence in the text, the construction of his authority and canonicity, and the legacy of modernist experimentation. This chapter ponders the way in which modernist play-texts can be ‘re-made new’ for the stage, to adapt Ezra Pound’s famous dictum, using this inventive, irreverent production as a case study.

 

Vitalizing Childhood through Old Age in Hector Malot’s Sans famille: An Intersectional Perspective in Connecting Childhood with Old Age in Media by Elisabeth Wesseling

Excerpt

The narrative structure of Sans famille displays the tempestuous succession of ups and downs that is typical of nineteenth-century melodrama, intended to stir the audiences feelings and soften their hearts so as to make them susceptible to a moral message (Brooks; Nemesvari 1-22). Sans famille might as well have been called Famille partout, since Remi’s most outstanding virtue is his infallible adoptability.

Let Those Who View This Sad Example Know/What Fate Attends the Broken Marriage Vow in Thomas Hamblin and the Bowery Theatre   by Thomas A. Bogar

Abstract

The Hamblins debut in New York at the Park Theatre to mixed reviews. Acting there and in Boston and Philadelphia, they develop popular followings, but Elizabeth’s reviews outshine her husband’s. When he finds favor on the stage of New York’s Bowery Theatre, he resolves to make it his own. They have a second child, a son. Sending Elizabeth to tour elsewhere with the children, Hamblin becomes a “sporting man” and begins to frequent the brothels of Manhattan. In one of them, he recruits a teenaged protégée, Naomi Vincent. Touring throughout the South and then-West, he finds adulation strongest in Charleston and widens his repertoire.

The Public Have Only Themselves to Blame for the Rise of Melodrama in Thomas Hamblin and the Bowery Theatre   by Thomas A. Bogar

Abstract

Medina helps Hamblin to quiet the fury over Missouri’s death by putting out the story that Missouri died from reading an inflammatory article in an underground “flash press” paper describing her unsavory background. Four months later, Medina as well dies unexpectedly. Hamblin becomes embroiled in the tempestuous marriage and subsequent divorce of actress Eliza Shaw, winning her for himself. She becomes the biggest star of the Bowery in melodrama, tragedy, and comedy. Managing a handsomely rebuilt Bowery Theatre, Hamblin cultivates new talent and stages an increasing number of lurid melodramas, notably Nick of the Woods and Ernest Maltravers. Hamblin’s latest protégés are Joseph Proctor, twenty-three, and Mary Ann Lee, sixteen, who will become America’s first ballerina.

Violeta Went to Heaven and the Ethics of Contemporary Latin American Melodrama in Mapping Violetta Parra’s Cultural Landscapes by Rosa Tappia

Abstract

This essay analyzes the film Violeta Went to Heaven (2011), by Chilean director Andrés Wood, as a model for the ethical dilemmas present in the creation and reception of Latin American cinema in the early twenty-first century. As the dichotomy global/homogeneous versus local/heterogeneous becomes blurrier, contemporary film analysis requires a critical stance that sidesteps the limitations of outdated paradigms. Furthermore, the epistemic shift and increased attention to affect in cultural and film studies invite us to approach Wood’s film in its emotional/political context. By framing it as a contemporary melodrama in the capitalist market, we are able to better understand the complex dynamics that govern film consumption and production in a globalized world.

Dolores Claiborne, Motherhood, and the Maternal Melodrama in Domestic Violence in Hollywood Film by Diane L. Shoos

This chapter examines how the conventions of the Gothic romance and the maternal melodrama in Dolores Claiborne foreground the systemic nature of women’s oppression and the abuser’s use of motherhood as a weapon, while ultimately offering female-female relationships and female violence as predictable solutions to abuse.

William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun and Cold War Hollywood Melodrama by Ben Robbins

This article analyzes William Faulkner’s 1951 prose drama hybrid narrative Requiem for a Nun as an adaptation of two “women’s films” that he worked on as a Hollywood screenwriter in the 1940s, The Damned Don’t Cry (completed in 1941, released in 1950) and Mildred Pierce (completed in 1944, released in 1945). These melodramatic films explore themes of maternal sacrifice and reproduce a formula wherein female transgression beyond the strict boundaries of the home and the nuclear family is met with severe punishment. At the advent of the Cold War, Faulkner witnessed the repurposing of these films’ tropes in new Hollywood melodramas where the American family was upheld as a key component of national strength and integrity in combating the threat of Communist infiltration. Following this ideology, women were urged to embrace normative gender roles as wives and mothers in a system of “domestic containment.” In Requiem for a Nun Faulkner returned to the themes of the woman’s film in his own Hollywood-inspired melodrama. Far from creating an “homage,” however, Faulkner drew on the drive for social conformity inherent in the genre but redeployed its tropes in a subversive fashion to launch a strong critique of the aggressive Cold War domestic imperative. By doing so he anticipated the direction some Hollywood family melodramas would take in the 1950s, particularly the films of the director Douglas Sirk that similarly employed autocritical techniques to undermine Cold War domestic norms.

Unhomely Spaces and Transnational Networks of Kinship in Coin Locker Girl (2015) and Missing (2016) by Hye Jean Chung

Abstract

This essay analyzes two Korean films, Coin Locker Girl (Chinatown, Han Jun-hee, 2015) and Missing (Missing: Sarajin Yeoja, Lee Eon-hie, 2016), to consider how the films’ spaces exhibit traces of transnational mobility. Considering how various forms of border crossing and transnational exchanges affect changes in Korean society, this paper examines changing perceptions of kinship and alternative notions of family and home. These changes in networks of kinship and ideas of “homely” and “unhomely” spaces in Korean melodrama, I argue, is indicative of one’s shifting status or position in the “imagined community” of contemporary South Korea. I focus on “unhomely spaces,” or spaces that are “made strange,” in a broader attempt to analyze the spatial relations and representations of space in Korean films. These spaces, I contend, function as an emblem of complex networks of kinship that are created and maintained, or sometimes threatened and disintegrated by transnational exchanges that occur in contemporary Korean society.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, nautical melodramas were a popular genre of performance in London’s theatres. During his lifetime, Thomas Potter Cooke (1786–1864) was known as the last and best of stage sailors, and his portrayals of the British sailor became archetypal for many theatregoers. Cooke’s contemporary critics speculated about how his experience at sea informed his performances, which his audiences took great pleasure in. Cooke performed his most popular roles hundreds of times, and portraits of him in character were produced by and sold in London’s stationers. Examples of these ephemeral prints survive in museum collections, and are a useful source of information about the visual significance of performance. This article examines Cooke’s theatrical career and its critical reception. By using contemporary printed ephemera, this article explores how the developing theatrical culture in London both drew on and established ideas about British sailors and the navy. It reflects on how Cooke’s time at sea was used both by critics and the man himself in constructing a narrative beyond the stage. This article examines the pleasure that audiences and critics took in engaging with his Cooke’s embodiment of the British sailor, both on stage and off.

Horrible beauty and (un)easy submission: melodrama and the gothic in Calvary by Michael Stewart

This article examines Calvary (2014) as a gothic and melodramatic text – as an expression, more specifically, of pathetic melodrama and the Anglo-Irish gothic. As a pathetic melodrama, Calvary presents us with an apparently impassable situation, at the level of both the diegetic narrative and the historical present. It also exhibits considerable suffering and pathos. These melodramatic features are articulated via affect in familiar ways, so that the film reproduces the moral occult and a regressive nationalism. The article argues, though, that Calvary’s excesses are best understood as specific expressions of pathological melodrama, the bog gothic and the Cartesian gothic. In this respect, it is argued that Calvary’s ostensive – dense and allusive – dialogue is a form of speaking suffering – a dark, but potentially productive game. All of Calvary’s affective excesses, it is argued, are critical entities – ghostly witnesses, explosions and violent collisions of mind and body, which nonetheless cohere around particular histories, places and events. However much, then, Calvary may seem to accede to melodramatic redemption or gothic cliché, it is better understood, it is argued, as a form of submission – a necessary giving in and facing up to historical trauma and shame.

 

Fall 2017

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

by Daniel Lanza Rivers

Abstract

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

Abstract

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

Abstract:

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,
https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/hjx030

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…