Tag Archives: Publications

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.

 

October 2017

Media and Class : TV, Film, and Digital Culture

Edited by June Deery, Andrea Press

Although the idea of class is again becoming politically and culturally charged, the relationship between media and class remains understudied. This diverse collection draws together prominent and emerging media scholars to offer readers a much-needed orientation within the wider categories of media, class, and politics in Britain, America, and beyond. Case studies address media representations and media participation in a variety of platforms, with attention to contemporary culture: from celetoids to selfies, Downton Abbey to Duck Dynasty, androyals to reality TV. These scholarly but accessible accounts draw on both theory and empirical research to demonstrate how different media navigate and negotiate, caricature and essentialize, or contain and regulate class.

In the Name of the Mother: From Fascist Melodrama to the Maternal Horrific in the Films of Dario Argento

by Marcia Landy

in Italian Motherhood on Screen pp 21-44

In this chapter, Landy explores melodrama as a contentious literary and cinematic form in Italian culture through its alignment with a politics of the body by way of sensational affect. Bordering on, at times metamorphosing, into the horrific, the melodramatic imagination entertains scenarios of murder, monstrosity and bodily mutilation perpetrated by or on maternal figures.

 

September 2017

Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock by Jean-Loup Bourget

I have just published a monograph (in French) which deals with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. I start by examining the movie’s complex genesis, the respective contributions of Selznick and Hitchcock and the decisive role played by Orson Welles’ radio version of the novel. I then replace both novel and movie in the context of the subdued Gothic tradition exemplified by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, draw attention to various Hollywood attempts to resort to 1st person narration in film, and conclude that although Rebecca does constitute a turning point in Hitchcock’s career and oeuvre, it should also be re-assessed in the light of some of the director’s English movies, specifically Easy Virtue and The Skin Game.

À Manderley, fastueuse demeure gothique de la côte des Cornouailles, se joue un drame fascinant. La jeune épouse du riche Maxim de Winter, désemparée dans un milieu où elle évolue pour la première fois, se trouve perpétuellement en butte au souvenir de la première femme de son époux, l’énigmatique Rebecca, qui semble hanter encore les lieux.
Tiré du best-seller de Daphné du Maurier, Rebecca, sorti en1940, est la première réalisation américaine d’Alfred Hitchcock. Mais était-ce vraiment son film, ou celui du producteur, David O. Selznick, internationalement reconnu pour Autant en emporte le vent (1939) et réputé pour son interventionnisme ? Deux visionnaires pour une œuvre magistrale, analysée en détail dans un ouvrage combinant description de séquences, études comparatives et lectures critiques.

September 2017

“Women in White: Femininity and Female Desire in the 1960s Bombay Melodrama”

by Anupama Kapse in Film, Fashion, and the 1960’s edited by Eugenia Paulicelli, Drake Stutesman and Louise Wallenberg (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2017), pp. 149-168.

Excerpt:

White as a Fabric and Architectural Frame
Clothes have served as a visual shorthand for representing the class or moral stature of popular characters in Bombay cinema since the time of its inception. The hero, heroine, villain, and others could be recognized as stock characters quite simply by what they were wearing: the heroine in a simple, demurely draped sari; the vamp with an “ostrich feather fan, gold wig studded with rhinestones, and leggings under a dark blue bikini bedecked with shiny doodahs”; the Anglicized hero in a black suit, shirt, and tie; the poet or artist in a pristine white kurta pajama; a rich father in a pipe and dressing gown; a poor father in a tattered dhoti and vest; and a villain (often acting as a buffoon) with hair dyed red, bow tie, and bright checked jacket. In the formulaic cinema of the 1960s, narrative patterns were established according to the easy recognition of this stock cast. Characters were simple and bordered on the stereotypical: the virtuous heroine, the sexualized vamp, the rich and overbearing father, and the lascivious villain were standard characters who stood for specific social types with well-defined moral values, or, sometimes, lack thereof.

Indeed, Bombay cinema mobilizes clothing as the primary sign of dramatic enunciation in highly coded and spectacular ways. If, as Peter Brooks has argued, melodrama is a form structured by the extreme polarization of good and evil, then, Bombay cinema is unapologetically melodramatic in its unfailing reliance on costume as an immediate and pervasive sign of this Manichean, black and white universe…

December 2015

Amours, Danses Et Chansons: Le Melodrame de Cabaret Au Mexique Et a Cuba (Annees 1940-1950)

by: Julie Amiot-Guillouet

 

Amiot

L’ouvrage aborde la facon dont les coproductions entre Cuba et le Mexique debouchent dans les annees 1940-50 sur la mise en place d’un corpus de films designes comme des melodrames de cabaret, ou l’apport cubain, loin d’etre purement ornemental, contribue a renouveler profondement les normes generiques en vigueur dans le melodrame mexicain.

Cet ouvrage propose une analyse originale sur les relations cinématographiques entre Cuba et le Mexique à la période classique, à travers la construction de l’imaginaire particulier du mélodrame de cabaret, peuplé de danseuses de rumba au sang chaud et au cœur tendre. Les films dont elles sont les héroïnes sulfureuses s’enracinent dans les traditions génériques de l’industrie du cinéma mexicain, retravaillées par l’apport cubain à travers la musique, la danse, les paysages et les cabarets. Ils façonnent des personnages féminins originaux, introduisant des représentations inédites de danseuses et de femmes fatales qui luttent pour leur autonomie, et jouissent d’une grande liberté dans leur rapport avec leur corps. Cette coopération cinématographique s’explique par la volonté des producteurs, distributeurs et metteurs en scène mexicains de s’imposer sur les écrans cubains, tandis que les Cubains espèrent bénéficier de leur savoir-faire technique et artistique pour jeter les bases d’un cinéma national encore embryonnaire. Toutefois, l’atmosphère « tropicale » mise en œuvre dans les films s’avère un trompe-l’œil commercial lié au regard mexicain qui exotise Cuba. Un postulat dénoncé par les critiques et cinéastes cubains, en particulier au lendemain de la Révolution qui souhaite rompre radicalement avec ce cinéma commercial. La réception et l’historiographie de ces films en font ainsi de puissants révélateurs des imaginaires nationaux qu’ils contribuent à façonner et à véhiculer

November 2017

Consumptive Chic: The Postfeminist Recycling of Camille in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!

in Prostitution and Sex Work in Global Cinema by Katie N. Johnson

Abstract

Prostitutes, especially hookers-with-hearts-of-gold, have long tugged at the heartstrings of audiences on stage and in film. While Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001) offers a funky—if not campy—take on the turn-of-the-century Parisian underworld, the film is nonetheless an unmistakable retelling of Dumas fils’ nineteenth-century melodrama Camille (La Dame aux camélias). In fact, Lurhmann’s prostitute-character Satine emblematizes the ‘penitent whore,’ the figure that is scrutinized for her sexual transgressions, who expresses a sense of worthlessness, repents for her sins, and is ultimate punished—usually by death—to reinstate patriarchal order. As Satine, the Sparkling Diamond of the Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman is often fetishistically shot with a blue lens, giving her a necrophilic look, creating what Johnson calls ‘consumptive chic.’ The film’s cinematography highlights her fragility, pallid form, and glistening corpse-like whiteness. Satine’s whiteness also functions powerfully as a racial category, which is key to her desirability. Although Luhrmann’s postmodern approach is entertaining, the film eviscerates years of scholarship regarding representations of fallen women, the regulation of women’s sexuality, the politics of women’s work, the process of racialization, and commercialized sex. The film’s popularity can be seen a barometer of dominant culture’s attitudes toward the postfeminist moment and demonstrates the formative role of film in perpetuating misogynistic narratives, whilst giving lip service to women’s liberation. Johnson’s essay takes up the question of representing the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold and its resonance for postfeminism and media studies by analyzing Cukor’s Camille (1936), two versions of Moulin Rouge (John Huston 1952 and Luhrmann 2001), and the ‘Lady Marmalade’ music video (2002) produced by Missy Elliot.

Distorted Antigones: Dialectics and Prostitution in Lola and Shirins Hochzeit

in Prostitution and Sex Work in Global Cinema by Danielle Hipkins and Katharine Mitchell by Teresa Ludden

Abstract

Rather than interpreting R.W. Fassbinder’s film Lola and Helma Sanders’s Shirins Hochzeit through the usual angle of genre and melodrama, this essay used Hegelian dialectical philosophy and gender theories to analyse the prostitute characters. Taking Walter Benjamin’s idea of the prostitute as embodiment of contradictions, and Hegel’s notion of women as the ‘irony of the community’, I examined the symbolism surrounding Lola which constantly mutated to figure her as a revolutionary force outside dialectics; as outside but also inside associated with the dialectical relations between public and private; as repressed individuality which, as such, maintains the community. By making dialectics become visible as the site of constant tensions she exposed the workings the dialectic and alluded to the dysfunction of the dialectic because of the domination of the universal. Shirin, on the other hand, is positioned less complexly as marginal but oppositional voice, and the circular device of the resuscitated speaking tragic heroine created a central tension between the desire for a different speaking position and acknowledgement of the danger of repeating the same stories.

“Le Traviate: Suffering Heroines and the Italian State Between the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries”

in Prostitution and Sex Work in Global Cinema by Danielle Hipkins and Katharine Mitchell

Abstract

In this chapter we will consider the relationship between what was considered the most successful operatic melodrama in the newly emerging nation state of nineteenth-century Italy, Verdi’s La traviata, first performed in 1853, and a 2012 film addressing the theme of the suffering female and the doomed romantic relationship in the context of prostitution, Un giorno speciale (Francesca Comencini). In the first section of this chapter, we examine the extent to which this trope gained significance through operatic melodrama and discourses surrounding prostitution in the late nineteenth century, and what its possible effects were. Then we will look at the way in which recent discourse about prostitution is mediated through the trope of the suffering (girl) heroine in Un giorno speciale, a film addressing the recent events in Italy. We suggest that re-reading these texts together enables us to see beyond the suffering prostitute heroine’s apparent reduction to cypher, and towards her potential to open up questions about structural inequalities within the body politic. We argue that Comencini’s self-conscious recycling of the trope is typical of a new engagement with the girl figure as a ‘suffering actor’, identified by Anita Harris and Amy Shields Dobson as a trope for overcoming the dichotomy between agency and victimhood in the post-girl power period.

Deborah and Her Sisters
How One Nineteenth-Century Melodrama and a Host of Celebrated Actresses Put Judaism on the World Stage

by Jonathan M. Hess

Before Fiddler on the Roof, before The Jazz Singer, there was Deborah, a tear-jerking melodrama about a Jewish woman forsaken by her non-Jewish lover. Within a few years of its 1849 debut in Hamburg, the play was seen on stages across Germany and Austria, as well as throughout Europe, the British Empire, and North America. The German-Jewish elite complained that the playwright, Jewish writer S. H. Mosenthal, had written a drama bearing little authentic Jewish content, while literary critics protested that the play lacked the formal coherence of great tragedy. Yet despite its lackluster critical deborah and her sistersreception, Deborah became a blockbuster, giving millions of theatergoers the pleasures of sympathizing with an exotic Jewish woman. It spawned adaptations with titles from Leah, the Forsaken to Naomi, the Deserted, burlesques, poems, operas in Italian and Czech, musical selections for voice and piano, a British novel fraudulently marketed in the United States as the original basis for the play, three American silent films, and thousands of souvenir photographs of leading actresses from Adelaide Ristori to Sarah Bernhardt in character as Mosenthal’s forsaken Jewess.

For a sixty-year period, Deborah and its many offshoots provided audiences with the ultimate feel-good experience of tearful sympathy and liberal universalism. With Deborah and Her Sisters, Jonathan M. Hess offers the first comprehensive history of this transnational phenomenon, focusing on its unique ability to bring Jews and non-Jews together during a period of increasing antisemitism. Paying careful attention to local performances and the dynamics of transnational exchange, Hess asks that we take seriously the feelings this commercially successful drama provoked as it drove its diverse audiences to tears. Following a vast paper trail in theater archives and in the press, Deborah and Her Sisters reconstructs the allure that Jewishness held in nineteenth-century popular culture and explores how the Deborah sensation generated a liberal culture of compassion with Jewish suffering that extended beyond the theater walls.

Jonathan M. Hess is the Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor of Jewish History and Culture and Chair of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of several books, including Middlebrow Literature and the Making of German-Jewish Identity and Germans, Jews and the Claims of Modernity.