Fall 2007

Mode of Melodrama

Listed in: English, as ENGL-95


John Cameron (Section 01)


The term refers historically to a form of popular theater of the nineteenth century; by extension it is also commonly used, as a term of aesthetic taste, to disparage excesses of emotional and moral expression in dramatic narrative more generally. Yet just such "excesses" mark the style and action of novels, operas, and films that are held, both popularly and critically, in high regard. Is there an art of melodrama? The course will approach this question by taking into account recent criticism and scholarship which has studied the distinctive features of what Peter Brooks calls "the melodramatic imagination" and by reading and discussing: fiction by Balzac, Dickens, James, Faulkner (for example), an opera by Puccini or Verdi, a film by D.W. Griffith, and a number of films from the traditional genres of Hollywood (westerns, gangster/mafia films, "the woman's picture," films noir, family melodramas, sci-fi films, etc.). Two class meetings per week and screenings as appropriate. Professor Cameron.