Undergraduate English Courses

359:410 Seminar: Melodrama

02   MW7  CAC  16787  BUCKLEY  FH-A1

 The orphan of the storm, abandoned and hungry; the heroine, heartbroken but pure, in peril, perhaps tied to the tracks; the sinister villain curling his moustache and scheming revenge: we all know the clich├ęs, but even scholars know very little about where they come from, what they mean, or why they developed as they did. In this course we'll explore the origins, rise, and expansion of melodrama, the pre-eminent genre of modern life and still the genre of almost everything we see at the movies or on tv. More specifically, we'll trace this most modern genre's radical roots in eighteenth-century theatrical and political history, investigate its spectacular metamorphosis in the emergent mass culture of the early nineteenth century, and explore its profound influence on other literary forms, its participation in social and political history, and its contribution to the history of cinema and television.

Readings will be many but brief, consisting almost entirely of the great and often bizarre hits of the nineteenth-century melodramatic stage, and we'll end the semester with a series of fine film and television melodramas. No prior knowledge of drama or of nineteenth-century culture is necessary. You'll be asked to keep an informal reading journal, to write a couple of brief essays (3-5 pages), and to prepare a final project, creative or scholarly, on some aspect of melodrama. The specifics of your assignments, requirements, and grading will be decided on an individual basis.