Spring 2021 Undergraduate English Courses

359:410 Seminar: History and Theories of Melodrama

01   09324    BUCKLEY   MW 2:50-4:10 PM

History and Theories of Melodrama

This course will offer an introduction to the history and theory of melodrama, the modern world’s most distinctive and popular dramatic genre, from 1800 to now. The course will include plays, films, television, and new media drama from Europe, the Americas, and Asia. We’ll begin by looking at melodrama’s hybrid origins and rapid emergence in Europe and the United States after the French Revolution, and exploring early attempts to understand and explain this peculiar stage genre’s explosive rise. We’ll then survey its growth, expansion, and diversification as a style and as a mode in the nineteenth century, and engage with modern efforts to recognize and understand its cultural role and meaning as a central poetry of that age. In the second half of the course, we’ll follow melodrama’s migration to film, and look at critical efforts to evaluate and assess its profound impact on 20th-century cultural and political history. And to finish, we’ll launch our own investigation into melodrama’s place and function in global television and new media drama, journalism, political programming, and gaming, and become acquainted with contemporary efforts to theorize its increasingly pervasive influence on 21st-century life.