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Melodrama Since 1700
CHUM 351
Spring 2022 not offered
Crosslisting: THEA 351

Although today melodrama calls up ideas related to film, the term has musical origins: it originally indicated a work in which melos (music) and spoken drama were united in one multimedia format. Eighteenth-century melodrama admitted of many manifestations, encompassing everything from comic operas (like Mozart's Magic Flute, which alternated singing with spoken dialogue) to experimental symphonic works (in which a narrator's declaimed monologue was emotionally painted by the accompanying orchestra). Melodrama in this musical sense persisted through to the twentieth century, and included notable works such as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire. But slowly melodrama as a term began to take on connotations relating to one of comic opera's central conceits: hyperbole and exaggeration. Melodrama became synonymous with comic excesses of emotional portrayal. Eventually, during the twentieth century, this meaning fastened onto a constellation of generic implications within the domain of film (think, for example, of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce). In its afterlife during the twenty-first century, melodrama has sometimes been used pejoratively: it can be employed as an epithet to disqualify the performance of emotion as inappropriately intense, or to designate emotion connected to an ostensibly inappropriate subject. But even in this new sense, melodrama retains an element of its early history insofar as it can be appropriated within subcultures in order to comically mock the traditions of mass culture. This course examines the long history of melodramatic art forms from the eighteenth century through to the present day. Together we will perform close readings of the objects within this rich tradition, supplemented by readings in queer theory, critical theory, and performance studies.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA MUSC
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: MUSC201 OR MUSC202
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None

Last Updated on MAY-25-2024
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