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American Theatre in Higher Education 2008 Conference
July 31 - August 3, 2008
Melodrama, circulated widely on nineteenth-century American stages, all but disappeared from
the theatre at the beginning of the twentieth century. In Melodrama and Modernity, Ben Singer,
following Nicholas Vardac, argues that the emergence of film hastened melodramaâ€™s theatrical
decline, as the new medium eclipsed its predecessor as the predominant source of melodramatic
entertainments. But if, as Thomas Elsaesser, Peter Brooks, and others have theorized, melodrama
is more properly understood as a mode or strategy than as a coherent genre, when and where
can we locate melodramaâ€™s strategic redeployment in twentieth-century theatre? Even as
traditional stage melodrama becomes obsolete, how and why does the melodramatic continue to
inform a variety of theatrical practices?
This panel seeks papers that address the ways in which melodrama is unambiguously celebrated,
ambivalently affirmed, or parodically accommodated in a range of modern and postmodern
performance idioms, from the most popular (musicals such as Les MisÃ©rables or Sweeney Todd)
to the most experimental (pieces by Gertrude Stein or the San Francisco Mime Troupe).
Contributors should pay particular attention to the affective dimensions of melodrama, their
supposed incompatibility with the intellective, and their typical association with a working-class
sensibility. If, as Linda Williams has claimed, melodrama always brings into focus the fraught and
precarious distinctions between high and low culture, how should we situate modernist or avant-
garde melodramas within discourses about class privilege? What kinds of power inhere in
identifications with the melodramatic, and how is this power shaped by the specific ways in
which melodrama is revised, reimagined, or renewed?
Abstracts of 250 words should be emailed to session coordinators Nicholas Salvato
(ngs9_at_cornell.edu) and James Cherry (cherryj_at_wabash.edu) no later than October 8, 2007.
Questions or queries are welcomed before the deadline.
Please include with your abstract:
Name and Affiliation
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Received on Mon Aug 27 2007 - 08:51:22 EDT