Melodrama, Mystery, and the Nightmare of History in Jessie Fauset‘s Plum Bun
This essay discusses how African-American novelist Jessie Fauset used the Gothic motif of a hidden history to critique the melodramatic happy ending of her best novel, one set in New York city in the 1920s. What undermines the ‘moral legibility’ of melodrama is the Gothic implications of an unsolved crime in the past, one that, ironically, continues to haunts the ‘New Negro’ of the Harlem Renaissance who claims to have reinvented him or herself in the modern city.
The Case of Mary Ashford and the Cultural Context of Late-Regency Melodrama
This paper examines the historical context of the publication and reception of three dramas related to the murder of a gardener‘s daughter, Mary Ashford in Sutton Coldfield in 1817. George Ludlam‘s The Mysterious Murder was countered by a play called The Murdered Maid whose anonymous author is likely to have been a local clergyman. Both plays were locally written and published. When the case reached a national arena, John Kerr‘s Presumptive Guilt provided a London-based comment on the case. The paper examines the relationship between these metropolitan and provincial print cultures and the way in which dramatic form was used as a mode of mediation between public and legal discourse.
The Castle Spectre was one of the most popular and successful theatrical events of its day, and critics have often tried to explain its success, usually appealing to the ‘spectacular’ appearance of the spectre herself. But critics have not explored how the spectre - certainly no novelty on the stage - caused such a stir among contemporary audiences. By examining a selection of reviews, comments by contemporary literary figures, the text of the play, and Lewis‘s own comments concerning his spectacle, this paper demonstrates how Lewis employs strategies of delay and misdirection to make an otherwise nonviolent and unspectacular play appear excessively violent and spectacular even by 1790s Gothic standards.
Colonial Structures and the Gothic Genre
in Contemporary Puerto Rican Narrative
Sandra M. Casanova-Vizcaíno
This article analyses the representation of several colonial structures in the Caribbean
reconfiguration of the Gothic genre, specifically in two works of contemporary Puerto
Ricanfiction: Miss Florences Trunk: Fragments for a Romantic Trash Novel (1991) by Ana
Lydia Vega and Over My Dead Body (2012) by Marta Aponte Alsina. In these novellas,
specifically through the main characters reading of diaries and confessions, we are
presented with a description of the physical structures. At the same time, the colonial
structure also emerges, a context in which slavery, sexual abuse and mulataje are
described as ubiquitous sources of terror.
Gothic Melodrama and the Aesthetic of Silence in Thomas Holcroft‘s A Tale of Mystery
Focusing on melodrama and on Thomas Holcroft‘s exemplary A Tale of Mystery (1802) in particular, this essay proposes a reinterpretation of Gothic drama and theatre as constitutively characterized by interruptions of comprehension. The tribulations of its persecuted protagonist Francisco are read in the context of the court trial of a real-life Francisco, who lived in London in 1802 and was one of the ‘stars’ in contemporary newspaper reports from the Old Bailey. Combining different generic and tonal modes, Romantic-period Gothic melodrama capitalized on explicitness and hyperbole, as well as on materializations of ethics and sentiment through their overt exhibition on stage or ‘ostension’. At the same time, it emphasized absence, silence, dematerialization and dissolution. With its continuously deferred revelations,and ostensions of the unsaid, A Tale of Mystery is a significant investment in an aesthetic of the unsaid that is central to a definition of Gothic on stage.
The discourses and practices of science and medicine significantly influenced British Romantic-period drama so that these new fields of inquiry were recontextualized in popular forms of the Gothic. Notions of the body and the spirit were negotiated on the stage, and the result constituted what I call ‘Techno-Gothic’ drama. Not surprisingly, Techno-Gothic drama took on two manifestations - grotesques and ghosts - and I examine how the vampire - at once grotesque and ghos - demonstrates the workings of Techno-Gothic drama in James Robinson Planchés melodrama The Vampire; or the Bride of the Isles, A Romantic Melodrama in Two Acts, Preceded by an Introductory Vision (1820) and in Thomas Dibdin‘s spectacular Don Giovanni; or A Spectre on Horseback (1818). I argue that Planchés and Dibdins popular plays demonstrate how Techno-Gothic drama appropriated, interrogated, negotiated, and resisted scientific concepts and technological methods in post-Enlightenment thought and culture. In parodying scientific methods and demonstrations, The Vampire and Don Giovanni, question the veracity and omnipotence of the new sciences.
This book explores the role of mise-en-scene in melodrama criticism, and considers what happened to detailed criticism as major theoretical movements emerged in the 1970s. Mise-en-scene, and other ways of conceiving visual style, has been central to so many important debates that the writing examined in the book shaped the field in enduring ways. The book provides a cross-section of the British culture and its attitudes to film. It also considers a range of important contexts, from material conditions of film viewing (and therefore criticism) to the cultural and political shifts of 1956. The book further investigates the frequently asserted connection between literary criticism and the approaches developed in Movie. It identifies the range of different approaches to interpreting mise-en-scene advanced in Movie, drawing out sections on action, camera movement and placing, connections between different parts of the film, and a range of further debates. 'Tales of Sound and Fury' is an extraordinary article, and Elsaesser's appreciation of the plastic and expressive qualities of domestic melodrama and the broader melodramatic tradition is exemplary. In the early 1970s, writing on melodrama provided some of the richest expressions of mise-en-scene criticism. The book embodies a number of approaches which were to undermine the emergent interest in the interpretation of the film style. Melodrama criticism is a crucial focus for shifts in film criticism and theory, and for this history.
Lance Comfort began to work in films between the age of 17 and 19, more or less growing up with the cinema. When he came to make 'B' films in the 1950s and 1960s, his wide-ranging expertise enabled him to deal efficiently with the constraints of tight budgets and schedules. He was astute at juggling several concurrent plot strands, his prescient anticipation of postwar disaffection, the invoking of film noir techniques to articulate the dilemma of the tormented protagonist. Comfort's reputation as a features director seemed to be made when Hatter's Castle, made by Paramount's British operation, opened at the Plaza, Piccadilly Circus, after a well-publicised charity première attended by the Duchess of Kent and luminaries such as Noel Coward. He had been in the film business for twenty years when, in 1946, he directed Margaret Lockwood in Bedelia. Comfort is not the only director who enjoyed his greatest prestige in the 1940s and drifted into providing fodder for the bottom half of the double-bill in the ensuing decades. There were six intervening films, justifying the journalist who described him in early 1943 as the Busiest British film director. Great Day, Portrait of Clare, Temptation Harbour, Bedelia, Daughter of Darkness, and Silent Dust were his six melodramas. He was an unpretentious craftsman who was also at best an artist, and in exploring his career trajectory, the viewer is rewarded by the spectacle of one who responded resiliently to the challenges of a volatile industry.
A generation ago, Spain was emerging from a nearly forty-year dictatorship. This book analyses the significant changes in the aesthetics, production and reception of Spanish cinema and genre from 1990 to the present. It brings together European and North American scholars to establish a critical dialogue on the topic of contemporary Spanish cinema and genre while providing multiple perspectives on the concepts of national cinemas and genre theory. The book addresses a particular production unit, the Barcelona-based Fantastic Factory as part of the increasingly important Filmax group of companies, with the explicit aim of making genre films that would have an appeal beyond the Spanish market. It explores the genrification of the Almodovar brand in the US media and cinematic imaginary as a point of departure to tackle how the concepts of genre, authorship and Spanish cinema itself acquire different meanings when transposed into a foreign film market. Melodrama and political thriller films have been a narrative and representational form tied to the imagining of the nation. The book also examines some of the aspects of Carícies that distinguish it from Pons's other entries in his Minimalist Trilogy. It looks briefly at the ways in which the letter acts as one of the central melodramatic gestures in Isabel Coixet's films. After an analysis of the Spanish musical from the 1990s until today, the book discusses Spanish immigration films and some Spanish-Cuban co-productions on tourism and transnational romance.
This book studies the mother figure in English drama from the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. It explores a range of genres from popular mystery and moral plays to drama written for the court and universities and for the commercial theatres, including history plays, comedies, tragedies, romances and melodrama. Familiar and less-known plays by such diverse dramatists as Udall, Bale, Phillip, Legge, Kyd, Marlowe, Peele, Shakespeare, Middleton, Dekker and Webster are subject to readings that illuminate the narrative value of the mother figure to early modern dramatists. The book explores the typology of the mother figure by examining the ways in which her narrative value in religious, political and literary discourses of the period might impact upon her representation. It addresses a range of contemporary narratives from Reformation and counter-Reformation polemic to midwifery manuals and Mother's Legacies, and from the political rhetoric of Mary I, Elizabeth and James to the reported gallows confessions of mother convicts and the increasingly popular Puritan conduct books. The relations between tradition and change and between typology and narrative are explored through a focus upon the dramatised mother in a series of dramatic narratives that developed out of rapidly shifting social, political and religious conditions.