About the project
Early nineteenth-century melodrama has attracted some attention among Drama and Film scholars, who have built on Peter Brooks's literary idea of melodrama as set out in The Melodramatic Imagination (1976). The genre's impact on literature, film and opera has informed wider academic debate, but this impact has been viewed only in partial terms, as the musical dimension has not yet been fully theorised. Specifically, the manner in which text, visual image and music relate to each other to create 'meanings' in melodrama, and the evolution of this relationship in nineteenth-century opera and in silent film, have not been examined systematically and across disciplines.
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This project aims to advance thinking on music and the melodramatic aesthetic in the following ways:
by moving beyond Peter Brooks's literary idea of melodrama, and building on an AHRC-funded project, 'Working it out' (2001-2, Royal Holloway), to analyse melodrama as a performance process;
by revealing ways in which meanings and texts can be constructed in scenes of high emotion and moral conflict through the interrelationship of speech, gesture, image and music, and ideas of pleasure;
by tracing this interrelationship through theatre, opera and film to genres of the late twentieth century, in order to establish the extent to which the melodramatic aesthetic is a meaningful label beyond the nineteenth century
Music will be the central focus of the project, as it is the element of melodrama that has received least attention, a situation that has led to a misconception of the genre and its aesthetic.