C LIT 596
Offered occasionally by visiting or resident faculty. Course content varies.
This seminar will focus on film melodrama. Our approach will be comparative: we will juxtapose the history of Hollywood melodrama with its manifestations in the cinemas of other countries (with a focus on India, and Japan). The aim is to spotlight significant definitional and theoretical issues surrounding the term. Is melodrama to be understood as a genre (as it mostly has in relation to Hollywood cinema), or as a dramaturgical mode (as seems most appropriate in the case of Indian cinema, for instance) employed in multiple genres? What problems present themselves in transposing Western conceptions of melodrama to non-Western contexts such as India and Japan? What resources does melodrama provide as a mode of “excess" for imagining and expressing the disruptions and tragedies of modernity in both its Hollywood and Asian versions?
A second major point of emphasis - to a great extent inextricable from the first - will be to explore how the term itself has been used within film studies. Why and how did melodrama become such an important term within film studies, especially since the 1970s, for critical and theoretical impulses ranging from feminist and queer film theory, to ideology-critiques of capitalism, to theories of mass culture? How have subsequent early cinema and genre historians qualified and rectified theoretical presumptions about the stability of melodrama as a genre? Finally, how might we employ melodrama to “provincialize" Anglo-American film studies, given that a significant early chapter of Japanese cinema criticism in the West involved valorizing it as a reflexive avant-garde practice, or in the case of India, involved a critical blindness to, or denigration of the gigantic output out of the massive Indian film industries?
The seminar will include film screenings and required films to be seen outside of class time. Readings will be drawn from a wide range of scholars from various currents of literary, critical, modernity, and film theory, as well as film history. Assignments will include substantial research essays and class presentations. The course is cross-listed with a graduate seminar. Undergraduate seniors who have some familiarity with film theory or are majors in cinema studies, are highly motivated and interested in the course, should contact the professor directly for further information.
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