We seem to see melodrama everywhere we look—from the soliloquies of devastation in a Dickens novel to the abject monstrosity of Frankenstein’s creation, and from Louise Brooks’s exaggerated acting in Pandora’s Box to the vicissitudes endlessly reshaping the life of a brooding Don Draper.
This anthology proposes to address the sometimes bewilderingly broad understandings of melodrama by insisting on the historical specificity of its genesis on the stage in late-eighteenth-century Europe. Melodrama emerged during this time in the metropolitan centers of London, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin through stage adaptations of classical subjects and gothic novels, and they became famous for their use of passionate expression and spectacular scenery. Yet, as contributors to this volume emphasize, early melodramas also placed sound at center stage, through their distinctive—and often disconcerting—alternations between speech and music. This book draws out the melo of melodrama, showing the crucial dimensions of sound and music for a genre that permeates our dramatic, literary, and cinematic sensibilities today.
A richly interdisciplinary anthology, The Melodramatic Moment will open up new dialogues between musicology and literary and theater studies.