The Melodramatic Imagination Revisited - Lecture

16 Jan 2014
The Melodramatic Imagination Revisited

Professor James Chandler, University of Chicago.

Thursday 30th January, 3pm
Kane G.02
‌The Melodramatic Imagination Revisited
Lecture Abstract:
It has been almost forty years since Peter Brooks released his pathbreaking and influential book,  The Melodramatic Imagination:  Balzac, Henry James, and the Mode of Excess (1975).  Over these decades, and partly on account of Brooks's important arguments, melodrama has not only undergone critical rehabilitation; it has also become perhaps the most important category for those who would link twentieth-century cinema with the century that came before them.  But melodrama's mode of excess has deep connections with a sentimental mode of moderation that features emotion mediated by reciprocal sympathy.  The sentimental, it can be demonstrated, both set the conditions for melodrama's emergence around the time of the French Revolution and continued to co-exist with melodrama through figures like Mary Shelley and Dickens and into the age of cinema.  The kind of story Brooks wishes to tell, in short, becomes richer and more complex when melodrama's manichaean extremes of character, gesture, and style are understood to evolve from, and with, the moderating effects of "putting oneself in the place of the other."

Professor Chandler is Barbara E. & Richard J. Franke Distinguished Service Professor in University of Chicago's Department of English and a member also of Chicago's Department of Cinema & Media Studies. He serves as Director of the Franke Institute for the Humanities and Co-Director, Scherer Center for the Study of American CultureProfessor Chandler's most recent book, An Archaeology of Sympathy: The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2013. Other notable books include England in 1819 and Wordsworth's Second Nature. Professor Chandler is a distinguished scholar in the fields of British romanticism, the Scottish Enlightenment; cinema studies; and the history of humanities disciplines. He is the General Editor of the Cambridge Studies in Romanticism series and a member of the Editorial Board for Critical Inquiry.

English Department

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