Melodrama and Popular Culture

- Prof Ira Bhaskar and Prof Ranjani Mazumdar

This course attempts to engage with one of the most popular and enduring cultural forms through which contemporary social and political crises are represented and negotiated. Melodrama has been theorised as an aesthetic form that emerges in transitional periods, especially in relation to modernity, to deal with the dissociated traumas of class and gender struggle, and to answer the doubts and aporias consequent on the breakdown of the “traditional sacred.” Through readings and screenings of films from different parts of the world, the course will work through melodrama debates in the context of international cinema, and examine critical questions of history, identity, politics and their role in popular culture.

Key Readings:


• Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess. New York : Columbia University Press, 1984.

• Byars, Jackie. All that Hollywood Allows: Re-reading Gender in 1950s Melodrama. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

• Gledhill, Christine, ed. Home is Where the Heart Is : Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film. London: BFI Publishing, 1987.

• Gledhill, Christine & Linda Williams, eds. Reinventing Film Studies. London: Arnold, 2000.

• Lang, Robert . American Film Melodrama: Griffith, Vidor, Minnelli. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989.

• Singer, Ben. Melodrama and Modernity : Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts. New York : Columbia University Press, 2001.

• Williams, Linda. “Melodrama Revised.” Refiguring American Film Genres : Theory and History, ed. Nick Browne. Berkeley / Los Angeles / London : University of California Press, 1998.