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Le mélodrame filmique revisité / Revisiting Film Melodrama


Edited By Dominique Nasta, Muriel Andrin and Anne Gailly

Dans une confrontation inédite des approches francophones et anglo-saxonnes signées par des experts internationalement reconnus aussi bien que par de jeunes chercheurs, Le mélodrame filmique revisité propose d’ouvrir le champ d’études vers de nouvelles perspectives historiques et esthétiques. En effet, le mélodrame souffre, depuis ses débuts cinématographiques, d’une exploitation péjorative qui restreint le « mode mélodramatique » à la manipulation des émotions du public et à une representation excessive sur le plan esthétique. Minimisé, expédié, ce genre mérite pourtant d’être enfin l’objet d’une revalorisation à travers des approaches innovantes et un corpus élargi à la télévision, l’animation et l’internet.
Revisiting Film Melodrama brings forth pioneering French and English-speaking approaches from internationally known experts as well as by young researchers, aiming to broaden the research area through new historical and aesthetic perspectives. Indeed, film melodrama has too often been under-estimated, most surveys having essentially focused on the audience’s emotions and on excessive representations, often neglecting the complexities of the «melodramatic mode». More than ever, melodrama as film genre requires a comprehensive, multi-layered re-appraisal which includes references to the genre at work on television, animation and the internet.
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The Original Serial Queen. Capitola Black and the Serial Queen of the 1910s (Anke Brouwers)


← 84 | 85 → The Original Serial Queen

Capitola Black and the Serial Queen of the 1910s


University of Antwerp

In 1914, a Literary Digest critic referred to the heroine of The Perils of Pauline as “the antithesis of the old-time melodrama heroine”, the type of heroine who “would perish ignominiously if faced by half the perils that surround her more advanced sister of the screen”.1 Thus the critic indicated that the appearance of a strong, dynamic action heroine facing all kinds of perils and threats with sturdy determination and physical prowess was a break with tradition, a ‘more advanced’ version in comparison with what had come before. Indeed, a modernizing socio-cultural, technological and political climate, all of which had significant consequences for gender relations and the actual lives of women in the Progressive Era of the 1910s, bore an imprint on the plots and protagonists of serial sensational melodramas, a vastly popular genre during the teens that attracted mass audiences of mostly women. However, as I will argue in this article, it seems that our Literary Digest critic overlooked the fact that the serial queen of the teens had some equally ‘advanced’ theatrical and literary predecessors, ‘sisters’ with whom she shared many of her progressive (as well as conservative) qualities on the level of characterisation, narrative structure, and ideological tendencies. They even shared the same, predominantly female, mass audience.

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