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Durham University

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Music, Literature, and Performance, c.1800: A Melodramatic Workshop

(6 February 2019)

This workshop will take place on Friday, 15 March between 2.30pm - 5pm in the Armstrong Building 2.16, Newcastle University. This interdisciplinary workshop proposes to address the sometimes bewilderingly broad understandings of melodrama by pursuing the historical specificity of its genesis on the stage in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Europe. This event, generously supported by Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute, is free to attend and open to all. Please email to confirm your place.

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.

Melodrama emerged during this time in the metropolitan centres 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, early melodramas also placed sound at centre stage, through their distinctive—and often disconcerting—alternations between speech and music. Responding to the recent publication of The Melodramatic Moment (Chicago, 2018), this workshop will offer an introduction to early melodrama (using clips from a specially-made documentary film) as well as two formal presentations and a panel discussion. The aim of the afternoon is not only to shed new light on a much misunderstood genre, but also to pose new questions about the complex relations between words, music, and gesture c.1800. 

* Introduction and presentations by Katherine Hambridge (Durham) and Jonathan Hicks (Newcastle), the editors of The Melodramatic Moment.

* (coffee break!)

* Panel discussion including: Ella Dzelzainis (Newcastle), James Harriman-Smith (Newcastle), Gillian Skinner (Durham), Susan Valladares (Durham)

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