Melodrama: The World's Favorite Kind of Story

Matthew Buckley (English)

In the last 200 years, one form of narrative—melodrama—has come to dominate popular culture around the globe.  Melodrama's typical qualities—its primary appeal to the emotions, its spectacle and suspense, its division of “good” and “evil” characters, its comforting insistence on everything ending well—are found in virtually every “dramatic” film and television show we see. Yet we are just beginning to understand what melodrama is and what its extraordinary success means. In this semester, we will look at melodramas from the past and present, ranging from early Victorian popular plays to modern disaster films, romantic dramas, and contemporary television series like Breaking Bad and The Wire, in order to explore the history and meaning of the modern world's favorite kind of story.