T C 357 • The Melodramatic Impulse in Nineteenth-Century Literature-W
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Melodrama was immensely popular in the Victorian era--more than 30,000 plays were written and produced in Victorian England alone. Many of the period's novelists, most notably Dickens, were fascinated by the stage. Yet twentieth-century literary critics continue to be puzzled by the emotional appeal and function of melodrama in the imagination and literature of the period. Why was melodrama so popular as a genre? Why were overtly theatrical techniques so integral to nineteenth-century fiction, and why was drama such a crucial element in the creative and personal lives of the major novelists? Equally important, how did some of the female novelists use melodrama to dramatize self-actualization and concurrently meet their readers' demand for the more sensational forms of melodrama? It is the goal of this course to examine the melodramatic impulses underlying the fiction and drama of nineteenth-century Britain and America in an attempt to answer these and other questions related to race and class in terms of the period's "frame of mind." Against the backdrop of several texts detailing the social, moral, and intellectual climate of the times, we will read and discuss six novels/novellas that can be variously termed classic and popular. Always looking ahead to parallels in our own century, we will concurrently view cinematic adaptations of all the works of fiction on our reading list. Then we will take up assorted plays of the period, including dramatizations of novels and one of Dickens's own adaptations for his public reading tours. Midway through the course, students will visit several of UT's special library collections, which provide a rich source of material, primarily in the Theater Arts Library and the Wolff Collection of Popular Fiction.
About the Professor With graduate degrees from Stanford University and UCLA, Professor Carol MacKay specializes in Victorian fiction, Women's Studies, and autobiography. She is the author of Soliloquy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction and the editor of Dramatic Dickens, which grew out of her 1986 international conference here at UT on Dickens and the theater. The winner of the Chancellor's Award for Outstanding New Teacher in 1981 and the Harry Ransom Teaching Award in 1992, Professor MacKay was elected to the Distinguished Teaching Academy in 2003. Her most recent book is entitled Creative Negativity: Four Victorian Exemplars of the Female Quest. She loves to swim at Barton Springs Pool, and she confesses to being an ailurophile.
This course contains a substantial writing component. Students will be expected to read, discuss, and debate the assigned reading. Each student will also write two papers and make two oral presentations. The first paper will be relatively short (5-6 pages) and should focus on melodramatic elements in one of the works of fiction. The longer paper (10-12 pages) will constitute the term project and will also be the subject of the last oral report (5-10 minutes); it should probably involve some examination of primary documentation and posit an original thesis. The grading for the course breaks down as follows: class participation, 10-15%; shorter paper, 25%; oral reports, 10-15%; and longer paper, 50%. Regular class attendance is also required.
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
Charlotte Brontð, Jane Eyre
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret
Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
Plays (to be available in a course packet): John Buckstone, Luke the Labourer; or, The Lost Son Douglas Jerrold, The Rent Day Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon Leopold Lewis, The Bells Arthur Pinero, The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
Cultural Context (to be on PCL reserve): Michael Booth, Prefaces to English 19th-Century Theatre Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination Ann Cvetkovich, Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism Elaine Hadley, Melodramatic Tactics: Theatricalized Dissent in the English Marketplace, 1800-1885 Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind, 1830-1870 E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class