Passionate Politics: The Cultural Work of American Melodrama from the Early Republic to the Present

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This new collection of essays on American stage and film melodrama assesses the multifarious and contradictory uses to which melodrama has been put in American culture from the late 18th century to the present. It focuses on the various ways in which the genre has periodically intervened in debates over race, class, gender and sexuality and, in this manner, has also persistently contributed to the formation and transformation of American nationhood: from the debates over who constitutes the newborn nation in the Early Republic, to the subsequent conflict over abolition and the discussion of gender roles at the turn of the 19th century, to the fervent class struggles of the 1930s and the critiques of domestic containment in the 1950s, as well as to ongoing debates of gender, race, and sexuality today. Addressing these issues from a variety of different angles, including historical, aesthetic, cultural, phenomenological, and psychological approaches, these essays present a complex picture of the cultural work and passionate politics accomplished by melodrama over the course of the past two centuries, particularly at times of profound social change.