Melodrama as a Genre

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In his essay ‘Melodrama and Tears’, Steve Neale proposes the melodrama as a genre emerged to occupy the space between tragedy and comedy. Neale quotes Denis Diderot and identifies melodrama as a primarily ‘touching’ art form, which has the ability to move audiences and induce physical reactions like crying. Neale discusses Diderot’s quote ‘the pleasure of being touched and giving way to tears’ as an important part of the melodramatic mode. Neale continues to illustrate in his essay how the tricks used in showing point of view and timing perform an essential role in achieving maximum pathos in melodrama. Neale argues that the melodramas rely on the discrepancies between the knowledge that the spectator has and knowledge that the character…show more content…
The horror genre uses terror, pornography uses orgasm, and melodrama uses crying to portray an excess of emotion. She theorizes that our tendency to imitate the emotion on screen lends the element of pathos to melodrama. The act of a body, not in control, convulsing with tears lends itself to heightened identification by the audience.

Both Neale and Williams demonstrate the concept of timing as an effective method to control pathos in melodrama. Neale attributes timing and articulation of point of view to contribute equally to the effect of poignancy and pathos. Neale presents Moretti’s thesis that the concluding act in the cinema is always too late to affect the protagonist. An example for this point maybe a story where the object of affection might only verbally reciprocate the feeling after the character is dead; while we, as the audience know it beforehand. Moretti also presents the theory that our tears are a result of the reality that our fantasy has been fulfilled and now will not continue. Neale counters this argument by suggesting that delayed timing is equally poignant in some cases. The pathos arises from the fact that we are dependent on the time of the narration and its narrative, rather than just the fact that it is always ‘too late’.

Here, Williams is almost identical in her theory and uses the phrase ‘too late’ to define the temporality of fantasy. Williams also speaks about Moretti’s theory and argues
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