Melodrama: Metropolis: Modernity

Reid, Margaret. 2011. Melodrama: Metropolis: Modernity. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The principal aim of this thesis is to extend current understandings of the dynamics of stage melodrama, as it was practised on the stages of the minor theatres in London during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, specifically by exploring the ways in which the genre represented, mediated, inflected, processed and systematised the experience of life in the new metropolis.

A critical methodology has been employed in this study that is best described as hybrid, combining elements of cultural materialist analysis with a more performance-oriented mode of textual analysis. Where appropriate, reference is made to surviving publicity surrounding original productions such as playbills and reviews and, in order to locate the work within a concrete culture of production and consumption, to available data on the minor theatres in which it was performed. The theoretical underpinning of this study draws on a range of existing arguments surrounding the relationship between melodrama and modernity, but also on the work of urban theorists and cultural historians who have identified the metropolis as a significant catalyst in the formation of modernity.

After outlining the conceptual framework and reviewing existing literature in the field, chapters continue with discussions of the emergence of proletarian protagonists in melodrama and their relationship with developing notions of metropolitan class consciousness; melodramatic representations of metropolitan space and the dynamics of movement through that space; nostalgic stagings of the rural past; melodrama’s relationship to Simmelian notions of metropolitan ‘mental life’; and the synergies between melodrama, the spectacular, and metropolitan culture. The overall aim is to add to current understanding of how melodrama interpreted the shifting physical forms and subjective and social experience of the early nineteenth-century city, but also how the city itself shaped, limited and enabled the forms of expression adopted by melodramatists.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


melodrama, nineteenth-century theatre, popular culture, stage, drama, simmelian

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


16 September 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Feb 2012 18:10

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2022 22:04


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