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19th Century Melodrama






School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

TH216 - Aspects of Theatre and Performance: Nineteenth-Century Melodrama

Tutor: Professor Jim Davis (




WEDNESDAYS 0930-1130 - G53



Learning Outcomes

  • An understanding of a historical period of drama within its cultural and social contexts
  • An understanding of the way in which popular culture interacts with and through theatre
  • An ability to investigate and question genre
  • An awareness of how race, gender and class are represented in a historical period of heater
  • An understanding of the nature of and reasons for specific modes of performance in a historical context

These outcomes will be achieved through

  • Investigation of the historical and cultural context of the plays studied
  • Close reading and careful analysis of specific texts
  • Practical exploration of how the plays may have worked in performance


Melodrama was one of the most popular forms of entertainment ever. Once dismissed as a meaningless example of mass culture, it has increasingly attracted critical attention in recent years. This course explores the genre, paying attention to the diversity of nineteenth-century melodrama, its changing role in society and its theatrical realization. Commencing with Gothic melodramas such as Frankenstein the module will also consider melodrama as a form of social protest, its representation of women, its increasing obsession with spectacle and its gradual absorption into film and television.