In an interview with the volume’s editors, Christine Gledhill offers some fresh perspectives on the present state of melodrama. By foregrounding the question of what melodrama does as opposed to what it is, she historicizes melodrama in a manner that allows for culturally specific distinctions. Gledhill claims that melodrama stages processes in which social forces are channeled through personalized interaction, stressing that this is not a displacement of the social or the political but the very site at which social and political forces play out. As such, a range of historical shifts characterizing melodrama can be mapped – for example, where melodrama once had the role of unifying the masses, there was a turn toward moral polarization that divided the masses at the turn of the twentieth century, a turn that was reinvigorated in America’s post-9/11 War on Terror. In a cautionary gesture that concludes this volume in a fitting way, Gledhill warns that although victimhood may appear to be the focal point of the numerous melodramatically intoned political discourses in which we now find ourselves, victimhood is as historically situated as any other element of melodrama, and thus cannot constitute the ultimate horizon of melodrama, just as no single trope can.
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Melodrama After the Tears. New Perspectives on the Politics of Victimhood