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Melodrama and Modernity Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts by Ben Singer

Melodrama and Modernity Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts

Part of the Film and Culture Series Series


Melodrama and Modernity Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts by Ben Singer

In this groundbreaking investigation into the nature and meanings of melodrama in American culture between 1880 and 1920, Ben Singer offers a challenging new reevaluation of early American cinema and the era that spawned it. Singer looks back to the sensational or blood and thunder melodramas (e.g., The Perils of Pauline, The Hazards of Helen, etc.) and uncovers a fundamentally modern cultural expression, one reflecting spectacular transformations in the sensory environment of the metropolis, in the experience of capitalism, in the popular imagination of gender, and in the exploitation of the thrill in popular amusement. Written with verve and panache, and illustrated with 100 striking photos and drawings, Singer's study provides an invaluable historical and conceptual map both of melodrama as a genre on stage and screen and of modernity as a pivotal idea in social theory.


A remarkably readable work on the contextual relationship of modernity to stage and screen melodramas in the early 20th century... He accompanies his text with one of the best and most unusual selections of illustrated materials this reviewer has ever seen... He elucidates the cluster ideas of both melodrama and modernity with uncommon good sense and clarity. Highly recommended. -- T. Lindvall Choice A fluent, precise, and excellently historicized account of the interaction between early narrative film and the processes of industrial modernization. Modernism/Modernity Singer's excellent monography Melodrama and Modernity operates firmly within this historiographic field. -- Melanie Nash Cinema and Its Context

About the Author

Ben Singer is assistant professor of film studies at University of Wisconsin - Madison.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th March 2001


Ben Singer

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Columbia University Press


256 pages


Films, cinema



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