Linda Williams is Professor Emeritus at The University of California Berkeley in the departments of Film and Media, and Rhetoric. She has received a Distinguished Teaching Award from UC Berkeley (2004), and the Career Achievement Award from The Society for Cinema and Media Studies (2014). Her research includes psychoanalytic studies of Surrealist cinema, feminist film criticism and anlaysis of the history and form of the pornographic film genre. Her most recent books are Screening Sex (Duke, 2008), a history of the revelation and concealment of sex at the movies and On The Wire (Duke, 2014) about the HBO serial.
Sujets de recherche
Film, theater, literature, popular culture, pornography, melodrama, sexuality, comparative literature. Feminist film theory, race
The Melodramatic Imagination in France and America
This trans-cultural, trans-medial project aims to make a convincing claim about the ongoing modernity and importance of melodrama through a comparative study of French and American cultures. Commonly regarded as emerging as a theatrical genre from the enlightenment dreams – as well as the cataclysms – of the French Revolution, melodrama has alternately been despised and valued by scholars on both sides of the Atlantic. Few scholars, however, have actually asked what constitutes the changing definition of melodrama across the history of these two, most influential cultures: France as the birthplace, and America as the most influential popularization, via Hollywood, of the form. My goal in this comparative project is to recognized the different work of melodrama as performed by these two cultures, not to discover a “true” meaning but rather to understand an ongoing “transvaluation” of an often-derided term. I ask: what was melodrama on the stage originally in 19th century France when it was originally named melodrama—that is, drama with music? How did it change over the course of the 19th century? What has been its moving-image continuation in both cultures in the 20th and 21st centuries as it migrated from theater to film, and to television?