The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

GC Events

January 10 CFP Brandeis English Department Graduate Student Conference

We are excited to announce that the Brandeis English Department Graduate Student Conference will be held on February 13, 2015 and will examine the topic of Melodrama. Lucy Fischer, Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, will give the keynote address.
In common parlance, “melodrama” often denotes unsophisticated and exaggerated middlebrow narratives that appeal to the sympathies of their audiences by inciting heightened emotional responses. While Peter Brooks’s seminal The Melodramatic Imagination (1976) established melodrama as an important feature of modernist literary expression, the term continues to be employed in a variety of ways across various fields of study including literature, film, television, theater, music, and even political theory (e.g., Elisabeth Anker’s recent book, Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom). But what, if anything, unites scholarly engagements with melodrama? And how and why does melodrama continue to be an important and prolific mode of cultural and artistic expression? Many melodramatic narratives have been invoked throughout history, ones that arguably recur in today’s world: such as those that consider or insist on what makes one a good citizen; the necessary expansion of state power to defend against
villainous threats to nation, home and family; idealized gender roles and the making of good domestic subjects; the aspiration to and the disappointment in middle class life; and what it means to be truly free when unfreedom seems to be a constitutive element of society. Considering too how melodrama has been referred to and used to dismiss the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and how recent allegations of widespread sexual assault on college
campuses are quickly subject to scrutiny and often dismissed as hysterical or overstated, we think melodrama is an important topic to discuss now.

For this conference, we are interested in fostering an interdisciplinary discussion in order to productively complicate and expand theorizations of melodrama and to explore how the concept works to categorize and/or illuminate a variety of cultural and artistic texts. To this end, we are
interested in melodrama as a historicized genre and as a mode or critical tool that may be used to examine such notions as affect, subject position (class; race; gender; sexuality), and experiences of capitalism and globalization. We invite papers that discuss melodrama from any relevant field, including literature, history, music, theater, film studies, and television studies. Paper topics might include:
• Whether or not melodrama exists in pre-modern literatures
• The use of music in melodrama
• Popular forms of entertainment and narrative
• Romantic, gothic, sensational and sentimental texts
• Hollywood and global film industries
• Melodrama and the theater
• Narratives about the melodramatic experiences of capitalism, imperialism, gender, race,
sexuality and class
• Television
• Queer melodrama
• Camp
• Affect theory


This interdisciplinary event will be co-sponsored by Film Studies, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Women’s Studies Research Center, the Theater Department, the Mandel Center for the Humanities, the Graduate Student Association, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Please submit 300 word abstracts for 20-minute paper presentations by January 10th to Brenden O’Donnell ( and Gina Pugliese (