Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 26, 2012

May 10: Jane Gaines on the Melodrama Theory of Feminist Film

Please join us for the final Chicago Film Seminar of the year at 6:30 pm on Thursday, May 10 to welcome Jane Gaines (Columbia University) for her talk, "A Melodrama Theory of Feminist Film Historiography." Christine Gledhill (New York University) will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Thursday, May 10 at 6:30pm
Jane Gaines, Columbia University
"A Melodrama Theory of Feminist Film Historiography"
Respondent: Christine Gledhill, New York University

Gaines describes her talk as follows:

This paper is the end of a book that begins with the problem of what we should do with the evidence that so many women made significant behind-the-scenes contributions to building national film industries in the silent era. While the book begins with the chapter “Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries?” the end considers the difficulty of how to say “what happened” but poses it as a problem of how to locate ourselves in historical time. This calls for a theory that is companion to the “historical turn” and that takes its inspiration from the tradition of melodrama theory already established within the field.

            The argument is that melodrama as a mode tells us something about how we  negotiate the paradoxes of historical time—the time in which the past and the future are irreconcilable. One wonders how melodrama can be both  resigned to “here today, gone tomorrow” and show us that  there is “always a tomorrow.” We do know that melodrama invents ever more complex devices with which to represent the impossibility of living in a present that is also a “former future,” one of which is the startling coincidence. This coincidence  leads to that other problem in disjunction-- our historical coincidence (or non-coincidence) with events in the historical past.