Monday, September 15, 2014

3 Questions

1. Williams writes that "The constant threat of rape was not simply a rationalization used to obscure the real function of keeping black men in their place, it was also a way to keep white women in their place." (107) Therefore, it would be safe to assume that one of the functions of the melodramatic literature was to advocate the subordination of white women to white men making the hierarchical system of white man > white woman > black man > black woman. How was this idea advocated/opposed in Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin?

2. Williams used the expression"leaping fish" multiple times throughout his writing about both Melodrama and Uncle Tom's Cabin. What do you think he means by this expression?

3. On page 15, Williams explains about swimmer Tom Dolan, Gymnist Kerri Strug and other athletes in the 1996 Olympics. In what way does he think that the 1996 Olympics was melodramatic? Can you think of other examples where melodrama was used in the context of sports and what was the role of the national television in those instances?


  1. 2. The expression "leaping fish" was first used to describe Uncle Tom's Cabin, in which Eliza flees across the ice of the Ohio River like a leaping fish. The feeling evoked by this image can transfer across mediums, whether it be the novel, play, or a picture of the scene. As Williams explains, the leaping fish was a "feeling" and "state of vision" (13). Williams goes on to describe melodrama in general as a leaping fish. It is not restricted to one medium. It is a feeling that can be expressed through a novel, play, movie, or any other form of expression. It continues to leap across time periods, still a dominant genre of film today.

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  3. 3. Williams explains that the 1996 Olympics combined action with the "pathos of each athlete's story of overcoming adversity." The Olympics became the story of each individual competitor, and in their ability to triumph over adversity, essentially became a melodrama. Each story was designed to affect the viewer emotionally in some way. People today still watch (with tears in their eyes) the video of Kerri Strug landing on her injured leg. This ability to manipulate, which is not necessarily a bad thing, makes the stories melodramatic. Most recently, we can note the story of Gabby Douglas in the 2012 Olympics. She was a huge favorite due to her story of overcoming adversity. She moved away from her parents to train as a child, and her hard work paid off when she became the first African American gymnast to win the individual all-around. As in most melodramas, the hero struggles to overcome and reach their gold medal or happy ending.


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