Monday, September 15, 2014

Answers to Meg's 3 questions

  1. Williams highlights Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a primary example of racial melodrama. This novel was also very controversial at the time it was released (which Williams discusses). Did Harriet Beecher Stowe purposefully use melodrama to make the book even more controversial?
    • A: From the first anecdote of Stowe, which was after the book was written (after she became a celebrity), I think she might not use melodrama purposely but accidentally. When she saw the statues, she was instantly attracted by them. However, she quickly alarmed herself that this is melodrama, and she was sort of appalled by the power of melodrama. Later though, she did not think there is a really big problem with melodrama's innovative way of expression: "Without specifically taking up the defense of the term, Stowe nevertheless defends the right of an artist to break the 'classical' rules of unity and decorum even if it means 'being melodramatic'." (P11) She definitely wanted the book to be very controversial but may unconsciously utilized new and innovative elements such as pathos, and some of the elements that are melodramatic.
  2. Does the “silent” aspect of Birth of a Nation make the film more melodramatic? What do critics think?
    • A: The silent aspect did make the film more melodramatic as it leaves mission of delivering message purely on images, music, and pathos. Critics, such as Dorothy Dix states:"I had considered the moving picture interesting, instructive, amusing, diverting, beautiful, spectacular, but I had believed that the silent drama never could touch the emotions very deeply. I had thought that to grip an audience, to melt it to tears with pathos, to thrill it with high herotic sentiment, required the spoken word and the magic of human voice."But he also finds the movie an "apotheosis" of the moving picture" which can work up an audience to a "perfect frenzy". (P98)
  3. Woodrow Wilson’s “It is like writing history with lightning” quote is highlighted. In what context was this said? How does this apply to what we have read so far in class?
    • A: It was the "best remembered description" of the movie "The Birth of Nation." However, Williams refers to it as "apparently apocryphal". It seems that Williams believes the Birth of Nation is not a good way to portray the "truth" in history. There are different types of documents with regard to history, and an emotional aspect has its own function if not recording the history strictly. Emotional aspect of history is an social aspect of history. So far I feel Wilson's comment is fair. With the theme of class struggle, the way that melodrama raise these social issues are in ironic and humorous ways.  

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