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race Melodrama[edit]

The whole section is un-sourced, it looks to me like direct plagiarism from an essay or article, that appears itself to be a little out of date (late sixties? It mentions 'equal rights' and 'Black Power' as if they are recent inventions). The mentioned authors and specific works should at have references. The style is also 'un-encyclopaedic', it's a discursive argument rather than a description. I think it ought to be either removed, or truncated and referenced. Anyone else? Molotov2 (talk) 10:08, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

The style also differs to the rest of the article, which makes me think it's plagiarism. For example, the use of inverted commas as opposed to italics to denote a full title. Molotov2 (talk) 10:12, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

I agree. I've added appropriate tags, but I wouldn't object to the deletion of the whole section. It's not about _melodrama_, it's a (none-too-well-written) undergraduate essay on "Racism in the USA". Tevildo (talk) 10:05, 28 September 2008 (UTC)
I agree that the section is a rather dubious essay as opposed to something needed in an encyclopedia entry, and since nobody discussing this would seem to object, I've just been bold and removed it. If the original editor or anyone else wishes to add an improved version, the text will still be available in the page history. Ergative rlt (talk) 03:34, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
I totally agree and thought your action was commendable. So I've asked the subsequent reverter, to expand on his ideas before re-introducing the guillotine. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 07:53, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
I also agree that this section is out of place in this article. If someone wants to make a separate article out of it that's fine . . . --Kleinzach 08:13, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

If you're going to object to the presence of this section, you'll need to clarify why it is out of place. The notion that "equal rights" or "black power" are anachronistic clearly isn't a valid objection, as the discussion attempts to summarise an historical trajectory in American culture. The section isn't unsourced either--it indicates its source clearly and explicitly. To suggest that it is a "discursive argument" also is inaccurate; it clearly frames its discussion as the argument that the particular cited author makes in her book. Such a presentation is perfectly admissible for an encyclopedia. As far as I can see, its subject is the use of the melodramatic mode in fiction within the context of cultural depictions of race in the USA. This, again, is valid for the subject of the article. I don't have to have any additional ideas on this subject to recognise that it is a valid part of the article. DionysosProteus (talk) 14:43, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Many thanks, DP. Your statements are generally valid enough, but raise additional issues for encyclopedic treatment. In the context of the article, the section, if we proceed with it, should logically be headed 'Melodrama as a metaphor of society', 'Melodrama in fiction' or 'Allusion to melodrama in social theory'. It could then briefly advert to and link to theories such as those of Linda Williams and a range of other writers on melodrama in a figurative sense. We surely can't devote a section of similar length to each of a potentially long list of writers using melodrama as a metaphor, but we can wikify by transposing the lengthy detail to a section in each individual author's entry. (Compare the article on Drama, which links to many authors but does not have a lengthy section on a single relatively unknown author or social theorist. The detailed content we are discussing may well be a valid part of the Linda Williams article but warrants (if anything) no more than a brief mention here. So I suggest that, if you wish (and subject to any change in the current consensus) you retain it that way before the section is truncated and rendered more relevant to this article. Bjenks (talk) 03:15, 21 February 2009 (UTC)
I think this section has as much relevence to this article as a newspaper report of a "tragic suicide" has to tragedy. I.e. there has been a category error.Colin4C (talk) 20:26, 21 February 2009 (UTC)
You misunderstand the nature of tragedy, then, if you imagine that a suicide is unrelated to the dramatic form; plenty of authors explore precisely that link (Raymond Williams among them). I do not see that metaphor or allusions have anything to do with the majority of the content of the section in question. It's discussing actual melodramas in fiction, no? The detailed content certainly belongs here, rather than William's own page, since it is all about how the melodramatic mode has been utilized in American fiction to explore race. Why is that inappropriate to an article on melodrama? Using the drama article as a model is a flawed comparison, since that article is in a pretty poor state and awaits substantial re-writing. I agree that it is theoretically possible to write up other critics' explorations of the social dimensions of melodrama and the melodramatic mode and to subsume them all under the kind of general section heading that you propose, but in lieu of those contributions, what we have is a section on race in US fictional melodrama. It could be expanded further--off the top of my head, the articulation of race in the melodramatic mode in cinema is an obvious candidate--but the section's summary of the argument isn't inherently un-encyclopedic; it could do with some trimming and the argument about Simpson at its conclusion doesn't relate directly to the subject at hand (straying there into metaphor), but the main body of the description is valid. I do not see that you have established a consensus on this section yet. DionysosProteus (talk) 10:18, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
Bjenks and Colin4C summarize this well. The section doesn't belong here. Also there is a clear consensus above for removing the section. We've had some cases like this before and the solution has been to move the material to the relevant article about the critic/academic rather than the subject per se. --Kleinzach 23:38, 22 February 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I think we should remove it. Adjectively and metaphorically calling something or somebody "melodramatic" is not the same as describing a substantive (noun) melodrama. The core (non-metaphorical) meaning of Melodrama are the blood-and-thunder plays of the Victorian era and the music-and-drama operas of the same period. Similarly if I called something or somebody "operatic" I would be employing a tenuous metaphor, applicable to a thousand different situations, none of which would have relevence to an encyclopedia article on opera. Colin4C (talk) 11:11, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Both of you are patently wrong. Melodrama isn't being used metaphorically here. Melodrama as a form exists in drama, cinema, and fiction. The latter is the subject of the section. It discusses actual melodramas in fiction and as such belongs in the article on melodrama. DionysosProteus (talk) 12:51, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
It is you who are patently wrong. The section in dispute uses the concept of a "melodramatic mode" not melodrama per se. "Melodramatic" is a metaphorical type adjective like 'tragic', 'operatic', 'dramatic'. These are vague expressions which can be used in a thousand different sitations which have nothing to do with melodrama, tragedy, opera or drama. If we said that, say, George Bush made a dramatic intervention to save capitalism, we would be saying little or nothing about the substantive theatrical sense of drama. All concepts have multifarious and tenuous metaphorical applications which do not elucidate the main concept and do nothing to improve an encyclopedia but rather turn it into a rag-bag of trivia. Could you give me a list of substantive "racial melodramas" in which the term "melodrama" is not being used in a metaphorical sense and in which this is not the special interpretation of just one author (i.e. Linda Williams)? And why has William's specialised interpretation given seven whole paragraphs - the same as the whole section on Victorian melodrama? Is this an encyclopediac entry or part of the Linda Williams appreciation society? The section and her book seems to be about racial politics rather than the theatre. The title of her book is "Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black & White from Uncle Tom to O.J.Simpson". Was O.J. Simpson the star of a theatrical melodrama? Or is this just a metaphor, like the "dramatic" moment when O.J. demonstrated that the gloves didn't fit and the media (metaphorically, one hopes) "made a song and dance about it"? Coming soon: "O.J. - The Musical..."...or not... Colin4C (talk) 01:22, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
As a lecturer in drama and a holder of three degrees in the subject, I'm quite aware of the ways in which "drama" is used, thank you. There is nothing, to repeat for the third time now, "metaphorical" about the use of the term in that section. What on earth makes you think the section in question is about the theatre? It quite plainly and clearly discusses melodrama in US fiction. I was browsing some books on melodrama only yesterday and noticed that the works discussed here were also quite plainly and unambiguously identified as "melodramas" there. Not metaphorically, but literally. Unless you are able to provide a good reason why it should not appear here, it should remain. It is appropriate to the subject and is sourced. The purpose of a discussion here is to establish a consensus--that has not yet been achieved. DionysosProteus (talk) 13:30, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Kleinzach, it is inappropriate to remove the content before a consensus has been established here. Either deal with the specific concerns or leave it alone. DionysosProteus (talk) 15:19, 24 February 2009 (UTC)

Hmm. So now we've reached the edit war stage ([1]). DionysosProteus has left a trail of contentious edits going back to 2007, when no less than seven of the categories he created were deleted or renamed amidst bitter argument (see Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights etc.). This year he's already been involved in disagreements over The Threepenny Opera and The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent. These arguments invariably follow a similar pattern.
I suggest DionysosProteus looks at this (under the heading "You challenge the reversion of your edits, demanding that others justify it"). It says "Wikipedia policy is quite clear here: the responsibility for justifying inclusion of any content rests firmly with the editor seeking to include it." --Kleinzach 00:29, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Kleinzach, the section is sourced and appropriate to the article. If you want it removed, you'll have to explain on what grounds. Your ignorance on the subject is not a valid reason. The pattern is you seeking to legislate on subjects about which you clearly know nothing. As with the other disputes you refer to, I recommend that you go do some actual research in the relevant field, then get back to us. DionysosProteus (talk) 00:35, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Dionysos, six editors here agree that the section is irrelevent to the subject of this article. You are clearly edit warring against this concensus. Please stop now. You have not justified your position. You say "I was browsing some books on melodrama only yesterday and noticed that the works discussed here were also quite plainly and unambiguously identified as melodramas there." but you leave it vague as to what what these works were or what books you were browsing on. I am glad to hear about your credentials in theatre studies. I am a Shakespeare specialist myself and a published author. Not that I'm resting on my academic laurels here, merely pointing out what is common sense. I.e. that you have confused a metaphorical sense of the word "melodrama" with the substantive sense in which it is used to describe some plays and opera and film. To describe a novel as a melodrama seems to be a contradiction in terms as "Melo" = Music and "Drama" = Drama. How can a book be a musical drama, unless you are using the term in a metaphorical sense? Colin4C (talk) 06:54, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Colin4C and Kleinzach: It is highly inappropriate for the two of you to remove this material without addressing the issues raised here first. Please refrain from doing so. The criterion for inclusion or exclusion of material is not the truthiness of a majority view but the evidence of objective sources. Your ignorance of how the term is used is not a valid objection. Have you checked Williams book for yourself to see how she is using the term? Have you sought to confirm whether or not "melodrama" is used in the academic community to describe certain works of fiction? You have not. I left my reference to the book on melodrama vague because it was one I came across randomly while browsing a bookshop, rather than finding it as a result of research on the subject. However, the passage I read while there was quite unambiguous in describing Uncle Tom's Cabin as a melodrama. Go check it for yourself. The book was: Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen ed. J.S. Bratton, Jim Cook, Christine Gledhill. I don't doubt that the smallest effort of research would generate more evidence. Assuming, that is, that your objections are in good faith and open to evidence. The fact is that it is you who have failed to justify your position. You have a source now that you can go check for yourself to confirm that the usage is in no sense "metaphorical". The section is sourced. The section describes an argument and clearly identifies it as a particular author's perspective, as is appropriate for an encyclopedic entry. Other sources confirm its approach to the subject of the article. That you feel that "melodrama" ought not to be used in that way doesn't mean that it isn't used in that way and that the article ought not to cover that use. DionysosProteus (talk) 11:02, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

Please stop edit warring and please note that the wikipedia rules forbid editors reverting an article more than three times in a 24 hour period. Seeing as the subtitle of the book you quote is "Stage, Picture, Screen" is the reference to the theatrical adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin or the original novel? It would be fair to say that the theatrical version was a melodrama. All other uses are metaphorical. For instance if we called the O.J. Simpson trial a farce we would not be adding another work to the list of stage farces but using the word "farce" in a metaphorical sense. Or maybe you think that we should include the O.J. trial in this list?:
I suggest that instead of speculating as to the content of the books in question, you actually go read them. You've been given the source, as requested. You both need to address the specific concerns here before deleting perfectly valid material. DionysosProteus (talk) 15:41, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
Please answer my reasonable question. Was the reference to the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin or the theatrical adaptation? And talking about drama do you think that the 1916 Irish rebellion was a play? According to Richard English in Irish Freedom: "The revolt was staged conciously as a drama by its principal actors. It is not without significance that Pearse, Plunkett and MacDonagh had all directed plays in their time". Do you think that this is a metaphorical use of the term drama or should the 1916 rebellion be listed with the works of Sophocles and Shakespeare and be listed in the drama article on the wikipedia? Or maybe we should extend the sense of drama to include all actions performed by everybody in the world as per Shakespeare:
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts...

Colin4C (talk) 17:45, 25 February 2009 (UTC)

I support the deletion of the insufficiently relevant material on 'race melodrama' which, if it has any place in WP, belongs under the name of author Linda Williams or in an article such as Ethnic stereotype. DP, if you wish, why not transplant the content elsewhere as suggested? Cheers Bjenks (talk) 00:28, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
There is nothing "insufficiently relevant" about the material in that section. It discusses melodrama in US fiction. That is entirely appropriate for an article on Melodrama. The sources support it. Colin4C, your idiotic remarks about "drama" are just getting tiresome now, to say nothing of their poor academic grounding (you might want to go read some Raymond Williams to resolve your confusions about the term). You've been provided with two sources that support the usage in the section. The reason we provide sources is so that when there is any doubt, editors or browsers are able to go check a fact for themselves. I suggest you do that. It saves editors from having to engage in useless speculation. Kleinzach, once again, please STOP removing the section until all of the concerns have been addressed here. How many times is it necessary to point out your inappropriate editing behaviour? DionysosProteus (talk) 11:15, 27 February 2009 (UTC)
DP, you've been given ample opportunity to retain this material in another article. I see it as excessively long and involved to be encyclopedic here. You are the only participant who does not agree. In the interests of impartiality, instead of encouraging any more ad hominem insults in this discussion, I propose to invite some mediation into this situation. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 12:00, 27 February 2009 (UTC)
DionysosProteus has now replaced the section on 'American racial melodrama' five times between the 24 Feb and now - against the advice of all other editors here. I agree with Bjenks that we need to refer the problem elsewhere. --Kleinzach 05:01, 28 February 2009 (UTC)
I wish Dionysos would tell us whether the reference in the book he was quoting was to the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" or the theatrical adaptation. He appears to be confusing the theatrical sense of "melodrama" with a metaphorical sense. This latter sense could be used in an infinity of different circumstances and is therefore not encyclopediac. Going on at great length about one metaphorical use of the term by one academic (Linda Williams) in the context of American racial politics is not encyclopediac. I grant that the O.J. trial was "melodramatic", but so were a thousand other trials. Listing all these here in this article would not be feasible or useful. Colin4C (talk) 10:35, 2 March 2009 (UTC)
This appears to be an out-of-place detour into a summary of the work of Linda Williams, which should probably either be removed or shortened with a link to any relevent material on the Linda Williams page. Artw (talk) 09:20, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
I've removed it again. I hope DionysosProteus has at last given up on this. --Kleinzach 09:29, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Rfc: Should the 'American racial melodrama' section be in this article?[edit]

Should the 'American racial melodrama' section be in this article? Following the long discussion above, the repeated reversions to the article page here and the suggestion of Bjenks, I've referred this to Rfc. --Kleinzach 04:45, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

Hmm. No responses! BTW this is a recommended step on the way to full mediation. If we get no help from the Rfc we can go up a level. --Kleinzach 02:31, 3 March 2009 (UTC)
I've ended the Rfc - after four days. Obviously there was no interest there in this question. --Kleinzach 09:30, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
There are actual melodramas about race, of which The Octoroon is the most famous. Amusingly, it is never even mentioned in the disputed section. If we accept that the use of melodrama in Williams' sense has a place in this article, then it should be in section on the use of the term melodrama in an extended sense, in which case many other similar examples could be found of the use of melodrama as a word. In reality, I think it merits little more than a sentence or two about how the words "melodrama" and "melodramatic" have evolved from its origins. Some discussion of the role of race in actual melodramas might be worth adding. It's an interesting subject. There are also British melodramas that play on racial stereotypes. Paul B (talk) 10:11, 6 March 2009 (UTC)
I picked up a novel called "The Octoroon" from the second-hand bookshop where I work. About the sexy circumstances of inter-racial mixing with picture of dark nude girl and white man with whip on cover to set pulses racing...I guess...Not sure whether it is a melodrama though cos the the white guy did not have a waxed moustache. 19:03, 6 March 2009 (UTC)And a Super Drolaso

Music no longer part of definition[edit]

The lede paragraph seems misleading. The music aspect is part of the history of the term, and did apply centuries ago. But the current dictionary definition of melodrama does not involve music! If you are knowledgeable please dive in and fix this. - (talk) 04:11, 18 May 2010 (UTC)


The "film" section says that melodrama films generally depend on interaction. The meaning of this eludes me. Interaction between who? Presumably not between the film and the audience, as in interactive art. So that leaves the characters, but films of any kind in which the characters don't interact are thin on the ground. Here's the full quote:

Melodrama films are a subgenre of drama films, characterised by a plot that appeals to the heightened emotions of the audience. They generally depend on stereotyped character development, interaction, and highly emotional themes.

Perhaps stereotypical interaction was meant?  Card Zero  (talk) 20:37, 3 July 2011 (UTC)

Serial vandalism[edit]

Back in 2005 someone vandalized this article and got rid of a whole section and produced this: Then some other vandal got rid of everything that was left. When someone reverted that vandal's work they (unwittingly I assume) put back the article in the state that resulted from the actions of the first vandal. It is too late of course to completely undo the damage. However I salvaged some text from the version just prior to the first vandal's work, namely: and put it back in where it seemed to fit and add information. In general this article seems to be a magnet for cretins to do damage because they are not aware of the two meanings of the word melodrama. Maybe that would justify producing two articles out of this one. Each article would be dedicated to only one of the meanings of the word. Hopefully that would reduce the damage perpetrated by ignoramuses. Contact Basemetal here 23:45, 1 July 2013 (UTC)Basemetal 16:02, 6 September 2016 (UTC)

The information you added back is unreferenced. It reads a bit like a Wikipedia editor's "original research" and appears to confuse melodrama with plays having incidental music. Unless some sources for these statements can be cited, it is probably better to take them out. --Robert.Allen (talk) 05:18, 2 July 2013 (UTC)

:: What I added back in is made up of the following seven statements:

  1. In the early 19th century, the inluence of opera led to musical overtures and incidental music for many plays.
  2. In 1820, Franz Schubert wrote a melodrama, Die Zauberharfe ("The Magic Harp"), setting music behind the play written by G. von Hofmann. It was unsuccessful, like all Schubert's theater ventures, but the melodrama genre was currently a popular one.
  3. In an age of underpaid musicians, many 19th century plays in London had an orchestra in the pit.
  4. In 1826, Felix Mendelssohn wrote his well known overture to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and later supplied the play with incidental music.
  5. In Verdi's La Traviata Violetta writes a farewell note to her lover Alfredo, on the urgent prompting of his father, for his family's sake. In her speaking voice she intones the words of what she is writing, while the orchestra recapitulates the music of their first love from Act I: this is technically melodrama. In a few moments Violetta bursts into a passionate despairing aria: this is opera again.
  6. By the end of the 19th century the term melodrama had nearly exclusively narrowed down to a specific genre of salon entertainment: more or less rhythmically spoken words (often poetry) - not sung, sometimes more or less enacted, at least with some dramatic structure or plot - synchronised to an accompaniment of music (usually piano). It was looked down on as a genre for authors and composers of lesser stature (probably also the reason why virtually no realisations of the genre are still remembered). Probably also the time when the connotation of cheap overacting first became associated with the term.
  7. As a cross-over genre mixing narration and chambre music it eclipsed nearly overnight by a single composition: Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire (1912), where Sprechgesang was used instead of rhytmically spoken words, and which took a freeer and more imaginative course regarding the plot prerogative.
Each statement has to be assessed on its own merits. You are probably right about the first statement and the statement regarding Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. We're probably not talking about melodrama there but plays with incidental music. It's true that we might not be aware of all the uses of the term at the beginning of the 19th century (a pity the first editor didn't provide references) but I've never heard Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (overture and incidental music) referred to as melodrama. The statement about "many" London theaters (and Paris incidentally) having an orchestra is correct (depending on what you call "many"). Look at paintings, caricatures, etc. representing theaters. The statement about Schubert's Zauberharfe, that is whether or not it's ever been referred to as melodrama, needs to be checked. Whether or not Verdi used melodrama as a technique in his opera La Traviata can also be easily checked. Finally whether or not there was such a thing as a "salon entertainment" genre called melodrama and the fact that its demise has anything to do with Schoenberg Pierrot Lunaire seem doubtful to me, but again need to be checked. Contact Basemetal here 07:51, 2 July 2013 (UTC)Basemetal 16:02, 6 September 2016 (UTC)
Well, there is always Poulenc's La voix humaine as a modern example. The letter-reading scene from La traviata, although not often cited, has the advantage of likely being more familiar to readers. Some of the statements seem a bit off-topic to me, but the article is pretty wide-ranging. (Another problem I see, is the chronology seems a bit mixed up.) The sources I have mainly focus on theatre, so I suppose I could add some things in that area. We should probably be sure to mention some of the early plays, like Kotzebue's Menschenhass und Reue, Schiller's Die Räuber, Pixérécourt's Coelina, and Holcroft's A Tale of Mystery. --Robert.Allen (talk) 09:40, 2 July 2013 (UTC)

Melodrama as a specifically musical genre[edit]

I've read the article and these talk pages, and I'm quite confused. It seems to me that the spat that erupted under the section "Race melodrama" is partly due to the fact that this article is far too wide-ranging. It covers the popular sense of a hyped-up dramatic work, but also refers to the quite distinct musical genre in which spoken recitation alternates with, or is accompanied by, music. I don't get a sufficient sense of the separate continuity of the latter from this article, and I suggest a new one be created that deals with this definition only.

Specifically, the Harvard Dictionary of Music (ed. Randel, 1986) and The New Oxford Companion to Music (ed. Arnold, 1983) both have separate entries for this term, and trace its continuous history from Rousseau's Pygmalion (1770) and Georg Benda's duodramas (especially Ariadne auf Naxos, which Mozart particularly admired) through its use in various genres. The examples below either contain melodramatic movements, sections or scenes, or consist wholly of melodrama.


  • Mozart's Zaide
  • the gravedigging scene in Beethoven's Fidelio, Act II scene 2 (in which the music both alternates with and overlaps the speakers)
  • the famous Wolf's Glen scene in Weber's Der Freischütz
  • Gretchen's gradual progression from speech to song in her spinning song in Marschner's Hans Heiling
  • the letter-writing scene in Verdi's La Traviata
  • operas by Smetena
  • Fibich's trilogy Hippodamia (are these operas?)
  • other melodramas from Bohemia (where the style was very popular)
  • Milhaud's Christophe Colomb
  • Schönberg's Moses und Aron (in which the speech is set at sprechstimme, halfway between speech and melody, in order to convey Moses' inarticulateness)

Orchestrally or instrumentally accompanied concert or theatrical works

  • Weber's Der Erste Ton
  • Berlioz' Lelio (his sequel to the Symphonie Fantastique)
  • Stravinsky's theatre work Perséphone and The Soldier's Tale (which include dance)
  • Honegger's oratorio Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher
  • Schönberg's A Survivor from Warsaw (sprechstimme again)
  • Walton's Facade

Chamber works, usually accompanied by piano

  • Schubert's Abschied von der Erde
  • Schumann's Schön Hedwig
  • Liszt's five melodramas (including Der Traurige Mönch, the first deliberate and consistent use of whole-tone harmony)
  • Richard Strauss' Enoch Arden

Does this convince you that musical melodrama needs a separate Wikipedia entry? The present article could then refer and link to this musical application where necessary.

Anselm (talk) 14:37, 6 January 2014 (UTC)


The article looks as if it was written by an academic lit-crit type who values "serious" work and looks down on anything with mass-appeal, which is not NPOV. I've tried to rectify this and also include more on the novel, although I don't have enough sourced material to make a section. Chrismorey (talk) 02:51, 11 February 2015 (UTC)