Universitatea „Al. I Cuza“ din Iaşi, Facultatea de Litere ”Al. I. Cuza” Universtiy of Iassy, Faculty of Letters
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3 / 2012
The Death of Tragedy. Toward a theory of melodrama in the novel
The present paper goes forth from several observations phrased by E. Lovinescu in his early serial criticism. The Romanian modernist leader used to emphasize on the idea that the perennial elements in literature, namely those that are able to raise the strongest emotions, carrying their resonances deep down to the very marrow of the human being, are purely and thoroughly melodramatic. Actually, when giving a close reading to Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, Lovinescu was prone to relieve mainly the psychological meaning as he considered that it was the emotion-procurement which secured a certain time endurance of the dramatic work, and not its sheer aesthetic value. Thereby the modernist critic came to an overt distinction between the psychological and the aesthetic features of the artistic works and hence this brought him to the conclusion that actually the melodrama is not only closer to life than any other literary genre, but also the farthest from art. In exchange, the closest to art’s sophistication seems to be only the tragedy, a canonical species resurrected with gusto by the neo-classicists from the Ancient Greek culture and yet resented by their descendants as awfully artificial. Parting from this, at the Romantic turn-point, the tragedy begins to melt undiscernibly into melodrama. Moreover, the melodramatic, as a proper aesthetic category, grows into the inner structure of modern art, being rendered in various artistic genres such as movies and novels: practically they are being transferred both the theatrical techniques and vision specific to melodrama. This paper endeavours to follow the metamorphoses of this process, underlining altogether Lovinescu’s personal contribution. It in this precise area of critical thought that the Romanian critic set himself up as a predecessor of the nowadays trends to rehabilitate the melodrama.
Keywords: melodrama, melodramatic, tragedy, catharsis, vraisemblance, lyric, epic, dramatic, psychodrama, psychoanalysis, suggestion
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