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Haven’t I Seen You Somewhere Before? Melodrama, Postmodernism and Victorian Culture

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Abstract

Postmodernism is often explained as a way of making sense of and articulating the cultural manifestations of late twentieth-century experience. However, as the above quote indicates, modern notions of historical lineage, temporal sequentiality and logical progression have been challenged by postmodern discourse. Socio-political and cultural observation would seem to corroborate this perspective. Influenced by selective nostalgia, past events and value-systems continually re-emerge to disrupt the forward march of history. The Victorian era regained political and social currency in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher extolled the virtues of Victorian values; witness also the cultural and commercial imperative of the entertainment industry’s current preoccupation with Britain’s nineteenth century literary heritage. In turn, it is not hard to find examples of conditions and cultural practices from the past that can usefully be re-examined in relation to postmodern discourse. According to Umberto Eco ‘we could say every period has its own postmodernism’,2 or in other words, postmodern concerns are not necessarily new ones.

Keywords

Social Currency Popular Appeal Historical Lineage Commodity Culture Narrative Closure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Robert Kiely, Reverse Traditions: Postmodern Fictions and the Nineteenth Century Novel ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993 ), p. 5.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    John Docker, Postmodernism and Popular Culture: A Cultural History ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994 ), p. 258.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Michael R. Booth, Theatre in the Victorian Age ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991 ), pp. 150–1.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Peter Brooks, The Melodramatic Imagination ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Guy Barefoot, ‘East Lynne to Gas Light: Hollywood, Melodrama and Tiwentieth-Century Notions of the Victorian’ in Jacky Bratton, Jim Cook and Christine Gledhill (eds), Melodrama: Stage, Picture, Screen ( London: British Film Institute, 1994 ), p. 96.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Michael R. Booth, English Melodrama ( London: Herbert Jenkins, 1965 ), P. 5.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    See Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984 ), pp. 9–11.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Thomas Richards, The Commodity Culture of Victorian England: Advertising and Spectacle, 1851–1914 ( London: Verso, 1991 ), p. 18.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Michael R. Booth, Victorian Spectacular Theatre 1850–1910 ( London: Routledge, 1981 ), p. 11.Google Scholar
  10. 20.
    Daniel T Rodgers, ‘Before Postmodernism’, Reviews in American History 18 (1990), p. 78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 24.
    George Taylor, Players and Performances in the Victorian Theatre ( Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1989 ), p. 148.Google Scholar
  12. 30.
    Steven Conner, ‘Postmodern Performance’ in Patrick Campbell (ed.), Analysing Performance ( Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996 ), p. 108.Google Scholar
  13. 31.
    David George, ‘On Ambiguity: Towards a Postmodern Performance Theory’, Theatre Research International 14, 1 (1989), p. 71.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

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