TitleMuteness and modern drama
NameRaub, Emily H. (author), Diamond, Elin (chair), Williams, Carolyn (co-chair), Buckley, Matthew (internal member), Preston, Carrie (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectLiteratures in English,
Melodrama--History and criticism,
Description“Muteness and Modern Drama” asks what became of the mute figure and,
broadly, muteness on the melodramatic stage. Melodrama frequently communicated through means other than dialogue, such as music, tableaux, gesture, and character physiognomy. The latter three are silent communicants—visual means of engaging the audience—while music is seemingly antithetical to silence. Or is it? “Muteness and Modern Drama” argues that
melodrama’s audio-visual semiotics—which equate silence with stasis and sound with motion, so much so that the audience involuntarily experiences silence through, for example, a frozen pose or (later) a singular object or commanding set—carried through to modern drama. Moreover, music in melodrama plays or swells during moments when dialogue subsides, linking it to the unspoken or silence. Chapter one considers the monster in Peake’s Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein as a development of melodrama’s mute figure. I analyze the characteristics of mute figures from early melodramas and argue that Peake contrasts the mute role’s traditionally innocent gestures with the monster’s terrifying costume in order to create a silent character who resembles Shelley’s protagonist/antagonist and fractures the typical division between hero and villain on the melodramatic stage. Chapter one explores the complexities of melodrama’s mute figure and language, and chapters two through four trace how Symbolism and Expressionism adapted this language into avant-garde theater. Chapter two argues that Strindberg and Ibsen’s Symbolist plays, Ghost Sonata and When We Dead Awaken, utilize mute figures in order to convey silent pauses in narrative. They also relate their mute figures to statues, engaging melodrama’s association between muteness and stillness, while indicating the mute figure’s evolution into Symbolism’s emblematic object. In chapter three, Wilde’s Symbolist play, Salome, alternates between incantatory dialogue and silent pauses that Loie Fuller develops into choreography for
her Salome dances, which translate her body into symbolic objects. Chapter four turns to Expressionism, focusing on O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones’ simultaneous staging of the thumping tom-tom and the silent, still forest. From melodrama through Symbolism to Expressionism, the mute figure permeates the stage, making silence and visual communication the language of modern theater.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Emily H. Raub
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.