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Wandering minds and anchored bodies: music, gender and emotion in melodrama and the woman's film

By Heather Laing


This thesis examines the role of music and cultural conceptions of emotion and `the feminine' in gendered characterisation in 1940s melodrama and the woman's film. Music in melodrama and the woman's film predominantly follows the late-19th century Romantic style of composition. Many theorists have discussed this type of music in film as a signifier of emotion and `the feminine', a capacity in which it is frequently associated with female characters. The full effect of an association with this kind of music on either female or male characterisation, however, has not been examined. This study considers the effects of this association through three stages - cultural-historical precedents, the generic parameters of melodrama and the woman's film and the narrativisation of music in film. The specific study of films involves textual and musical analysis informed by cultural-historical ideas, film music theory and film theory. Since female characters are more commonly associated with music in this context, they form the primary focus of the study. Male musical-emotional characterisation, while of constant concern, comes under particular scrutiny as the final stage of the study. In conclusion I argue that cultural assumptions combine with the formal representations of film to construct a model of gender based on the idea of `inherent' emotionality. As a definitive element of this dynamic, music functions as more than just a signifier of emotion. Rather, it takes a crucial role in determining how we actually understand emotion as part of gendered characterisation

Topics: PN1993, ML
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2320

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