Auerbach Lecture | 14.06.2021 | 18 Uhr
Sandy Flitterman-Lewis (English, Cinema Studies, Comparative Literature, New Brunswick, NJ): Heaven’s Allotment: Contradictions of Class, Race, and Gender in the Melodramas of Douglas Sirk and Todd Haynes
Moderation: Hanjo Berressem (American Studies, Cologne)
The permeable border between film melodrama and the social context in which it is produced and consumed makes the reciprocal impact of film and society particularly relevant to the study of contemporary social issues. I will look at the gradual but undeniable emergence of the discourse of civil rights in three films whose classic construction makes them exemplary of the form. Between Douglas Sirk’s paradigmatic melodrama All That Heaven Allows and Todd Haynes’s homage forty-five years later, Far From Heaven, there is Imitation of Life, the Sirk film that most foregrounds the crisis of racism that undergirds every societal issue in America today. It can be seen as a crucible in which the repressed issues of the first film are transformed into their fullest expression in the complex intersection of themes in Haynes’s contemporary vision. At a time when most of the accomplishments of the civil rights movement are being severely challenged in the US, it is particularly relevant to see the progressive possibilities of the melodramatic form, its methods of engagement and emotional appeal, and its suggestion of the necessity of active critique.
The lecture will take place virtually via Zoom. Guests are very welcome!
Photo: Movie, Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959).