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Melodramatic sensibility and meta-melodrama in Galdos and Almodovar

Maria D Lorenzo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The confluence of Galdós and Almodóvar in this investigation derives from the fact that both use similar rhetorical and narrative techniques associated with what I call melodramatic sensibility. In particular, I talk about what I call meta-melodramatic techniques; that is to say, a type of melodrama that presents/displays a combination of identification and distanciation that does not prevent cathartic function. This investigation also shows other important parallelisms in the work of both authors. First of all, both authors are situated, although with a century of difference, in times of transition. Galdós and his work, in decades that are considered fundamental in the passage from the social, economic, and political structures of the old regime to the structures of the industrial bourgeois society. It is a time of change that deeply affects society and the mental coordinates of the participants in that historical process. On the other hand, the work of Almodóvar is dependent on the historical experience of the so-called Democratic Transition, that is, on those years that witness the passage from Franco's dictatorship to a constitutional monarchy. But the historical parallelism between the transition that influences Galdós and the one that influences Almodóvar is not enough to explain by itself the phenomenon of meta-melodrama understood as an essential key to account for the novel of the former and the cinema of the later. There are other factors. In both historical periods (from 1860 to 1890 and from 1960 to 1990, respectively), melodrama (i.e., a particular melodramatic and popular formula) plays a hegemonic role in the culture of the time. I am referring to folletín in the case of the 19th century, and to soap opera, in the case of the 20th century. This indicates that for meta-melodrama to emerge and be feasible it is necessary for a cultural context to be saturated with formulaic melodrama. Thus, it can be affirmed that the cultural interventions of Galdós and Almodóvar are specific reactions to a cultural situation characterized by the hegemony of melodrama. Now, Galdosian meta-melodrama intends, in particular, a double reading of social reality with an objective in mind: to politicize the private sphere. For its part, Almodovarian meta-melodrama favors the opposite impulse, the de-politization of all spheres of life. This explains why Galdosian meta-melodrama is social melodrama, whereas Almodóvar’s version is no more than a recycling of soap opera merely intended to entertain and evade. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Romance|History, Modern|Cinema

Recommended Citation

Lorenzo, Maria D, "Melodramatic sensibility and meta-melodrama in Galdos and Almodovar" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3293924.