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Media Publics Lecture: Amanda Doxtater on Carl Dreyer, Melodrama, and "The Passion of Joan of Arc"
Media Publics Lecture: Amanda Doxtater on Carl Dreyer, Melodrama, and "The Passion of Joan of Arc"
WhenFriday, May 11, 2018, 3 – 5 p.m.
Campus locationCommunications Building (CMU)
Campus room218 D
Event typesAcademics, Lectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsMedia Publics Research Group

Contact: Jennifer Bean,, 543-7542

Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media

Contact: Eric Ames,, 543-7542

Department of Scandinavian Studies

Contact: Andy Nestingen,, 543-0645
Target AudienceFaculty and graduate students

Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer’s (1889-1968) place in the canon of international cinema has been secured by scholarly work painting him as a perpetually dour, austere practitioner of formally estranging art film—a far cry from the pop-culture expressivities of melodrama. Dreyer began his career, however, working in the Danish studio Nordisk Films Kompagni in the 1910s when the company became synonymous with spectacular, mass-produced melodrama, the period later known as the “Golden Age of Danish Melodrama.” This talk draws on material from the Dreyer collection and the Nordisk archives housed at the Danish Film Institute, to argue that Dreyer’s innovation of art cinema is intimately entwined with his innovation of the melodramatic tradition he encountered at Nordisk. Dreyer’s oeuvre, in other words, offers a fascinating way to explore the intersections between melodrama and art cinema. In this context, Doxtater analyzes La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928) through an iteration of the melodramatic mode at Nordisk that she calls varieté melodrama, a tradition characterized by its fascination with performance. The stigma that Nordisk would come to bear as purveyor of low culture provided Dreyer with the impetus to reimagine Jeanne d’Arc as its dialectical opposite: “authentic” cinema. And yet, this re-imagination is fundamentally melodramatic. Jeanne d’Arc provides a key example of Dreyer’s conflicted relationship with, and denial of, melodrama and how it paradoxically brings about his renewal of the mode.

Amanda Doxtater is assistant professor of Scandinavian Studies at the UW. She holds a PhD in Scandinavian with a Designated Emphasis in Film from UC Berkeley. Her research interests include: melodrama and performance theory, Scandinavian theater, gender and representation, queer poetics and translation studies.

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