Rethinking postcolonial melodrama and affect

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This article rethinks melodrama's history, uses, and effects, through an analysis of Deepa Mehta's film Earth (1998), an adaptation of Bapsi Sidhwa's novel on the partition of British India, Cracking India (1991). The film offers an encounter with postcolonial and global melodrama that raises questions of comparison, categorization, and periodization, as well as of the association of the melodramatic mode with "secular modernity" - the universal condition to which Peter Brooks suggests melodrama owes its rise. In Mehta's film, the often disparaged aesthetic of melodrama makes sense of affective history by signifying the body and generating potential ethical knowledge through "affective reason," which is often conveyed through Mehta's use of interruptions, flashbacks, reversals, and simultaneities. The film thereby suggests a temporality that stands as an alternative to the progressive and teleological linearity underlying concepts of a homogenous and secular modernity and to official, realist accounts of nationalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalModern Drama
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Deepa Mehta
  • India
  • affect
  • melodrama
  • postcolonial
  • secularism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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