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  • The Turn of the Screw, or The Gothic Melodrama of Modernism

    Christopher Chowrimootoo

    Chapter from the book: Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. Middlebrow Modernism: Britten’s Operas and the Great Divide.


    Ever since the premiere of The Turn of the Screw in 1954, commentators have tried to steer the opera away from the “cheap” traditions of gothic melodrama. In chapter four, Britten’s Screw is simultaneously shown to summon and confound such defenses. After drawing attention to overlooked gothicisms in the libretto, stage designs and music, the chapter traces the critical reticence to early- and mid-century rejections of the gothic tradition. Rather than resolving the interpretive question that has preoccupied critics and scholars – whether the opera’s ghosts are real or imaginary – the chapter excavates its stakes. In mediating between gothic melodrama and modernist psychodrama, Britten’s Screw showed how much these alleged aesthetic opposites had in common.

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    Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. The Turn of the Screw, or The Gothic Melodrama of Modernism. In: Chowrimootoo, C, Middlebrow Modernism. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.57.d

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Oct. 8, 2018