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LGBTQ+ Epistolary Rhetoric/Letter Writing  

Pamela VanHaitsma

Approaching letter writing as a rhetorical practice—as epistolary rhetoric—is not an obvious priority for queer studies in communication. Yet the importance of letters to LGBTQ+ studies of rhetoric have come to the fore in two key ways. In a first approach, following the long-standing use of letters as evidence within interdisciplinary LGBTQ+ histories, letters serve as vital primary sources in histories of LGBTQ+ rhetoric. Letters act as evidence of LGBTQ+ romantic, erotic, and sexual relations within queer studies of public memory. Also, acting as so-called hidden transcripts, letters document other kinds of background information about rhetorical situations. In a second approach LGBTQ+ letters have been analyzed as rhetoric. Receiving the most attention are obviously public and political letters, such as those appearing in movement publications, the rhetoric of public officials and their political campaigns, and activist letter-writing campaigns. Especially in the case of LGBTQ+ life, however, letters often blur the lines between genres that are public and private, political and intimate. As such, even those letters considered most intimate, such as romantic and erotic letters, have been theorized as forms of epistolary rhetoric. Both approaches persist and are in productive tension with each other. Whether scholars underscore how LGBTQ+ letters are rhetoric or simply draw on them as records of information, letters are indispensable sources for the development of LGBTQ+ histories of rhetoric, studies of public memory, and research on communication.

Article

Queer Melodrama  

Cora Butcher-Spellman

Queer melodrama utilizes and reimagines the conventions of melodrama to tell stories by, for, and/or about queer people. Melodrama has been studied by scholars of communication, especially scholars of media and rhetoric. Itis also a transdisciplinary area of study with scholars in film, literature, media studies, cultural studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies as well as disciplines associated with specific languages, cultures, geographies, and identities. The scholarship of queer melodrama coalesces around two primary areas of inquiry and research. First, queer melodrama scholarship engages substantially with the taxonomization and theorization of the genre. As a storytelling genre, melodrama appears in various types of media and rhetoric including film, television, literature, theater, and music. Scholars conceptualize the genre of queer melodrama in three main ways: generically in terms of characteristics, formulaically in terms of plot, and stylistically in terms of affect and aesthetic. Most definitions of melodrama focus on the portrayal of extreme emotions paired with a tragic climax—one ultimately resolved with a sudden, simple happy ending. Second, queer melodrama scholarship regularly grapples with the purposes, impacts, and weaknesses of the genre. Queer melodrama’s central purposes are storytelling, disruption, and critique. The genre has the potential to impact audiences by facilitating or encouraging emotional responses, awareness, empathy, hope, and imagination. While much queer melodrama scholarship focuses on defending the genre against dismissive, sexist criticism, scholars also critically examine the potentially negative and harmful political work of certain aspects or examples of queer melodrama. These scholarly critiques have established various problems with queer melodrama including exclusion, normativity, and assimilationism. Taken together, these areas of inquiry attest to the richness of queer melodrama for scholarly inquiry, audience consumption, and political work. Queer melodramas are vital sources for queer communication and rhetoric scholarship about media, affect, aesthetics, and genre.