Melodrama and its Criticism: An Essay in Memory of Sally Ledger
Juliet John is a Reader in Victorian Literature at the University of Liverpool and the Director of the Gladstone Centre for Victorian Studies in Wales and the North West of England. She is currently the Principal Investigator of an AHRC-funded Resource Enhancement project to catalogue the holdings of St Deiniol's library, in Hawarden, Flintshire, founded by W. E. Gladstone. She is the author of Dickens's Villains: Melodrama, Character, Popular Culture (Oxford University Press, 2001), editor of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist: A Sourcebook (Routledge, 2006), Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels, 6 vols. (Routledge, 1998) and with Alice Jenkins, Rethinking Victorian Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000) and Rereading Victorian Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000). Her book, Dickens and Mass Culture, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2010.
The sudden, unexpected death of Sally Ledger in January has deeply affected all who were fortunate enough to know and work with her. In this specially commissioned piece, Juliet John reviews the historiography of melodrama and considers its psychology, aesthetics and ethics. She goes on to discuss Sally's work on Dickens's melodramatic aesthetics and radical politics. As Michael Dobson writes in his Introduction: 'Sally was a warm defender of the rights of the people to emotional intensity, both inside the theatre and beyond it, and the grief experienced across the scholarly world and beyond on Sally's sudden death is a fitting tribute to that critical priority.'