Given not only the proliferation of melodrama in neorealism but also its presence in post-war modernism, this chapter examines melodrama as a way of representing states of authenticity, suffering, social inequality, as well as crisis and the sacred. It traces the history of the co-presence of realism and melodrama and their interaction in post-war neorealism, examining the artistic and social functions of melodrama and its relation to the neorealist canon. It investigates the more ambivalent dynamic between melodrama and modernism and offers definitions for the distinct but overlapping possibilities that melodrama, realism and modernism each create given their status as the three forms of the modern age. It discusses the place of melodrama within debates around post-war critical culture in Italy, and illustrates the ways in which popular neorealism addresses social questions and incorporates artistic innovation within a popular worldview and genre system.
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