The Melodrama of the Unknown Man

  • Peter Dula
Part of the Philosophers in Depth book series (PID)


The sustained attention that Cavell gives to artistic modernism in his early work seems to fade from his later work. But while the specific language of “modernism” becomes infrequent, the same themes remain present. In this chapter, I argue that the modernist artist becomes a type of moral perfectionist, especially in the account of perfectionism provided in the melodramas of the unknown woman. Read together, it becomes plain that modernism is melodramatic. I then explore whether the connections between modernism, perfectionism and melodrama can help us be better readers of his memoir, Little Did I Know, a text which can sometimes seem to invite the subtitle “The Melodrama of the Unknown Man.”

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Dula
    • 1
  1. 1.Eastern Mennonite UniversityHarrisonburgUSA

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