About

My recent book, Irony in The Twilight Zone (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), explores the thematic use of irony in the original Twilight Zone anthology series and similar television programs, with reference to concurrent Cold War science fiction films and literature. As in my first book, my work here historicizes methods of social critique, this time according to irony’s philosophical groundings in Schlegel, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, and Rorty. Embarking from this trajectory, I argue the series functions as an aggregate system of ironic communication, whose metaphysical, moral universe mobilizes a critique of 1950s America’s characteristic fears and weaknesses. Instead of perpetuating popular patterns of reception, Irony in The Twilight Zone seeks to re-contextualize the series specifically in terms of irony, since more than any element of science fiction or fantasy, irony becomes the most formulaic aspect of the episodes’ diverse narratives, and even in cases where no climactic twist occurs at all. In other words, Twilight Zone episodes always feature ironic circumstances, wherein characters and/or events turn out to be something other than what was expected, but, otherwise, the series’ eclectic range of contexts ultimately defies genre classification. Also, the show’s host and creator, Rod Serling, referred to as television’s “last angry man,” sought to preserve his aggressive agenda for social consciousness by couching his and other contributors’ critiques in unrealistic scenarios that would evade any censorial scrutiny. Thus, this study probes the larger relationship between irony and social critique, even considering the philosophical legacy of ironic communication, in order to affirm how the former served in The Twilight Zone to mobilize the latter, toward exposing the shortcomings of postwar American culture.
Another fundamental aspect of The Twilight Zone too often overlooked is its overarching moral universe, which establishes itself through ironic, often metaphysical circumstances. This study, then, repositions the classic series as an aggregate system that uses ironic circumstances to project an idealized society, resistant to technologization, Cold War paranoia, suburban mythmaking, and other ills of postwar America. Each of several chapters focuses on a particular such aspect, so that the series’ breadth of attention is systematically subdivided and clarified. Ultimately, this is a book providing fresh insight into the richness and complexity of The Twilight Zone, perhaps the greatest of all anthology television series, which really hasn’t had the thorough consideration it deserves until now. The book is peer-reviewed favorably in Journal of American Culture.     
My previous book, Landscape Allegory in Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan 2010), explores the topic of landscape in avant-garde and mainstream cinema from the silent era to the present. I specifically identify cases where natural settings transcend their conventional roles as backdrop and become outward manifestations of inner subjective states. Such a range of films includes Nanook of the North, La chute de la maison Usher, Duel in the Sun, L’avventura, Dog Star Man, Lawrence of Arabia, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Apocalypse Now, Fitzcarraldo, and James Benning’s El Valley Centro. The study examines the critical history of landscape depiction in literature, painting, and photography, from medieval allegories like Roman de la Rose to the European Sublime, and from the American Hudson River School and Poe’s landscape sketches to Steichen’s Pictorialist images. Eventually, I illustrate the appearance of psychological landscapes in culturally cathartic films of the 1960s and ‘70s, such as Zabriskie Point and El Topo, and chart the decline of this tendency. My research first appeared in the article, “The Life and Death of the Contemplative Landscape,” in Spectator. I also continue to present my research on landscape-oriented media at academic conferences, including the Society for Cinema and Media Studies and Film & History. 
Landscape Allegory in Cinema provides a systematic overview of landscape-oriented films across the history of the medium, showing specifically how and when natural settings function as characters. The study also explores a larger cultural context for the narrative representation of landscape across the humanities, by tracing cultural trajectories of landscape depiction through time. For example, I argue that 17th century Dutch schools of Naturalist and Italianate painting evolved into a modern cinematic context where realistic and idealized settings are coterminous. Eventually, the study analyzes the use of landscape allegory as a means for social critique, particularly in films targeting Western imperialism, such as Aguirre: The Wrath of God and The Man Who Would Be King. The book was nominated for Theatre Library Association’s Wall Award, and is peer-reviewed favorably in Film & History.

Education

Ph.D., 2006, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
M.A., 2002, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
                                               
M.A., 1999, Department of English, California State University, Los Angeles
                                                                                                                  


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B.A./B.S., 1992, Departments of Literature and Economics, University of California, San Diego
 

Work Shared in CORE

Books

Other Publications

Books 
Irony in The Twilight Zone: How the Series Critiqued Postwar American Culture (2015), Rowman & Littlefield, Maryland (favorably reviewed in Journal of American Culture, Volume 40, Number 2, June 2017, p. 191)
 
Landscape Allegory in Cinema: From Wilderness to Wasteland (2010), Palgrave Macmillan, New York (favorably reviewed in Film & History, Volume 43, Number 2, Fall 2013, pp. 92-93)           
 
Book Chapters
 
“Projecting the Visuality of the Beatles: A Hard Day’s Night (and Help!),” The Beatles in Context, Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)
 
Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles
 
“Psychological Landscape Films: Narrative and Stylistic Approaches,” Aniki, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2017)
 
“The Life and Death of the Contemplative Landscape,” Spectator, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Fall 2001)
 
Magazine Articles
 
Seopyeonje: A Film of Psychological Landscapes,” Anno. (South Korea), No. 3 (Fall 2014) 
 
Book Reviews
 
Myrto Konstantarakos, ed., Spaces in European Cinema, Spectator, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Fall 2003)    

Eddie Muller, Dark City Dames (Winter 2001/2002), Film Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 2



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(Winter 2001 – 02)

Memberships

Society for Cinema and Media Studies (intermittent)

David Melbye

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@davidmelbye

active 8 months ago