Enacting Sisters


This paper was part of a panel that explores the 'les deux orphelines', the two orphan sisters who were first featured in the melodrama, Les Deux Orphelines, at the Théâtre Porte St. Martin, Paris, in January 1874. Written by Eugène Cormon and Adolphe D'Ennery, the play became one of the most famous and enduring melodramatic vehicles in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century stage and screen. 

We ask: how is sisterhood imagined and performed in late nineteenth century France? 

How is sisterhood subsequently adapted and changed in films made in France just after the turn of the century? 

When moving into American feature film production-and examining D.W. Griffith's Orphans of the Storm specifically-how was sisterhood reimagined and performed? 

What does this tell us about the status of sisters and sisterhood more generally in suffragette America? 

How were women, sisters, feminism and melodrama differently articulated, imagined and performed in Italy in films made in this same period of time? 

Finally, when we trace sisters across media, cultures and decades, what do we learn about sisterhood?

This panel was part of the 20th anniversary of the Women and Silent Film conference. I loved returning to The Netherlands, after having been invited to the forum when the conference first began in 1999...

My paper explored the early iterations of sisterhood in France, paying particular attention to the ways in which Les Deux Orphelines was differently performed and represented through popular media.