Brickbats And Jollification: Masked Coercion, Collusive Power, And Reciprocal Productivity In American Vaudeville

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This project establishes the crucial role vaudeville played in the legal reforms, cultural evolution, and ideological development of American Progressivism. Spectators and vaudevillians frequently embraced and promulgated the image of vaudeville as an avowedly trivial performance genre, a reputation that has lingered in crippling fashion. I employ performance reviews, records of corporate censorship, and previously unexamined protected material files, however, to demonstrate that vaudeville helped further the concerns toward social justice and economic betterment that lay at the root of American Progressivism. Beginning with vaudeville's troubling of cultural hierarchy, this work finds vaudeville as a key agent in the creation of a highly variegated taste culture, one that frustrates the usual demarcations between the offerings of "sacred" and "popular" cultures. I argue that the performers used this admixture to critique the economic oppression symbolically enacted through ossified sacred cultural offerings. Additionally, this project focuses on the productive capacity displayed in the reciprocal relationship of live performance. Prior to the adoption of a cinematic mode of spectatorship in the consumption of variety theatre, I find, vaudeville audiences evinced a high degree of productivity during the performance. I trace the decline of this spectatorial power occasioned by the introduction of standalone cinema acts and turns that combined live performance with cinema.

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2009-10-13T20:04:31Z
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American Vaudeville
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dissertation or thesis
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