In this course, we will examine how American identity and culture was disseminated, constructed, and contested through popular theatre and performance forms in the nineteenth century. Topics include melodrama, circuses, world’s fairs, wild west shows, Vaudeville, and other emerging practices. Students will present on case studies of their own choosing, and compose a 10-page final research paper.
By the end of the course, students will have
1. a basic comprehensive knowledge of some of the major popular performance forms in the United States in the nineteenth century and the foundational scholarship associated with these forms;
2. a knowledge of several recent theories and methodologies of performance and historiography to apply to these forms for deeper understanding; and
3. a knowledge of the ways in which meaning is produced, disseminated, and contested through both textual and performative discourses vis-à-vis the cultures of nineteenth-century United States.