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The Hibernicon and Visions of Returning Home: Popular Entertainment in Irish America from the Civil War to World War I

Michelle Granshaw. "The Hibernicon and Visions of Returning Home: Popular Entertainment in Irish America from the Civil War to World War I." Diss. U of Washington, 2012.


Combining a moving panorama, lecture, musical numbers, and comic sketches, the hibernicon depicted a return trip to Ireland for an Irish, Irish-American, or American tourist. Beginning in New York, the tourists board a ship, cross the Atlantic, and land in Ireland. They then proceed to tour Ireland's key historical, political, and religious sites and scenes. The tourists also visit natural marvels such as the Lakes of Killarney and the Meeting of the Waters. Interspersed with the lecturer and the Irish jaunting car driver's site descriptions and anecdotes, sketches illustrate the comic challenges facing the love affair between the jaunting car driver and an Irish peasant woman and songs compliment the panorama paintings and the love story. At the end of their visit, the tourists once again board their ship to return to America. From about the Civil War to World War I, the hibernicon performed in minstrel and variety houses as well as Catholic Church halls and basements throughout the country. Dozens of imitators copied the original company and contributed to the hibernicon's emergence as a popular entertainment craze.
The hibernicon emerged after popular culture already had forged close connections between Irishness, Catholicism, and nationalism in the public imagination. My dissertation is an attempt to analyze and explain why and how the hibernicon successfully took advantage of these connections to become involved in the Irish ethnic community. Unlike other Irish-American popular entertainments, the hibernicon's appeal allowed it to infiltrate the Irish-American community to an unprecedented and unrecognized extent. I suggest why the hibernicon appealed to the Irish and Irish-American working class and earned enough respect that it became incorporated into Catholic Church fundraisers and community celebrations as well as Irish-American nationalist expressions and benefits. I argue that its relationship subverts narratives of opposition between popular entertainment, Irish ethnic community, and its institutions to illustrate how they developed a symbiotic relationship to survive.

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