Cover image for Behind the burnt cork mask : early blackface minstrelsy and Antebellum American popular culture
Title:
Behind the burnt cork mask : early blackface minstrelsy and Antebellum American popular culture
Author:
Mahar, William J. (William John), 1938-
Publication Information:
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
xix, 444 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Language:
English
Contents:
List of musical examples -- Preface -- Abbreviations -- Introduction -- Revisiting minstrelsy's history: the playbill and contextual evidence -- the playbills -- Blackface parodies of American speech and rhetoric: burlesque lectures and sermons, political orations, comic dialogues, and stories -- Opera for the masses: burlesques of English and Italian opera -- Ethiopian sketches of American life: skits, farces, and afterpieces -- Blackface minstrelsy, masculinity, and social rituals in vocal and choral repertories -- Blackface minstrelsy and misogyny in vocal and choral repertories -- Conclusion -- Appendixes -- Representative minstrel companies and personnel in playbills and newspaper advertisements, 1843-60 -- Representative concluding numbers from selected minstrel shows, 1843-60 -- Song text frequency in selected Antebellum songsters -- Notes -- Works cited -- Index.
ISBN:
9780252023965

9780252066962
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The songs, dances, jokes, parodies, spoofs, and skits of blackface groups such as the Virginia Minstrels and Buckley's Serenaders became wildly popular in antebellum America. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask not only explores the racist practices of these entertainers but considers their performances as troubled representations of ethnicity, class, gender, and culture in the nineteenth century.

William J. Mahar's unprecedented archival study of playbills, newspapers, sketches, monologues, and music engages new sources previously not considered in twentieth-century scholarship. More than any other study of its kind, Behind the Burnt Cork Mask investigates the relationships between blackface comedy and other Western genres and traditions; between the music of minstrel shows and its European sources; and between "popular" and "elite" constructions of culture.

By locating minstrel performances within their complex sites of production, Mahar offers a significant reassessment of the historiography of the field. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask promises to redefine the study of blackface minstrelsy, charting new directions for future inquiries by scholars in American studies, popular culture, and musicology.


Summary

Promises to redefine the study of blackface minstrelsy, charting new directions for future inquiries by scholars in American studies, popular culture, and musicology


Reviews 4

Library Journal Review

This monograph, part of the distinguished "Music in American Life" series, is an interdisciplinary study drawing on music, performance, and theater history to examine the beginnings of an influential entertainment medium. Mahar (humanities/ music, Pennsylvania State Univ.) uses the study of blackface minstrelsy from 1843 to 1860 as a way to examine the formation and effect of much late 19th-century American popular culture. He provides generous samples of playbills, sheet music, lyrics, selections from comic sketches, and photographs as evidence for his argument. Mahar shows that the minstrel show made fun of formal speech and rhetoric, satirized opera for popular consumption, and provided a mirror for the polarities of contemporary American life, social rituals, and sexual roles. It prepared the way for melodrama, burlesque, vaudeville, and the musical comedy, all of which extended those functions. Recommended for scholars.‘Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Only a few decades ago, minstrelsy was an unpopular subject, its scholarly coverage being limited to a few sources such as Carl Wittke's Tambo and Bones (1930) and Hans Nathan's Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy (1962). Thanks to growing cultural security, scholars recently began exploring minstrelsy anew, as in Dale Cockrell's Demons of Disorder (CH, Oct'98). In the present lucid, scholarly study, Mahar (Capital College, Pennsylvania State Univ.) explores new aspects and penetrates more deeply than Cockrell, though not to Cockrell's disadvantage. Mahar presents not a chronology of events, but a detailed exploration of language, gender, repertoires, and influences. A professor of humanities and music, Mahar is well qualified to offer quasi-Schenkerian analyses when needed and can link burlesqued influences from Bellini's operas. No less impressive is the documentation he provides in support of repertoires and memberships in the various black-face troupes. His works cited is not quite as expansive as Cockrell's, but it exhibits the diverse subject areas the book explores. This impressive and serious volume, issued in the distinguished "Music in American Life" series, is recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D.-R. de Lerma; Lawrence University


Library Journal Review

This monograph, part of the distinguished "Music in American Life" series, is an interdisciplinary study drawing on music, performance, and theater history to examine the beginnings of an influential entertainment medium. Mahar (humanities/ music, Pennsylvania State Univ.) uses the study of blackface minstrelsy from 1843 to 1860 as a way to examine the formation and effect of much late 19th-century American popular culture. He provides generous samples of playbills, sheet music, lyrics, selections from comic sketches, and photographs as evidence for his argument. Mahar shows that the minstrel show made fun of formal speech and rhetoric, satirized opera for popular consumption, and provided a mirror for the polarities of contemporary American life, social rituals, and sexual roles. It prepared the way for melodrama, burlesque, vaudeville, and the musical comedy, all of which extended those functions. Recommended for scholars.‘Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State Coll., MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Only a few decades ago, minstrelsy was an unpopular subject, its scholarly coverage being limited to a few sources such as Carl Wittke's Tambo and Bones (1930) and Hans Nathan's Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy (1962). Thanks to growing cultural security, scholars recently began exploring minstrelsy anew, as in Dale Cockrell's Demons of Disorder (CH, Oct'98). In the present lucid, scholarly study, Mahar (Capital College, Pennsylvania State Univ.) explores new aspects and penetrates more deeply than Cockrell, though not to Cockrell's disadvantage. Mahar presents not a chronology of events, but a detailed exploration of language, gender, repertoires, and influences. A professor of humanities and music, Mahar is well qualified to offer quasi-Schenkerian analyses when needed and can link burlesqued influences from Bellini's operas. No less impressive is the documentation he provides in support of repertoires and memberships in the various black-face troupes. His works cited is not quite as expansive as Cockrell's, but it exhibits the diverse subject areas the book explores. This impressive and serious volume, issued in the distinguished "Music in American Life" series, is recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D.-R. de Lerma; Lawrence University