Pioneer Performances: Staging the Frontier

Hardcover | February 8, 2012

byMatthew Rebhorn

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Pioneer Performances: Staging the Frontier offers the first synoptic treatment of the history of American frontier performance ranging from Jacksonian America to Buffalo Bill's Wild West show at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. This project is not simply an addition to the history of theAmerican theater. It reconceives how the frontier was - and still is - defined in performance, and what it means for that frontier to be called "American." This project finds, in a series of plays written between 1829 and 1881, a theatrical genealogy that worked aesthetically and politically tochallenge Manifest Destiny. By tracing performances of frontiersmen and freaks, Indians and octoroons in theaters stretching from Massachusetts to Georgia, this work shows how a succession of authors created the image of a transgressive frontier. They put that transgressive image with its fluid construction of identity up against the melodramatic frontier of hegemonic expansion that led to Buffalo Bill. This project argues that American theatrical aesthetics changed to accommodate alternative modes of performance in the nineteenth century,making the performance of the frontier the central genre in the construction of American drama. The American frontier is not just a historical "process" or a geographic "place," as recent revisionist historians have argued. Rather, it is a set of performative practices conditioned by history andgeography. Most Americans did not travel outside the metropole. For them, the "frontier" was created as much on the footboards of New York City as on the plains of the West, and for them, the frontier performed in the theater was thematically richer, more diverse, and more radical than criticshave acknowledged.

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Pioneer Performances: Staging the Frontier offers the first synoptic treatment of the history of American frontier performance ranging from Jacksonian America to Buffalo Bill's Wild West show at the Columbian Exposition of 1893. This project is not simply an addition to the history of theAmerican theater. It reconceives how the front...

Matthew Rebhorn is Associate Professor of English at James Madison University.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:February 8, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199751307

ISBN - 13:9780199751303

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Manifest Destinies: Buffalo Bill, Gowongo Mohawk, and the Genealogy of American Frontier Performance1. Edwin Forrest's Redding Up: Elocution, Theater, and the Performance of the Frontier2. The Swamp Aesthetic:James Kirke Paulding's Frontiersman and the American Melodrama of Wonder3. The Burnt-Cork Pioneer: T. D. Rice and Minstrelsy's Frontier History4. What Is It?: The Frontier, Melodrama, and Boucicault's Amalgamated Drama5. The Great Divide: Pioneer Performances after the Civil WarAfterwordBibliography