While there are many studies of nineteenth-century race theories and scientific racism, the attitudes and stereotypes expressed in popular culture have rarely been examined, and then only for the latter half of the century. Theatre then was mass entertainment and these forgotten plays, hastily written, surviving only as hand-written manuscripts or cheap pamphlets, are a rich seam for the cultural historian. Mining them to discover how 'race' was viewed and how the stereotype of the black developed and degraded, sheds a fascinating light on the development of racism in English culture. In the process, this book helps to explain how a certain flexibility in attitudes towards skin colour, observable at the end of the eighteenth century, changed into the hardened jingoism of the late nineteenth. Concentrating on the period 1830 to 1860, its detailed excavation of some seventy plays makes it invaluable to the theatre historian and black studies scholar.
Reviews & endorsements
Review of the hardback: 'As always, Water's assumption is that this theatrical racism was not self-generated but the result of immediate ideological pressures. The rigour of her research has produced not only an important work of theatre history but, more pressingly, clear evidence of how the potency of performance can both challenge and reinforce racist attitudes.' The Times Literary SupplementSee more reviews
Review of the hardback: '… packed with … lifelong historical insight …' Tribune
Review of the hardback: 'Every page of this first book of hers, Racism on the Victorian Stage is packed with insights …' www.irr.org.uk
Review of the hardback: 'This is an interesting and important book it shows how theatrical racism reinforced racial attitudes and stereotyping… Thoroughly researched, with end notes to each chapter, illustrations and a fully comprehensive bibliography, the book is well written and sets a high standard for any future work that may follow.' Association for the Study of African Caribbean and Asian Culture and History in Britain Newsletter
'Hazel Waters, in her enthralling, but disturbing history of the development of racist representations of Africans (both enslaved and formerly enslaved) in nineteenth century British theatre, has mined this treasure-trove of material to great effect. … Waters's book is extremely lucid and detailed, rigorously argued and will no doubt remain the standard work on the subject for a long time to come. … this book should be read widely, rather than becoming the preserve of academic scholars alone.' Steve Barfield, Literary London
'Hazel Waters's Racism on the Victorian Stage belongs in every college library and on the bookshelves of theatre historians with an interest in the early Victorian era and/or black drama. … The lasting value of this book anchors itself not only in Waters's rediscovery of early plays (and characters), but also in her emphasis on the influence of American racism on nineteenth-century English theatre.' Harvey Young, Project Muse
'Waters has done a remarkable job of recovering these plays and putting them into a historical and thematic context.' Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Project Muse
'Waters has done a remarkable job of recovering these plays and putting them into a historical and thematic context.' Victorian Studies
'Waters offers a detailed and well contextualized consideration of the role of 'Tom mania' within the overall trajectory of the black stereotype on stage and evaluates both the novel and the subsequent adaptations in relation to their portrayal of the black dramatic character. Waters's work, eminently useful for both the general reader and the specialist, offers a new perspective on the correlation between the onstage changes in the black stereotype during the early nineteenth century (as both image and conception) and the development of a wider ideology about race.' New Theatre Quarterly
' … if you want detailed information on attitude towards and representation of Black characters and skin colour in the late 19th century and how this was arrived at, this is an ideal companion for wither lengthy study, or quick dips when you come over all academical.' Black Arts Alliance
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- Date Published: April 2009
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521107556
- length: 252 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
- weight: 0.38kg
- contains: 10 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. From vengeance to sentiment
2. The beginning of the end for the black avenger
3. Ira Aldridge and the battlefield of race
4. The comic and the grotesque: the American influence
5. The consolidation of the black grotesque
6. Slavery freed from the constraint of blackness
7. Uncle Tom - moral high ground or low comedy?
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