Review: Censoring Racial Ridicule (2015) and Irish Stereotypes in Vaudeville (2015)

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Book Review

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Journal of American Studies





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As such, the two books under review here are welcome additions to the scholarship on theater and ethnic identity. Both interrogate primary and secondary sources with a view to understanding how the playwrights, performers, and audiences understood and responded to representations of race on the stage. At the same time, both books approach the subject from very different perspectives. In Irish Stereotypes in Vaudeville, 1865–1905, Jennifer Mooney explores popular theater as “the site of complex negotiations about what it meant to the Irish in America” (172–73) during the last four decades of the nineteenth century. Chronologically picking up where Mooney leaves off, and expanding her scope to include Jews and African Americans, M. Alison Kibler investigates how minority groups “developed varied protest strategies – such as theater riots, boycotts, and backstage lobbying – to combat racial ridicule” (1) between 1890 and 1930. In other words, while Mooney focusses on what was said and done on the stage itself, Kibler is more interested in offstage reactions to plays, musical productions, and motion pictures. Although Kibler's book is clearly the work of a seasoned veteran while Mooney is in the early stages of her scholarly career, both make important contributions to the literature on race, ethnicity, and the nineteenth-century American stage.



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