Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture (Music in American Life)

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9780252066962: Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture (Music in American Life)

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

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Blackface conventions both criticized the changes occurring in antebellum American life and helped shape images of race, gender, and class. Through the songs, dances, jokes, parodies, spoofs, and skits of blackface, white performers could satirize majority values without directly attacking them. Burnt cork served as a masking device for these entertainers, shielding them from any direct personal identification with the material they were performing.

Behind the Burnt Cork Mask reassesses relationships between blackface comedy and other genres and traditions of Western theater; between the music of minstrel shows and its European sources; between blackface performance and socially constructed identities; and between "popular" and "elite" culture.

From Library Journal:

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
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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