The following outline is roughly the direction the course will be taking. Dates should not be considered absolute but approximate. However, readings assigned on one day should be completed by the next class meeting, unless otherwise indicated.


Readings marked with a red dot: are deemed most important (and require written commentary)

Those with a green square: are in the xeroxed Collection of Essays.

Priority Reports are indicated by a blue square:

January 23 Shopping Day: A Smorgasbord of Spectacular Sensations. Video demonstrating contemporary application of traditional forms. Introduction to course; definitions, assignments, parameters, scope of study; structure to be followed.

Popular Entertainment Chart with you to next class.

  • Wilmeth. Intro.
  • McNamara. Intro. ("To the reader") to American Popular Entertainments (henceforth, APE)
  • "Defining Popular Culture" (A) No. 1
  • Also see: Theatre History Studies, v. 18, 1988, above
  • McKechnie. "Mimes, Minstrels and Strolling Players" No. 2
  • TDR 5-24 (Kirby & McNamara) Nos.3 & 4
  • Punch And Judy play text and essay by Lobl Nos.5 & 6
  • Recommended: Towsen. 3-62, 63-82
  • Recommended: McKechnie. 55-71
January 28 Early European forms of popular entertainment.: Mimes, Minstrelsy, Buskers. Punch and Judy; Masked Comedy. Punch & Judy will be used as a case study of origin and early application of most forms.
Chart of Punch's ancestry and list of characterswill be handed out in class.
January 30 Portion of Film on Punch Professors.
Written assignments due on all of above, except the play text for Punch and Judy, and McNamara, Intro to APE; also excluded are recommended readings, unless submitted for extra credit.

  • Wallace, "Ticket to the Fair" No.7.
  • Kasson, Amusing the Million, entire
  • Easto & Truzzi, "The Carnival Social System" No. 8.
  • Bogdan, "Freak Shows at the Carnival" No. 10.
  • Excerpt from Thomson's Freakery (distributed in class or from reserve)
  • Fiedler, "The Fascination of Freaks" No.11.
  • Wilmeth, Chapters 2 &5
  • Essay "Amusement and Theme Parks" (supplied in class)
  • "Team Rodent " chapters No. 7a
  • Guterson, "Enclosed. Encyclopedic. Endured. One Week at the Mall of America" No.9
  • Recommended: Crews' "Carny" in Blood and Grits or Playboy (Sept. '76)
  • Recommended: McKechnie, 29-54
  • Recommended: Matlaw, "Environmental Entertainment" (271-289)
  • Recommended: Davis on Edmonton Mall (distributed in class)
February 4 The Carnival Pitch; video excerpts of carnivals.

  • Flint, "Meet Me in Dreamland" No. 12. From Victorian Resorts and Hotels, ed. R.G. Wilson (Philadelphia: Victorian Society in America, 1982)
  • Begin Rydell, Fair America
Written comments due on Wallace, Easto & Truzzi, Team Rodent, Bogdan (essay), Guterson, Fiedler, Freakery [extra credit--chose two or more chapters to write on]--NO essays required on the balance of assignments through January 30; extra for comments on any of the recommended readings, especially Davis.

Begin discussion of environmental forms (Pleasure gardens, piers, amusement parks, dime museum, wax works, fairs, carnivals, expositions).

Fairs and Fitups (lecture/slides). Brief comments on The Pleasure Garden.NOTE: the most recent book on early fairs is David Kerr Cameron, The English Fair (UK: Sutton Publishing, 1998); a recent source on pleasure gardens is Vallillo and Chach (see bibliography).
February 6 Read:
  • Rydell, Fair America
  • Begin Dennett on Dime Museum.
  • Complete all previous reading assignments if not already accomplished.
  • Also read Nasaw, Chapter 6, "The City as Playground: The World's Fair Midways" and Chapter 7, "The Summer Show," Going Out.
  • Recommended: Bone, Side Show.
Environmental forms continued.

  • 1. Columbian Exposition, Chicago, and its Midway
    (See Rydell, All the World's a Fair, 1984).
  • 2. Madame Tussaud's, London, and the wax museum; or see documentary on Tussaud's life and influence.
February 11

Written assignments due on Flint, John Kasson, Kasson, Nasaw, 6 & 7; extra credit for Bone.


  • Jay's Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women.
  • The most recent book on sideshows is Rachel Adams, Sideshow U.S.A;
  • Freaks and the American Cultural Imaginations, 2001.
  • See also Rosemarie Thomson, ed., Freakery, 1996.
  • A recent study of Coney Island is Woody Register (Brown Ph.D.), The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements, 2001.
  • See bibliography supplement.
Documentary video on Coney Island.

Note: For those with strong stomachs or just curious, a special viewing outide of class time will be planned for Tod Browning's cult classic Freaks (1932), which runs a bit over an hour, and for The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow (1993), which runs 35 mins. These demonstrate graphically the difference between those born anomalies and the modern manufactured freak. Total: one hour forty minutes (in preparation, read Joan Hawkins, "'One of Us': Tod Browning's Freaks"--in Freakery). An alternative could be one of two recent documentaries on side shows: "Sideshow: Alive on the Inside" (Shanachie Entertainment, 1999; 1 hr. 45 mins.) or "Secret History of Sideshows and Showman" (TLC Video, 1999; 50 mins.
February 13 Case Study possibilities (video documentaries):
  • "The World of Tomorrow" (1939 World's Fair)
  • "Echoes of Summer" (Video on Crescent Park, East Providence)
  • "Cedar Point Memories" (Video on 125-year history of amusement park in Ohio)
  • "Hersheypark: Sweet Memories" (Video on 90-yearold Pennsylvania park)
  • "Carnival Train" (recent documentary, 1999)
  • documentary on Roller Coasters
  • documentary on Carousels
Others as available. The first choice would consume a full class meeting.

Note: recommended is the following recent book: Steve Watts, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.For a good general guide to amusement parks, see Tim O'Brien, The Amusement Park Guide (3d edition, Globe Pequot Press, 1999). A recent book on carnivals (especially noteworthy for its photos) is Inside the Live Reptile Tent by Jeff Brouws and Bruce Caron (2001). See bibliography supplement.

  • Saxon, "P.T. Barnum's American Museum"
  • Review the Barnum chronology No. 13.
  • Complete Dennett, Weird and Wonderful
  • Complete Rydell
  • Begin Schechter
Feb. 16-19 Long Weekend: no classes
February 20 Dime Museum lecture/discussion, as time permits

Video documentary on P.T. Barnum (and late circus).

  • Begin reading Kasson on wild west.
Written comments due on Rydell, Saxon, and Dennett's Weird and Wonderful ; extra credit for comments on Ricky Jay
February 25 Begin unit on Circus, Wild West Shows, Medicine Shows, Hippodrama.

Legal Effects on Popular Entertainment in England and early circus: lecture.

Video: "Circus! 200 Years of Circus in America" (1995)--95 mins. in length.

  • McNamara, Step Right Up [on medicine shows; written comments will be expected on chapts. 1-3]
  • Read all Medicine Show entries in McNamara, APE (will make these available if at all possible)
  • Wilmeth, Chapters 3,4 & 6
  • Over next two weeks read material distributed in class (on the American circus)
  • Truzzi, "Circus and Side Shows" (from Matlaw) No. 14.
  • "The Circus Parade" No. 15.
  • Essay from Martin & Wilmeth, Mud Show ( limited copies available in faculty book section of Bookstore; will copy text if possible)
  • Schechter's The Pickle Clowns.
  • Begin Joy Kasson's Buffalo Bill's Wild West, if you have not (comments due on 6 March)
  • Recommended: Also if available to you, I highly recommend that you read rest of Towsen
February 27 Complete circus history documentary.

Written assignments due on Step Right Up, 1-3; Truzzi; essay from Mud Show; Schechter
March 4 Excerpt from various documentaries on William F. Cody ("Buffalo Bill"). See bibliography supplement for most recent books on Wild West shows, other than Kasson.

  • In preparation for American variety forms, study outline of variety/musical forms. [distributed in class]
  • Bailey, "Introduction: Making Sense of Music Hall" No. 16.
  • Senelick, "A Brief Life and Times of the Victorian Music Hall" No. 17.
  • Study Cheshire, "A Chronology of Music Hall" No. 18.
  • R. Allen, Horrible Prettiness 3-180
  • Roots of Pantomime. No. 19.
  • For the next class, be sure and complete readings on British music hall.
  • Recommended: begin Snyder's book on vaudeville.
March 6 Minstrelsy, Variety/Vaudeville, Music-Hall

We will deal briefly, if there is time, with British music-hall first.

  • Wilmeth, Chapters 7,8,11 & 12
  • Minstrel, vaudeville entries in McNamara, APE
  • Inside the Minstrel Mask .
  • The finest book available on Victorian music-hall has recently been published. See Dagmar Kift in bibliography.
Written assignment due onJoy Kasson, Senelick, Bailey, and essay on pantomime.
March 11 American variety forms: Audio or video tape of typical pitch.


  • T.D. Rice and the beginnings of minstrelsy; recent theories.
    In addition to sources listed elsewhere, see Eric Lott, Love & Theft; Dale Cockrell, Demons of Disorder, W.T. Lhamon, Jr. Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop; W.T. Mahar, Behind the Burnt Cork Mask.
As time is available, discuss impact and meaning of blackface minstrelsy.
Writing comments due on Inside the Minstrel Mask.

  • Complete reading of Allen by April 8 at latest
  • Nasaw, Chapters 1-3; "Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment Time-Line" No. 20.
  • Royle, "The Vaudeville Theatre" No. 21. From: Charles W. Stein, American Vaudeville as Seen by its Contemporaries, a recommended collection of primary source essays;
  • Also Spitzer No. 22.
  • complete Snyder, The Voice of the City (by 20 March)
  • Allen, 180-225
March 13 Minstrelsy completed. Guest speaker: Rosemary Cullen (John Hay Library; curator of Harris Collection)on black image in popular sheet music. Meet in lobby of Rockefeller Library (Hecker)

Or report on Tony Pastor (see below). Complete readings above. If minstrely completed and Cullen does not do presentation, might also begin documentary on vaudeville (see next class).

  • Complete readings above.
March 20 Variety and vaudeville.

Report: Tony Pastor. Recent videodocumentary (1997) on vaudeville performers.

NOTE: the most recent book on vaudeville of note is M. Alison Kibler's Rank Ladies: Gender and Cultural Hierarchy in American Vaudeville (U of North Carolina Press, 1999). Its focus is clear from its subtitle.

Written comments due on Nasaw, 1-3; Royle; Spitzer; Snyder
March 23-30 Spring break
April 1 Complete documentary if necessary. If time, listen to rare audio recordings and films from the Library of Congress. Or see portions of recent documentary on magic in America (1997) or film on Houdini (American Experience, PBS, 2000).

  • Allen, 225-288
  • Wilmeth 9 & 10
  • Green No.23.
  • The Business of Burlesque, A.D. 1935 No.24.
  • Sandberg, both interview and Mills routine No. 25.
April 3 Revue, burlesque, striptease

Lecture on burlesque.

Report: The Minskys and the death of Burlesque. (See Minsky and Machlin, Minsky's Burlesque, 1986).

Guest speaker: Brenda Foley on strippers and beauty contestants. NOTE: the most recent book on strip shows is Katherine Liepe-Levinson, Strip Show: Performance of Gender and Desire (2002). See bibliography supplement.

  • In addition to above, burlesque entries in McNamara APE
  • Other routines as supplied
  • Knapp, "Theatrical Parodies in American Topical Revues" No.26
  • Nasaw, 4-5.
DUE: Statement on final project.
April 8 Video excerpts from burlesque--comic routines and strippers.
Video: Life of Florenz Ziegfeld and his Follies or,

Report: The phenomenon of the revue in America.A recent book of interest is Linda Mizejewski, Ziegfeld Girl: Image and Icon in Culture and Cinema (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1999).

Written comments due on Green, Sandberg, Business of Burlesque
April 10 Complete Ziegfeld and the revue.

  • Begin Slout, Theatre in a Tent.
Writing comments due on Allen (completed); Nasaw, 4 & 5; Knapp.
April 15 Cheap theatre, tent repertoire, Tom Shows, Toby and Suzy, Showboats

  • Complete Slout,
  • Wilmeth, Chapter 12.
On early film, read:
  • "A Brief History of the Lantern" No. 27.
  • Fell, "Cellulose Nitrate Roots" No. 28.
  • Balio, A Novelty Spawns (Pt.1) No.29.
  • McNamara, "Scene Design and the Early Film" No. 31.
  • Allen, "Movies in Vaudeville," No. 30.
  • Nasaw, Chapters 10-17
  • 1. Showboats. Short film and select videos
  • 2. Tom Shows
  • 3. Toby shows: The Neil E. Schaffner Tent Rep Co. and the Harley Sadler Co.; might also include The Haverstock Tent Show, the subject of the recent (1997) book on the subject by Robert Lee Wyatt III
Film on tent rep: scenery and opera houses (if there is time), or documentary on Schaffner.
April 17 Report: Melodrama: Genre of the Popular Theatre.

  • Recommended: McKechnie 175-94
Videos as time permits.

Writings due on Slout, Fell, McNamara, Balio, Allen, Nasaw
April 22 Panorama, diorama, optical entertainments, early cinema

Short films.

Report: Dioramas and Panoramas (consult Altick, Shows of London).

  • TDR, 71-117 (including Shank, No. 32.
  • Recommended: Conclusion of Matlaw("Summation")
April 22 View documentary: "Film Before Film" (West German, 1986, 83 minutes).

The Early Cinema and Popular Entertainment. View early Edison films.

Video of Bill Irwin and The Regard of Flight; other New Vaudevillians as time permits.
Spill over from above; other popular forms; popular entertainment and the avant garde.
April 26 -May 7 Reading Period
May 8 - 17 Exam Period

Final papers due the day of the scheduled exam.

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