The following are some examples of the kind of questions you
might address in your writing assignments:
A. Preliminary Readings and Early Origins
- 1. Drawing upon E.T. Kirby's essay on "The Shamanistic Origins of
Popular Entertainments, explain the meaning of "Shamanism and how it
relates to more modern forms of popular entertainment. Which
entertainments are most closely related to shamanism?
- 2. Discuss briefly three or more of the seven broad categories of
popular scenography as outlined by Brooks McNamara in his essay on this
topic and respond to them based on your own personal experience of seeing
similar spaces in use.
- 3. According to Muriel Broadman Lobl, Punch and Judy today has been
largely relegated to the area of children's entertainment--and even then
older children are bored by it. Why has this change occurred after so many
years of acceptance by young and old alike?
B. Environmental Entertainments: Carnival, Side Show, Amusement Park
- 1. Discuss, in general terms, the social structure and stratification system
of the average carnival according to Patrick C. Easto and Marcello Truzzi
in their essay, "Towards an Ethnography of the Carnival Social System.
- 2. In a few sentences, distinguish what seems to be Bogdan's thesis in Freak
Show as contrasted to the point of view of Leslie Fiedler in his
essay "The Fascination of Freaks.
- 3. Drawing on Richard W. Flint's "Meet Me in Dreamland and Kasson's
Amusing the Million, briefly outline the greater, social
significance of the amusement park phenomenon at the turn of the century.
- What is your response to Hiassen's negative "read" of Disney World? Have
you a counter reaction?
C. Dime Museum, Medicine Show, Circus, Wild West
- 1. Drawing on A.H. Saxon's article on Barnum's American Museum, discuss
the various kinds of "entertainment offered in the Lecture Room.
- 2. According to McNamara (in Step Right Up), describe the predecessors
of American medicine showmen.
- 3. With Truzzi or other circus sources as authorities, select one
important aspect of American circus's development and write a
well-developed, one-paragraph essay.
- 4. Some experts see Cody's extravaganza as a many-layered vehicle for
conveying history, romantic fantasies, and political ideologies. Drawing
on your readings on the Wild West, expand on this thesis in an essay of a
paragraph or two.
D. Variety Entertainment: Minstrel Show and Music Hall
- 1. Joseph Boskin in Sambo (not read) discusses the larger meanings ofthe minstrel show (i.e., the reflection of white attitudes), and cites two
differing perspectives, e.g., Robert Toll and William Stowe and David
Grimsted. From your reading of the essays on minstrelsy explain in a
nutshell various approaches to the minstrel show.
- 2. In his introduction to the British music hall, Peter Bailey suggests
that the form is "culture for the people not of the people. What does this
mean and how does it challenge the older established version of music hall?
- 3. Discuss at least two of the major music hall performers and their
specialties as analyzed by Laurence Senelick in "A Brief Life and Times of
the Victorian Music-Hall.
These are only suggestions; find your own approach to these and other readings
assigned (or bring in other materials you find or encounter from other sources).
Illustration: Magic Show, Kassner Theater. Collection of DBW
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