Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

Phebe Jensen

Abstract

Early scholars of blackface minstrelsy have often over-simplified and rebuked nineteenth-century American Negro minstrel shows for their racially barbed gibes at African Americans. Though it recognizes minstrelsy’s blatant racism against the newly freed slaves of the 1860s, this study agrees with many modern scholars in recognizing deeper cultural themes Negro minstrels highlighted onstage during the years surrounding the Civil War. The study focuses specifically on the rich literary contribution of two afterpieces (the final act of the minstrel show) burlesquing Shakespeare’s Othello: Desdemonum and Othello; A Burlesque. Using the racist jargon as a tool, this study examines how women and immigrants during the nineteenth century were able to identify and differentiate their identities with African Americans and find their place within American Society. Though women, African Americans, and the Irish were the three most hated and feared groups of the American White male, they also exemplified a unified power through their representation on the minstrel stage.

Share

COinS