Spring Lecture Series – 2018

Public Entertainment in the Early American Republic

 

2018 Dates & Times:

Lecture #1 –  Rescheduled for May 25, 7:00 pm
Minstrel Shows: The Many Faces of Thomas Dartmouth Rice
Chinua Akimaro Thelwell, College of William and Mary

Lecture #2 – March 27, 7:00 pm
Travel and Terror: Steamboats and the Popular Culture of Early Nineteenth-Century America
Cynthia Kierner, George Mason University

Lecture #3 – April 3, 7:00 pm
Red Jacket Bathed Here: Inventing Native American Origins for Leisure in the Early American Republic
Will B. Mackintosh, University of Mary Washington

Lecture #4 – April 10, 7:00 pm
American Theater: A Short, Dangerous History of Frontier Performance
Matthew Rebhorn, James Madison University

All lectures are FREE and will take place in the Dairy Barn Lecture Hall
Lectures will run approximately 60 minutes
Light snacks will be provided

Sponsored by
Best Western Staunton Inn
92 Rowe Rd. Staunton, VA
Hotel Reservations

 

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Lecture Details


Lecture #1 – March 20, 7:00 pm CANCELLED due to inclement weather

Guest Speaker:   Chinua Akimaro Thelwell, College of William and Mary
“Minstrel Shows: The Many Faces of Thomas Dartmouth Rice”

Topic Overview:
In the 1830s, Thomas Dartmouth Rice toured several American cities presenting a song and dance called “Jump Jim Crow.” He performed in blackface and helped popularize what would come to be known as the blackface minstrel show. During the pursuing decades, blackface minstrelsy was the most popular form of entertainment in the United States. Thomas Rice greatly influenced the direction of early American popular culture. His legacy is surrounded in controversy. Many view him as a virulent racist while others believe he was a racial progressive. This lecture examines several narratives that have been created to describe the origins of his act and asks the question: exactly what is being debated when we talk about the many faces of Thomas Dartmouth Rice?

Lecturer Background:
Dr. Chinua Akimaro Thelwell received his PhD from the American Studies Program at New York University in 2011. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, and moments of experiential learning outside of classroom settings, Thelwell has developed a wide range of teaching and research interests. These interests include: Afro-diasporic history, history of the idea of race, blackface minstrelsy as a popular culture export, performance studies, post-colonial hybridity theory, Asian American history, and hip-hop studies. 

 


Lecture #2 – March 27, 7:00 pm
Guest Speaker:  Cynthia Kierner, George Mason University
“Travel and Terror: Steamboats and the Popular Culture of Early Nineteenth-Century America”

Topic Overview:
From shipwrecks to earthquakes to nuclear meltdowns, disasters have figured prominently in the popular culture of most eras. From the 1820s through the Civil War, steamboats revolutionized travel and trade throughout the United States—but they also exploded with horrific frequency, leaving a trail of burnt and disfigured corpses across the continent. Small wonder that Americans found steamboats so fascinating, and that they became ubiquitous in prints, stories, and popular entertainments. Seemingly constant reports of steamboat explosions and collisions led many not only to sympathize with their victims but also to imagine themselves as future steamboat casualties.

Lecturer Background:
Cindy Kierner received her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 1986. A specialist in the fields of early America, women and gender, and early southern history, she is the author or editor of seven books and many articles. Kierner is an OAH Distinguished Lecturer and past president of the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH), and she has served on several editorial boards. Her research has received support from the American Historical Association, the Virginia Historical Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 


Lecture #3 – April 3, 7:00 pm
Guest Speaker:  Will B. Mackintosh, University of Mary Washington
“Red Jacket Bathed Here: Inventing Native American Origins for Leisure in the Early American Republic”

Topic Overview:
Elite Europeans had traveled to mineral and hot springs for pleasure and health since the 17th century. In the late colonial period, elite Americans began to imitate this practice, establishing nascent American spa towns, often named after their British forbears. But after independence, the explicit anglophilia of places like Bath, Virginia became problematic. As a result, by the early 19th century, elite Americans began to reassure themselves that their mineral springs had Native American origins, rather than British origins, despite the fact that their architecture, medical discourse, and social rituals remained far closer to British examples than to any actual Native American practice. This new imagining of Native American origins appeared quickly and ubiquitously, in popular histories, fiction, and guidebooks. It allowed culturally nationalist early Americans to imagine that they were different from elite Europeans while still creating social capital that was transatlantically legible. It turned elite leisure into a strategy for cementing the cultural appropriation of Indian lands and Indian social practices.

Will B. Mackintosh holds graduate degrees from the University of Michigan and an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College. He is a cultural and social historian of the 19th century United States, with particular interests in the history of leisure, the history of crime, and the cultural history of capitalism. He is editor of The Panorama, Extensive Views from The Journal of the Early Republic. He is currently finishing a cultural and intellectual history of the origins of tourism in the United States entitled Selling the Sights: The Invention of the Tourist in American Culture, and also embarking on a new project dealing with horse thieves and other early forms of organized crime. He offers courses on early American history, the American Revolution and Early Republic, gender history, urban history, the history of the book, and the history of capitalism.

 


Lecture #4 – April 10, 7:00 pm
Guest Speaker:

Matthew Rebhorn, James Madison University
“American Theater: A Short, Dangerous History of Frontier Performance”

Topic Overview:
Starting with Frederick Jackson Turner and Buffalo Bill Cody, this talk excavates the long prehistory of these performative events, revealing the deep-seated American obsession with staging the frontier. Exploring the intertwined stories of the history of the American frontier and the history of the American theater, this talk touches on and investigates a range of historical events in tandem with a host of performative representations of those events. Ultimately, this talk suggests how the frontier was always a performed event, was always a matter of how it was staged both before and behind the footlights. Moreover, as this talk highlights, the history of the American theater as a vibrant institution is inextricably bound with the settling and unsettling of the frontier.

Matthew Rebhorn is the Roop Distinguished Professor of English at James Madison University.  He holds graduate degrees from the University of Virginia and Columbia University as well as an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. He specializes in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, American Novel, Theater History, Performance Theory, History of Science, and Medical Humanities. Professor Rebhorn has published numerous articles and a monograph entitled Pioneer Performances: Staging the Frontier.