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Playing "America" on Nineteenth-Century Stages; Or, Jonathan in England and Jonathan at Home

Jortner, Maura L. (2006) Playing "America" on Nineteenth-Century Stages; Or, Jonathan in England and Jonathan at Home. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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"Playing America," prepared towards the completion of a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, examines "Yankee Theatre" in America and London through a post-colonial lens from 1787 to 1855. Actors under consideration include: Charles Mathews, James Hackett, George Hill, Danforth Marble and Joshua Silsbee. These actors were selected due to their status as iconic performers in "Yankee Theatre."The Post-Revolutionary period in America was filled with questions of national identity. Much of American culture came directly from England. American citizens read English books, studied English texts in school, and watched English theatre. They were inundated with English culture and unsure of what their own civilization might look like. A post-colonial crisis, in other words, gripped the new nation. This dissertation attempts to explain "Yankee Theatre," a performance tradition popular from the mid-1820s to the mid-1850s, within this complex, transatlantic, sociopolitical situation. It begins with a discussion of early Yankee plays and explains how they were written against the "empire," distinguishing the new citizen from the English subject. It examines ways early Yankee Theatre actors expressed their American identity and discusses the pressures these actors faced in fighting for international success. "Yankee Theatre" was not only popular in America. Several American actors also traveled across the Atlantic to perform it on London stages. Thus, this dissertation also encompasses how the English understood the Yankee, how an imperial standard was established overseas, why English audiences were unhappy with the first American Yankee actors they witnessed, and how future Yankee actors were caught in this web of criterion and taste for years to come. "Playing America" asserts that "Yankee Theatre" addressed specific problems, issues, and questions arising from America's post-colonial status. When the post-colonial crisis passed, Yankee Theatre also ended. By the mid-to late-1850s, the minstrel replaced Jonathan as the symbol of the nation. An examination of "Yankee Theatre" allows for a greater understanding of circum-Atlantic performance as well as issues of nationalism and national identity in the theatre. Research methodologies include historical and textual analysis as well as post-colonial, literary, and dramatic theory.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jortner, Maura
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcConachie, Brucebamcco@pitt.eduBAMCCO
Committee MemberFavorini, Buckbucfav@pitt.eduBUCFAV
Committee MemberNathans,
Committee MemberGeorge, Kathleenkgeorge@pitt.eduKGEORGE
Date: 20 March 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 6 December 2005
Approval Date: 20 March 2006
Submission Date: 2 December 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American Drama; Nineteenth-Century Theatre; Post-colonial; Yankee Theatre
Other ID:, etd-12022005-152331
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:07
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:52


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