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Theatrical Power and Mass Culture in Early Modern England
by Paula R. Backscheider
- Language: english
- Author: Paula R. Backscheider
- Format: hardcover, 360 pages
- Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
- Release date: September 1, 1993
- ISBN: 9780801845680 (0801845688)
About The Book
The power of mass culture and the importance of public opinion seem rooted in the technology and political institutions of the twentieth century. But Paula Backscheider finds surprising evidence of their origin in seventeenth-century England. In Spectacular Politics, Backscheider offers three detailed examples of how popular literature participates in important social processes in which public opinion and acceptance are at stake. In the first reconstruction of the London street pageants staged from 1659 to 1662, she describes how Charles II used theatrical events to reimpose the concept of a Stuart monarchy — and how his opponents responded with rival entertainments advocating a different idea of the monarchy and the future. She then examines the London theatrical season of 1695-96, when one third of the new plays performed were written by women. Here Backscheider shows how transgressive, revisionary literature can awaken censoring and collaborative forces even as it opens debate. In her final section, Backscheider presents the first critical reconstruction and serious analysis of gothic drama, an early and indisputable example of « mass culture. » She demonstrates how these popular entertainments expressed the public’s deepest anxieties, while offering a redeeming image of humankind and the nation, as England faced the Regency Crisis of 1788-89 — when George III was judged « hopelessly mad. » With each example, Backscheider illustrates thevarious ways literature participates in the ideological struggle for intellectual, moral, and philosophical dominance in a society.
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