Work of the Fellows: Monograph

Robert C. Allen, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture

Allen, Robert C. (Fellow, 1986-87)

Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991

From the publisher's description:

Burlesque was a cultural threat, Allen argues, because it inverted the "normal" world of middle-class social relations and transgressed norms of "proper" feminine behavior and appearance. Initially playing to respectable middle-class audiences, burlesque was quickly relegated to the shadow-world of working-class male leisure. In this process the burlesque performer "lost" her voice, as burlesque increasingly revolved around the display of her body. Locating burlesque within the context of both the social transformation of American theater and its patterns of gender representation, Allen concludes that burlesque represents a fascinating example of the potential transgressiveness of popular entertainment forms, as well as the strategies by which they have been contained and their threats defused.


Subjects: Gender and Sexuality; Theater; Burlesque; Cultural Studies; Gender Roles; Social Norms