Gender and the London Theatre, 1880-1920

book cover


Margaret D. Stetz
Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies
University of Delaware

At the turn of the last century, London was a city filled with theatres. Meanwhile, the visual imagery of that theatrical world circulated everywhere, and it knew no geographical boundaries. Much of that imagery highlighted the subject of gender. The theatre was both the center of social transformation and its mirror--the place where, quite literally, new roles for women and men were being enacted and a site that reflected shifts occurring in the larger political environment.

This volume explores the links between changing notions of gender and sexuality and changes in the London theatre. It draws its material from the vast print culture that surrounded the stage: playbills, reviews, posters, photographs, drawings, advertisements, books, serial publications, printed ephemera, and postcards.

GENDER AND THE LONDON THEATRE, 1880-1920 begins with Gilbert and Sullivan introducing controversial new social types (the female undergraduate and the "effeminate" male aesthete), follows the career and influence of Oscar Wilde, and reveals a consistent emphasis throughout the period on cross-dressing and gender confusion, in everything from Sarah Bernhardt's Prince Hamlet, to the farce Charley's Aunt, to J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, to the music hall turns of Vesta Tilley. It also highlights how playwrights such as G. B. Shaw and Elizabeth Robins, inspired by English-language productions of Ibsen, used the stage as a platform for debate over women's suffrage, marriage, new models of masculinity, and the rights of working women. At the same time, it illustrates the importance of gender as a backstage issue that determined who could become a theatre manager, a designer, or a critic.
Hardbound: 17.5 x 27.4cm, 142pp. Colour & b/w illustrations.

ISBN 1-904201-00-8
£30.00 / $55.00

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 Published 28 February 2004
Rivendale Press
P. O. Box 85, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP14 4WZ England
TEL: 01494 562266