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Love and Theft : Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class - Eric Lott

Love and Theft

Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class

By: Eric Lott

Paperback Published: 6th April 1995
ISBN: 9780195096415
Number Of Pages: 328

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For over two centuries, America has celebrated the very black culture it attempts to control and repress, and nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in the strange practice of blackface performance. Born of extreme racial and class conflicts, the blackface minstrel show sometimes usefully intensified them. Based on the appropriation of black dialect, music, and dance, minstrelsy at once applauded and lampooned black culture, ironically contributing to a "blackening of America." Drawing on recent research in cultural studies and social history, Eric Lott examines the role of the blackface minstrel show in the political struggles of the years leading up to the Civil War. Reading minstrel music, lyrics, jokes, burlesque skits, and illustrations in tandem with working-class racial ideologies and the sex/gender system, Love and Theft argues that blackface minstrelsy both embodied and disrupted the racial tendencies of its largely white, male, working-class audiences. Underwritten by envy as well as repulsion, sympathetic identification as well as fear--a dialectic of "love and theft"--the minstrel show continually transgressed the color line even as it enabled the formation of a self-consciously white working class. Lott exposes minstrelsy as a signifier for multiple breaches: the rift between high and low cultures, the commodification of the dispossessed by the empowered, the attraction mixed with guilt of whites caught in the act of cultural thievery.

Industry Reviews

"Terrifically smart and unexpectedly timely."--New York Times
"One of the most stimulating and nuanced accounts of 19th-century blackface minstrelsy."--Boston Phoenix
"Original and erudite....A clever, disciplined, and resourceful reading of the commonplace: a pioneering study."--Kirkus Reviews
"Love and Theft is an original and absolutely brilliant contribution to understanding the politics of cultural production. Lott makes an incisive, provocative, and stunning analysis of the complex and contradictory ways in which minstrelsy embodied and acted out the class, racial, and sexual
politics of its historical moment. As readers we come to understand for the first time how blackface performance imagined and addressed a national community and we realize the extent to which we still live with this legacy. An enthralling and important book."--Hazel Carby, Yale University
"The author adroitly leads us through minstrelsy's maze of complex relationships....Ground-breaking work."--Theatre Survey
"This spectacular book, a history of blackface from the bottom up, offers a gripping, original interpretation of the first and most popular form of nineteenth-century entertainment. Placing minstrelsy at the center of class, race, and political relations, and seeing blackface as a contaminated form
of interracial desire, Love and Theft will stimulate vigorous debate. To dissent from portions of the argument in no way diminishes the subtlety and importance of Eric Lott's achievement."--Michael Rogin, University of California, Berkeley **** do not cut ****
"[Lott] offers a stunning, provocative interpretation of the minstrel tradition....I found his insights into white maledesire to appropriate or step into black bodies utterly fascinating and pretty funny."--Robin D.G. Kelly, The Nation
"Lott's commitment to connecting the cultural to the political, and to exploring rather than castigating the structure of feeling behind blackface, make Love and Theft a model for how to study popular culture."--Alice Echols, The Village Voice
"Love and Theft is relentlessly suggestive, thorough, learned, and smart: and most impressive of all, its reach doesn't exceed its grasp."--Michael Berube, American Literature
Announcing an important new series:
General Editors: Arnold Rampersad, Princeton University and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, University of Texas, Austin
Examining aspects of the interplay between the idea of race and the phenomenon of American culture in its many forms, the books in this series will contribute significantly to our understanding of the complex place of race and racism in American history and American society as a whole. Exploring a
wide spectrum of the factors involving race, the series will not be limited to any particular ethnic group. Although it will regularly publish books in African-American literature and culture, it will also feature studies of Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American culture, as well as how issues
of race shape and are shaped by the cultural mainstream.

Introductionp. 3
Blackface and Blackness: The Minstrel Show in American Culturep. 15
Love and Theft: "Racial" Production and the Social Unconscious of Blackfacep. 38
White Kids and No Kids At All: Working-Class Culture and Languages of Racep. 63
The Blackening of America: Popular Culture and National Culturesp. 89
"The Seeming Counterfeit": Early Blackface Acts, the Body, and Social Contradictionp. 111
"Genuine Negro Fun": Racial Pleasure and Class Formation in the 1840sp. 136
California Gold and European Revolution: Stephen Foster and the American 1848p. 169
Uncle Tomitudes: Racial Melodrama and Modes of Productionp. 211
Afterwordp. 234
Notesp. 239
Bibliographyp. 277
Indexp. 305
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195096415
ISBN-10: 019509641X
Series: Race and American Culture
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 328
Published: 6th April 1995
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.37 x 15.52  x 2.13
Weight (kg): 0.45