In Acting Naturally Lynn Voskuil argues that Victorian Britons saw themselves as "authentically performative," a paradoxical belief that focused their sense of vocation as individuals, as a public, and as a nation. Rather than confirming the customary view of Victorian England as fundamentally antitheatrical, Voskuil shows instead how the Victorians' fabled commitment to the culture of sincerity was often authorized, rather than invariably threatened, by their equally powerful fascination with acting and performance. She explores a diverse range of materials: plays, novels, drama and theater criticism, newspaper reviews and columns, theatrical memoirs, private diaries and letters, cartoons, political pamphlets, and satires. Throughout, Voskuil charts the mid-Victorian heyday of these beliefs and their late-Victorian transformations in a variety of cultural practices and controversies, among them the conduct of audiences at sensation theater in the 1860s, political debates over the Eastern Question in the 1870s, and the cult of personality that shaped the popularity of stage actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in the late 1880s.
By demonstrating that Britons were perceived or enjoined to "act naturally" in such cases, this pathbreaking book not only offers an innovative interpretation of Victorian culture but also challenges what has become a theoretical commonplace: the unreflective use of postmodern theatricality to explain earlier cultures and literatures. Precisely by analyzing central issues in the historical context of the nineteenth century, Acting Naturally reconceives widely used theoretical models that have influenced literary, performance, and cultural studies more broadly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Lynn Voskuil is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston.
Fakery, authenticity, and identity in American literature and culture at the turn of the 20th century
Focusing on texts written between 1880 and 1930, Mary McAleer Balkun explores the concept of the “counterfeit,” both in terms of material goods and invented identities, and the ways that the acquisition of objects came to define individuals in American culture and literature. Counterfeiting is, in one sense, about the creation of something that appears authentic—an invented self, a museum display, a forged work of art. But the counterfeit can also be a means by which the authentic is measured, thereby creating our conception of the true or real.
When counterfeiting is applied to individual identities, it fosters fluidity in social boundaries and the games of social climbing and passing that have come to be representative of American culture: the Horatio Alger story, the con man or huckster, the social climber, the ethnically ambiguous.
Balkun provides new readings of traditional texts such as The Great Gatsby, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The House of Mirth, as well as readings of less-studied texts, such as Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days and Nella Larsen’s Passing. In each of these texts, Balkun locates the presence of manufactured identities and counterfeit figures, demonstrating that where authenticity and consumerism intersect, the self becomes but another commodity to be promoted, sold, and eventually consumed.
Performance artist and scholar E. Patrick Johnson’s provocative study examines how blackness is appropriated and performed—toward widely divergent ends—both within and outside African American culture. Appropriating Blackness develops from the contention that blackness in the United States is necessarily a politicized identity—avowed and disavowed, attractive and repellent, fixed and malleable. Drawing on performance theory, queer studies, literary analysis, film criticism, and ethnographic fieldwork, Johnson describes how diverse constituencies persistently try to prescribe the boundaries of "authentic" blackness and how performance highlights the futility of such enterprises.
Johnson looks at various sites of performed blackness, including Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic routines by Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings by Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black gay culture, an oral history of his grandmother’s experience as a domestic worker in the South, gospel music as performed by a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a performance studies classroom. By exploring the divergent aims and effects of these performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to excluding sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the multiple significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his own complicity, as ethnographer and teacher, in authenticating narratives of blackness.
This dynamic, open-minded collection of essays responds to the issues raised by Werner Sollors when he argues against the rigidity of cultural pluralism, against the ethnic group-by-group segregation of American literature. Instead he calls for an openly transethinic recognition of cross-cultural interplays and connections among all so-called groups and their canons. In enthusiastic response to such issues, the contributors explore a variety of approaches to pluralism, multiculturalism, group identity, and the problematics of authenticity in literary texts and criticism both historically and currently.
The scholars in this civil, persuasive volume are at home in an international world that crosses linguistic, cultural, and national boundaries. They thus transcend the customary restrictions of earlier, relatively isolationist scholarship to form new, nonpolemical links among cultural identities. This relationship between oral modes of communal identity and writing in tribal cultures joins an examination of Houston Baker's discursive strategies. A consideration of ethnic humor in the writings of Zora Neale Hurston and Jerre Mangione and a discussion of Jean Toomer's racial persona offer striking contextualizations. Two contributors study discursive constructions of mestizaje in Chicano/a texts, followed by essays on cultural difference in Faulkner's Light in August and Roth's Call It Sleep.Finally, Werner Sollers's essay extends the interactions among all these energetic, nonjudgmental dialogues.
The expression laissez les bons temps rouler—"let the good times roll"—conveys the sense of exuberance and good times associated with southern Louisiana’s vibrant cultural milieu. Yet, for Cajuns, descendants of French settlers exiled from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in the mid-eighteenth century, this sense of celebration has always been mixed with sorrow. By focusing on Cajun music and dance and the ways they convey the dual experiences of joy and pain, Disenchanting Les Bons Temps illuminates the complexities of Cajun culture. Charles J. Stivale shows how vexed issues of cultural identity and authenticity are negotiated through the rich expressions of emotion, sensation, sound, and movement in Cajun music and dance.
Stivale combines his personal knowledge and love of Cajun music and dance with the theoretical insights of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to consider representations of things Cajun. He examines the themes expressed within the lyrics of the Cajun musical repertoire and reflects on the ways Cajun cultural practices are portrayed in different genres including feature films, documentaries, and instructional dance videos. He analyzes the dynamic exchanges between musicians, dancers, and spectators at such venues as bars and music festivals. He also considers a number of thorny socio-political issues underlying Cajun culture, including racial tensions and linguistic isolation. At the same time, he describes various efforts by contemporary musicians and their fans to transcend the limitations of cultural stereotypes and social exclusion.
Disenchanting Les Bons Temps will appeal to those interested inCajun culture, issues of race and ethnicity, music and dance, and the intersection of French and Francophone studies with Anglo and American cultural studies.
The Ethics of Authenticity
Charles Taylor Harvard University Press, 1992 Library of Congress BF637.S4T39 1992 | Dewey Decimal 320.01
Everywhere we hear of decline, of a world that was better before the influence of modernity. While some lament Western culture’s slide into relativism and nihilism and others celebrate the trend as a liberating sort of progress, Taylor calls on us to face the moral and political crises of our time, and to make the most of modernity's challenges.
From Henry Darger's elaborate paintings of young girls caught in a vicious war to the sacred art of the Reverend Howard Finster, the work of outsider artists has achieved unique status in the art world. Celebrated for their lack of traditional training and their position on the fringes of society, outsider artists nonetheless participate in a traditional network of value, status, and money. After spending years immersed in the world of self-taught artists, Gary Alan Fine presents Everyday Genius, one of the most insightful and comprehensive examinations of this network and how it confers artistic value.
Fine considers the differences among folk art, outsider art, and self-taught art, explaining the economics of this distinctive art market and exploring the dimensions of its artistic production and distribution. Interviewing dealers, collectors, curators, and critics and venturing into the backwoods and inner-city homes of numerous self-taught artists, Fine describes how authenticity is central to the system in which artists—often poor, elderly, members of a minority group, or mentally ill—are seen as having an unfettered form of expression highly valued in the art world. Respected dealers, he shows, have a hand in burnishing biographies of the artists, and both dealers and collectors trade in identities as much as objects.
Revealing the inner workings of an elaborate and prestigious world in which money, personalities, and values affect one another, Fine speaks eloquently to both experts and general readers, and provides rare access to a world of creative invention-both by self-taught artists and by those who profit from their work.
“Indispensable for an understanding of this world and its workings. . . . Fine’s book is not an attack on the Outsider Art phenomenon. But it is masterful in its anatomization of some of its contradictions, conflicts, pressures, and absurdities.”—Eric Gibson, WashingtonTimes
In the decades since the passing of the Pamajewon ruling in Canada and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in the United States, gaming has come to play a crucial role in how Indigenous peoples are represented and read by both Indians and non-Indians alike. This collection presents a transnational examination of North American gaming and considers the role Indigenous artists and scholars play in producing depictions of Indigenous gambling. In an effort to offer a more complete and nuanced picture of Indigenous gaming in terms of sign and strategy than currently exists in academia or the general public, Gambling on Authenticity crosses both disciplinary and geographic boundaries. The case studies presented offer a historically and politically nuanced analysis of gaming that collectively creates an interdisciplinary reading of gaming informed by both the social sciences and the humanities. A great tool for the classroom, Gambling on Authenticity works to illuminate the not-so-new Indian being formed in the public's consciousness by and through gaming.
Authenticity is a notion much debated, among discussants as diverse as cultural theorists and art dealers, music critics and tour operators. The desire to find and somehow capture or protect the “authentic” narrative, art object, or ceremonial dance is hardly new. In this masterful examination of German and American folklore studies from the eighteenth century to the present, Regina Bendix demonstrates that the longing for authenticity remains deeply implicated in scholarly approaches to cultural analysis.
Searches for authenticity, Bendix contends, have been a constant companion to the feelings of loss inherent in modernization, forever upholding a belief in a pristine yet endangered cultural essence and fueling cultural nationalism worldwide. Beginning with precursors of Herder and Emerson and the “discovery” of the authentic in expressive culture and literature, she traces the different, albeit intertwined, histories of German Volkskunde and American folklore studies. A Swiss native educated in American folklore programs, Bendix moves effortlessly between the two traditions, demonstrating how the notion of authenticity was used not only to foster national causes, but also to lay the foundations for categories of documentation and analysis within the nascent field of folklore studies.
Bendix shows that, in an increasingly transcultural world, where Zulu singers back up Paul Simon and where indigenous artists seek copyright for their traditional crafts, the politics of authenticity mingles with the forces of the market. Arguing against the dichotomies implied in the very idea of authenticity, she underscores the emptiness of efforts to distinguish between folklore and fakelore, between echt and ersatz.
Winnifred Eaton, better known under her Japanese-sounding pseudonym, Onoto Watanna, published over a dozen novels and hundreds of short stories, articles, and screenplays during the first half of the twentieth century. However, by the time of her death in 1954, most of her books were out of print.
Eaton attempted to disguise her Chinese heritage by writing under a hypothetically Japanese pen name. In legal documents, she usually claimed a "white" racial identity. In her fiction, Eaton portrayed Japanese, Chinese, Irish, and American characters, relying on the accepted stereotypes of the day. Jean Lee Cole shows that the many voices Eaton adopted show her deep preoccupations with "American" identity as a whole. The author attempts to reconcile all of these "voices," examining how Eaton survived in a climate hostile to minority writers in the early twentieth century, and how her seemingly anomalous works conjoin Asian American and American literary history.
Observing the activities of urban folk dance enthusiasts in Slovakia, Joseph Grim Feinberg sets out to scrutinize the processes by which "authentic folklore" is identified, talked about, represented, reconstructed, reenacted, and revived.
In Slovakia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe after World War II, Communist governments promoted folklore revivals and staged performances of song and dance as representations of "the people." When the Communists fell from power in Slovakia in 1989, folklore was also discredited in the eyes of many. By the early twenty-first century, however, a new generation launched a movement to revive folklore's reputation and reintroduce it to a broad public.
Weaving together personal narrative, ethnographic analysis, and philosophical reflection, Feinberg examines the aspirations and difficulties of young folk dance devotees as they recognize that authenticity is more easily prized than achieved. He sheds new light on the problems of specialized performance and broad participation, the uneasy relationship between folklore and the public sphere, and the paradoxical pursuit of authenticity in the modern world.
Approached as a wellspring of cultural authenticity and historical exceptionality, New Orleans appears in opposition to a nation perpetually driven by progress. Remaking New Orleans shows how this narrative is rooted in a romantic cultural tradition, continuously repackaged through the twin engines of tourism and economic development, and supported by research that has isolated the city from comparison and left unquestioned its entrenched inequality. Working against this feedback loop, the contributors place New Orleans at the forefront of national patterns of urban planning, place-branding, structural inequality, and racialization. Nontraditional sites like professional wrestling matches, middle-class black suburbs, and Vietnamese gardens take precedence over clichéd renderings of Creole cuisine, voodoo queens, and hot jazz. Covering the city's founding through its present and highlighting changing political and social formations, this volume remakes New Orleans as a rich site for understanding the quintessential concerns of American cities.
Contributors. Thomas Jessen Adams, Vincanne Adams, Vern Baxter, Maria Celeste Casati Allegretti, Shannon Lee Dawdy, Rien Fertel, Megan French-Marcelin, Cedric G. Johnson, Alecia P. Long, Vicki Mayer, Toby Miller, Sue Mobley, Marguerite Nguyen, Aaron Nyerges, Adolph Reed Jr., Helen A. Regis, Matt Sakakeeny, Heidi Schmalbach, Felipe Smith, Bryan Wagner
“Now and then,” writes Lionel Trilling, “it is possible to observe the moral life in process of revising itself.” In this new book he is concerned with such a mutation: the process by which the arduous enterprise of sincerity, of being true to one’s self, came to occupy a place of supreme importance in the moral life—and the further shift which finds that place now usurped by the darker and still more strenuous modern ideal of authenticity. Instances range over the whole of Western literature and thought, from Shakespeare to Hegel to Sartre, from Robespierre to R.D. Laing, suggesting the contradictions and ironies to which the ideals of sincerity and authenticity give rise, most especially in contemporary life. Lucid, and brilliantly framed, its view of cultural history will give Sincerity and Authenticity an important place among the works of this distinguished critic.
Generations of social thinkers have assumed that access to legitimate paid employment and a decline in the ‘double standard’ would eliminate the reasons behind women’s participation in prostitution. Yet in both the developing world and in postindustrial cities of the West, sexual commerce has continued to flourish, diversifying along technological, spatial, and social lines. In this deeply engaging and theoretically provocative study, Elizabeth Bernstein examines the social features that undergird the expansion and diversification of commercialized sex, demonstrating the ways that postindustrial economic and cultural formations have spawned rapid and unforeseen changes in the forms, meanings, and spatial organization of sexual labor.
Drawing upon dynamic and innovative research with sex workers, their clients, and state actors, Bernstein argues that in cities such as San Francisco, Stockholm, and Amstersdam, the nature of what is purchased in commercial sexual encounters is also new. Rather than the expedient exchange of cash for sexual relations, what sex workers are increasingly paid to offer their clients is an erotic experience premised upon the performance of authentic interpersonal connection. As such, contemporary sex markets are emblematic of a cultural moment in which the boundaries between intimacy and commerce—and between public life and private—have been radically redrawn. Not simply a compelling exploration of the changing landscape of sex-work, Temporarily Yours ultimately lays bare the intimate intersections of political economy, desire, and culture.
Our emerging world system is bringing the great traditions and cultures it has spawned into ever more intimate and dangerous contact. Langan argues that we must struggle toward a unity of discourse respectful of genuine experiences of varying civilizations if we are to live peacefully on one planet.
It is not uncommon for white suburban youths to perform rap music, for New York fashion designers to ransack the world's closets for inspiration, or for Euro-American authors to adopt the voice of a geisha or shaman. But who really owns these art forms? Is it the community in which they were originally generated, or the culture that has absorbed them?
While claims of authenticity or quality may prompt some consumers to seek cultural products at their source, the communities of origin are generally unable to exclude copyists through legal action. Like other works of unincorporated group authorship, cultural products lack protection under our system of intellectual property law. But is this legal vacuum an injustice, the lifeblood of American culture, a historical oversight, a result of administrative incapacity, or all of the above?
Who Owns Culture? offers the first comprehensive analysis of cultural authorship and appropriation within American law. From indigenous art to Linux, Susan Scafidi takes the reader on a tour of the no-man's-land between law and culture, pausing to ask: What prompts us to offer legal protection to works of literature, but not folklore? What does it mean for a creation to belong to a community, especially a diffuse or fractured one? And is our national culture the product of Yankee ingenuity or cultural kleptomania?
Providing new insights to communal authorship, cultural appropriation, intellectual property law, and the formation of American culture, this innovative and accessible guide greatly enriches future legal understanding of cultural production.