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Davis, Jim (2014)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: PN2000
In this article Jim Davis considers gender representation in Victorian pantomime alongside variance in Victorian life, examining male and female impersonation in pantomime within the context of cross-dressing (often a manifestation of gender variance) in everyday life. While accepting that male heterosexual, gay, and lesbian gazes may have informed the reception of Victorian pantomime, he argues for the existence of a transgendered gaze and a contextual awareness of gender variant behaviour, with a more nuanced view of cross-dressed performance. The principal boy role and its relationship to variant ways of seeing suggests its appeal goes beyond what Jacky Bratton calls the ‘boy’, a notion she applies to the dynamic androgyny of male impersonators in burlesque, music hall, and occasionally melodrama. For the principal ‘boy’ is clearly transmuting back into a girl, at least physically. Equally, while the dame role is usually unambiguously male, Dan Leno's late-Victorian dames seem based on observation of real women. There has been enormous scholarly interest in theatrical cross-dressing, but also a partial tendency to associate it with what Marjorie Garber calls ‘an emerging gay and lesbian identity’. This is appropriate, but should not obscure the relevance of cross-dressed performances to an emerging transgender identity, even if such an identity has partially been hidden from history. Any discussion of cross-dressing in Victorian pantomime should heed the multifaceted functions of cross dressing in its society and the multiplicity of gendered perspectives and gazes that this elicited.
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    • 1. Quoted in William A. Cohen, Sex Scandal: the Private Parts of Victorian Fiction (London; Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), p. 121.
    • 2. Jim Davis, '“Androgynous Cliques and Epicene Colleges”: Gender Transgression On and Off the Victorian Stage', Nineteenth Century Theatre, XXVI, No. 2 (Winter 1998), p. 50-69. See also Neil McKenna, Fanny and Stella: the Young Men who Shocked Victorian England (London: Faber, 2013) for a recent study of the case.
    • 3. Catherine Robson, Men in Wonderland: the Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 4-5.
    • 4. Jack Saul, Sins of the Cities of the Plain (first published 1881; reprinted Olympia Press, 2006), p. 3.
    • 5. Ibid., p. 58.
    • 6. Ibid., p. 61.
    • 7. Davis, 'Androgynous Cliques and Epicene Colleges', p. 50-69.
    • 8. Ernest Shepard, Drawn from Memory (London: Methuen, 1971), p. 186, quoted in Carline Radcliffe, 'Dan Leno: Dame of Drury Lane', in Jim Davis, ed., Victorian Pantomime: a Collection of Critical Essays (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), p. 122.
    • 9. W. Davenport Adams, 'The Decline of Pantomime', The Theatre, n.s.,V (1 February 1882), p. 89.
    • 10. James Agate, Immoment Toys: a Survey of Light Entertainment on the London Stage, 1920-1943 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1945), p. 234.
    • 11. Ibid., p. 244.
    • 12. Ibid., pp. 254-5.
    • 13. Ibid., p. 259. Ouida Macdermott was the daughter of the popular music-hall and pantomime performer, G. H. Macdermott.
    • 14. Judy, or the London Serio-Comic Journal, 19 March 1890, p. 137.
    • 15. Israel Zangwill, 'The Principal Boy', The Ludgate Monthly, II, No. 2 (December 1891), p. 67-74.
    • 16. Richard von Kraft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis: eine Klinisch-Forensische Studie (Stuttgart, 1886); Magnus Hirschfield, Die Transvestien (Berlin: Alfred Pulvermacher, 1910).
    • 17. Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex (New York: Random House, 1936).
    • 18. Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: an Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. A. M. Sheridan (London: Tavistock, 1973).
    • 19. Michel Foucault, Introduction to Herculine Barbin Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a NineteenthCentury French Hermaphrodite, trans. Richard McDougall (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1980), p. vii.
    • 20. Davis, 'Androgynous Cliques and Epicene Colleges', p. 54.
    • 21. Radcliffe, 'Dan Leno Dame of Drury Lane', p. 122.
    • 22. The Times, 27 December 1895, p. 5.
    • 23. Era, 28 December 1895.
    • 24. J. Hickory Wood, Dan Leno (London: Methuen, 1905), p. 119.
    • 25. Adams, 'The Decline of Pantomime', p. 90.
    • 26. Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (London: Penguin, 1993), p. 4-5.
    • 27. David Mayer, 'The Sexuality of Pantomime', Theatre Quarterly, IV, No. 13 (March-April 1974), p. 55-64.
    • 28. Laurence Senelick, The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 242-6, 262-5.
    • 29. Tracy Davis, Actresses as Working Women: Their Social Identity in Victorian Culture (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 113-14.
    • 30. Jacky Bratton, 'Mirroring Men: the Actress in Drag', in Maggie Gale and John Stokes, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Actress (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 236.
    • 31. Bratton, 'Mirroring Men', p. 240.
    • 32. Quoted in Marie and Squire Bancroft, Mr and Mrs Bancroft On and Off the Stage (London: Richard Bentley, 1889), p. 38.
    • 33. Bratton, 'Mirroring Men', p. 244-8.
    • 34. Tina O'Toole, The Irish New Woman (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), p. 119.
    • 35. Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, p. 183.
    • 36. Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, p. 168, quoting Andrew Birkin, J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: the Love Story that Gave Birth to Peter Pan (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1979), p. 118. Garber's chapter 'Why is Peter Pan a Woman?' (p. 165-85) provides a useful discussion of Peter Pan and its relationship to transvestism.
    • 37. Vern L. and Bonnie Bullough, Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), p. 194.
    • 38. C. J. S. Thompson, Mysteries of Sex (London: Hutchinson, n.d.), p. 198.
    • 39. Derek Hudson, Munby, Man of Two Worlds: the Life and Diaries of Arthur J. Munby (London: John Murray, 1972), p. 188.
    • 40. Peter Farrer, Men in Petticoats: a Selection of Letters from Victorian Newspapers (Garston, Liverpool: Karn Publications, 1987), p. 4.
    • 41. Farrer, Men in Petticoats p. 10 (16 August 1892, p. 106).
    • 42. Farrer, Men in Petticoats (9 June, 1888, p. 238).
    • 43. For an extended discussion of skirt dancing see Catherine Hindson, Female Performance Practice on the Fin-de-Siècle Popular Stages of London and Paris: Experiment and Advertisement (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), p. 71-84.
    • 44. See Jacky Bratton, ' Irrational Dress', in Viv Gardner and Susan Rutherford, ed., The New Woman and her Sisters: Feminism and Theatre 1850-1914 (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), p. 77-91, and 'Beating the Bounds: Gender, Play and Role Reversal in the Edwardian Music Hall', in Michael R. Booth and Joel H. Kaplan, ed., The Edwardian Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 86-110.
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