When Romeo Was a Woman: Charlotte Cushman and Her Circle of Female Spectators

When Romeo Was a Woman: Charlotte Cushman and Her Circle of Female Spectators

by Lisa Merrill
     
 

ISBN-10: 0472087495

ISBN-13: 9780472087495

Pub. Date: 11/01/2000

Publisher: University of Michigan Press


At the height of her career, actress Charlotte Cushman (1816-76) was one of the most famous women in the English-speaking world. Cushman challenged Victorian notions of gender in her stage portrayals of male characters and of strong, androgynous female characters. Offstage, she was a powerful businesswoman who supported her family, women lovers, and…  See more details below

Overview


At the height of her career, actress Charlotte Cushman (1816-76) was one of the most famous women in the English-speaking world. Cushman challenged Victorian notions of gender in her stage portrayals of male characters and of strong, androgynous female characters. Offstage, she was a powerful businesswoman who supported her family, women lovers, and friends.

Lisa Merrill examines Cushman's personal correspondence to shed new light on the actress's relationships and in turn on our understandings of the nature of women's "romantic friendships." She demonstrates how Cushman's androgynous presence served as a symbol to many of her contemporaries, and revealed their multiple and often contradictory attitudes toward female performers, women, and the unspeakable possibilities of same-sex desire.

The biography draws upon unpublished archival material as well as on current critical work to view Cushman's career, relationships, and posthumous reception. When Romeo Was a Woman examines as autobiographical performance Cushman's own narratives, the stories she authorized others to write, and the letters she wrote to intimates. The book is richly illustrated with many previously unpublished portraits of Cushman in her various stage roles, including Romeo and Lady Macbeth, and other revealing photographs of her family, lovers and friends.

When Romeo Was a Woman will find an appreciative audience among general readers as well as specialists in gay/lesbian history, women's history, theater and performance, popular culture, Victorian studies, and American studies.

"A fascinating story, and a major contribution to our understanding of lesbian history. . . . The work done on archival resources is both impressive in its extent and wholly convincing in its effect." --Jacky Bratton, University of London

Lisa Merrill is Associate Professor of Communication and Performance Studies, Hofstra University. She is the coauthor of The Power to Communicate: Gender Differences as Barriers, and the author of Untying the Tongue: Power, Gender, and the Word, forthcoming.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780472087495
Publisher:
University of Michigan Press
Publication date:
11/01/2000
Series:
Triangulations: Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theater/Drama/Performance Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
5.93(w) x 8.95(h) x 0.87(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword
Preface
Acknowledgments
1Crossings: Passion Embodied and Remembered1
2The Hero in the Family and on the Stage15
3"Is Such Love Wrong?"52
4Embodying Strong (-minded) Women: The Shapes Charlotte Cushman Wore Onstage80
5Wearing the Breeches: Charlotte Cushman's Male Roles110
6Scribbling Circles and Strange Sympathies: Charlotte Cushman's London Circle of Lovers and Friends138
7Building a Community: Charlotte Cushman's Roman Salon171
8The Sapphic Family205
9The Backlash and Beyond243
Notes267
Index311

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