The Elocutionists: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word

The Elocutionists: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word

by Marian Wilson Kimber


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Emerging in the 1850s, elocutionists recited poetry or drama with music to create a new type of performance. The genre--dominated by women--achieved remarkable popularity. Yet the elocutionists and their art fell into total obscurity during the twentieth century.

Marian Wilson Kimber restores elocution with music to its rightful place in performance history. Gazing through the lenses of gender and genre, Wilson Kimber argues that these female artists transgressed the previous boundaries between private and public domains. Their performances advocated for female agency while also contributing to a new social construction of gender. Elocutionists, proud purveyors of wholesome entertainment, pointedly contrasted their "acceptable" feminine attributes against those of morally suspect actresses. As Wilson Kimber shows, their influence far outlived their heyday. Women, the primary composers of melodramatic compositions, did nothing less than create a tradition that helped shape the history of American music.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780252040719
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 01/19/2017
Series: Music in American Life
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Marian Wilson Kimber is an associate professor of music at the University of Iowa.

Table of Contents

Preface: Hearing Lost Voices vii

Acknowledgments xv

1 The Odyssey of a Nice Girl: Elocution and Women's Cultural Aspirations 1

2 Making Elocution Musical: Accompanied Recitation and the Musical Voice 27

3 Reading the Fairies: Shakespeare in Concert with Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream 52

4 Sentimentality and Gender in Musically Accompanied Recitations 63

5 Grecian Urns in Iowa Towns: Delsarte and The Music Man 87

6 In Another Voice: Women and Dialect Recitations 109

7 Womanly Women and Moral Uplift: Female Readers and Concert Companies on the Chautauqua Circuit 150

8 Multiplying Voices: American Women and the Music of Choral Speaking 173

9 Words and Music Ladies: The Careers of Phyllis Fergus and Frieda Peycke 191

10 Women's Work, Women's Humor: Musical Recitations by Female Composers 209

Afterword: Echoes of Elocutionary Arts 245

Appendix 253

Notes 257

Index 311

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