Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I am grateful to many individuals for their guidance, conversation, and general encouragement of this project. I also owe thanks to various institutional sources of support. At the dissertation stage, a yearlong grant from the University of Pittsburgh, the Nancy Anderson Doctoral Fellowship, meant sustained and focused work. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-19

Home entertainments occupied a specialized, unique position in nineteenth-century American cultural life. They reflected the interests of an increasingly affluent population of middling Americans, a group confronted with genteel expectations, preoccupied with social status, and driven by a desire for professional accomplishment. 1 ...

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1. Labor, Leisure, and the Scope of Ungenteel Play

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pp. 20-45

Repeatably, performatively, mid-nineteenth-century home entertainment texts and the practices they outlined defined themselves against the excesses of genteel living. Play's votaries were asked to push aside the social ideal of politeness, and along with it, parlor furniture, breakables, carpets, and draperies as they engaged in various forms of competitive entertainment. ...

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2. Dramatic Regression: The Borrowed Pleasures and Privileges of Youth

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pp. 46-70

The task of representing growth, maturity, and ambition—ideals that were hailed as central to a developing middle class—had its narrative risks. Those same activities that could appear, on the one hand, as examples of dedicated self-improvement, could also be viewed as ambitious posturing. Self-awareness or self-obsession? Ambition or aggression? ...

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3. Fracturing Genteel Identity: The Cultural Work of Grotesque Play

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pp. 71-100

Along with overtly competitive and childishly playful activities, which circumvented genteel expectations, representations of the bizarre, transformed body rose to prominence in mid-century cultural life, forming another challenge to mannered social self-presentation. Like mid-century freak shows, miscellanies, and sensationalist museums such as P. T. Barnum's (which opened in 1841), ...

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4. Skills Rewarded: Women's Lives Transformed through Entertainment

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pp. 101-129

While entertainment guide manuals provide evidence of clear patterns and changing trends in home entertainment, they are augmented by another type of narrative about entertainment—that appearing in nineteenth-century fiction. Fictional renderings of leisure enterprises, which often appear as lengthy and contextualized portrayals of games and theatricals, argue for the value of engaging in home entertainment. ...

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5. Staging Disaster: Turn-of-the-Century Entertainment Scenes and the Failure of Personal Transformation

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pp. 130-158

By the century's turn, references to entertainment and to skilled play frequently appear in tales of defeat rather than triumph, thereby reversing earlier portraits of women enabled by culturally based forms of competition. As part of this trend, entertainment episodes begin to treat characters' attempts to deploy their skills as occasions to question personal ambition as well as the larger social efficacy of competitive skills. ...

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6. Old Games, New Narratives, and the Specter of a Generational Divide

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pp. 159-183

By the early twentieth century, guide books on home entertainments repeatedly refer to a generational crisis, one supposedly threatening the social organization of U.S. culture. By suggesting that young people were socially inept, and, more troublingly, that their leisure employments differed broadly from those of their parents and grandparents, ...

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7. Imagined Unity: Entertainment's Communal Spectacles and Shared Histories

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pp. 184-207

Charlotte Perkins Gihnan's 1915 utopian novel, Herland, details the adventures of three male explorers who encounter a society entirely inhabited and governed by women.1 Confronted with a peaceful, orderly nation where social problems such as ignorance, poverty, child care, and socioeconomic competition no longer exist, ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 208-212

Throughout this study I have composed a narrative of home entertainment's development in relation to a middle class's gradual and, often, reactionary understanding of itself as a class, a trajectory that encompasses internally contradictory impulses and trends. We have seen, for example, that home entertainment was both an everyday enterprise and, at specially crafted moments, an extraordinary one as well. ...

Notes

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pp. 213-240

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 241-248

Index

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pp. 249-257