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Music Hall & Modernity

Late Victorian Discovery Of Popular Culture

Barry J. Faulk

Publication Year: 2004

The late-Victorian discovery of the music hall by English intellectuals marks a crucial moment in the history of popular culture. Music Hall and Modernity demonstrates how such pioneering cultural critics as Arthur Symons and Elizabeth Robins Pennell used the music hall to secure and promote their professional identity as guardians of taste and national welfare. These social arbiters were, at the same time, devotees of the spontaneous culture of “the people.”

In examining fiction from Walter Besant, Hall Caine, and Henry Nevinson, performance criticism from William Archer and Max Beerbohm, and late-Victorian controversies over philanthropy and moral reform, scholar Barry Faulk argues that discourse on music-hall entertainment helped consolidate the identity and tastes of an emergent professional class. Critics and writers legitimized and cleaned up the music hall, at the same time allowing issues of class, respect, and empowerment to be negotiated.

Music Hall and Modernity offers a complex view of the new middle-class, middle-brow, mass culture of late-Victorian London and contributes to a body of scholarship on nineteenth-century urbanism. The book will also interest scholars concerned with the emergence of a professional managerial class and the genealogy of cultural studies. 

Published by: Ohio University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

It is a great pleasure to acknowledge those who supported me in the process of writing this book, and who made it possible for me to complete it. I am indebted to Patrick Scott for introducing me to the study of Victorian popular culture, and to James Hipp and Marc Demarest for their support and friendship....

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pp. 1-22

This book studies the many literary and journalistic representations of Britain’s first indigenous and fully capitalized mass culture form, the music hall.1 The London music hall reached its commercial zenith roughly....

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1.Music Hall

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pp. 23-49

The success of the penny gaff, the precursor to variety entertainment, stirred a moral panic in otherwise seasoned mid-Victorian social explorer Henry Mayhew. The prodigal creativity of working-class audiences elicited his alarm and apprehension....

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2.Camp Expertise

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pp. 50-74

By the close of the nineteenth century, English music hall or “variety,” an entertainment form that incorporated comic acts, animal tricks, dramatic sketches, and dance, attracted middle-class patronage, thereby losing its exclusive character as...

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Spies and Experts

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pp. 75-110

It remains a scholarly commonplace to assert that Victorian sexuality was dominated by an ever-expanding regulation of the body. Even when the rise of the New Woman challenged....

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4.Tales of the Culture Industry

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pp. 111-141

In previous chapters, I have focused on the different ways the halls were represented in various media, in the pronouncements of journalists or on the correspondence page of daily papers....

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5. “Spectacular” Bodies

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pp. 142-187

An inspector for the London County Council visiting in 1893 the Palace Theatre of Varieties, an opera house that had been converted into a music hall two years before, duly noted that entertainment at the Palace featured “skirt....

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pp. 188-196

At the turn of the last century, London music hall crossed class lines, drawing a substantial middle- and upper-class patronage along with its core working-class audience.When culture forms cross over in this way, they acquire a spate of interpreters, with a range...


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pp. 197-228


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pp. 229-236


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pp. 237-244

E-ISBN-13: 9780821441398
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821415856

Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 70749986
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Music Hall & Modernity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Performing arts in literature.
  • Popular culture in literature.
  • Popular culture -- England -- London -- History -- 19th century.
  • Performing arts -- England -- London -- History -- 19th century.
  • English literature -- England -- London -- History and criticism.
  • Music-halls (Variety-theaters, cabarets, etc.) -- England -- London -- History -- 19th century.
  • English literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism
  • Music-halls (Variety-theaters, cabarets, etc.) in literature.
  • London (England) -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
  • London (England) -- In literature.
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