Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body

Front Cover
Rosemarie Garland Thomson, Rosemarie Thomson-Garland
NYU Press, 1996 - History - 400 pages

Giants. Midgets. Tribal non-Westerners. The very fat. The very thin. Hermaphrodites. Conjoined twins. The disabled. The very hirsute. In American history, all have shared the platform equally, as freaks, human oddities, their only commonality their assigned role of anomalous other to the gathered throngs. For the price of a ticket, freak shows offered spectators an icon of bodily otherness whose difference from them secured their own membership in a common American identity--by comparison ordinary, tractable, normal.

Rosemarie Thomson's groundbreaking anthology probes America's disposition toward the visually different. The book's essays fall into four main categories: historical explorations of American freak shows in the era of P.T. Barnum; the articulation of the freak in literary and textual discourses; contemporary relocations of freak shows; and theoretical analyses of freak culture. Essays address such diverse topics as American colonialism and public presentations of natives; laughing gas demonstrations in the 1840's; Shirley Temple and Tom Thumb; Todd Browning's landmark movie Freaks; bodybuilders as postmodern freaks; freaks in Star Trek; Michael Jackson's identification with the Elephant Man; and the modern talk show as a reconfiguration of the freak show. In her introduction, Thomson traces the freak show from antiquity to the modern period and explores the constitutive, political, and textual properties of such exhibits.

Freakeryis a fresh, insightful exploration of a heretofore neglected aspect of American mass culture.

 

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User Review  - ElizabethChapman - LibraryThing

"Freakery" is a scholarly and cerebral -- and anything but dry -- series of essays on freaks shows and the culture, literature, and social attitudes that developed surrounding "freaks." From P.T ... Read full review

Contents

1
6
The Social Construction of Freaks
23
Carnival Talker
26
Barnum and Bailey Circus Sideshow
33
The Problem of
38
Freaks asſat the Limit
55
The Exhibition of Human Oddities in
69
Drawing of Monstrous Birth
73
Tom Thumb and Shirley Temple
185
Footlighting the Dark Continent
207
Bradys Fairy Wedding Group
209
The Politics and Commerce of Exhibiting Cultural
219
What an object he would have made of me Tattooing and the Racial
234
Gender Imperialism
248
One of Us Tod Brownings Freaks
265
Freaks Gender and the Incorporation of History in
277

Peales Artist in His Museum
89
Laughing Gas
108
Gillrays Scientific Researches
111
Demonstrations 18001850
118
The Central Iowa 4H Fair
124
Fat Lady Show Banner
131
The Strange Career of P T
139
Artists Representation of Freak Produc
141
Science and Freaks in Germany
158
Daisy and Violet Hilton the
173
The Life and Loves of a SheDevil and Nights at the
291
Teaching Freaks
302
The Dime Museum Freak Show Reconfigured as Talk Show
315
Extraterrestrialism and DeepSpace
327
Medical Documentaries and the Hyperrealization of
338
A Postmodern Freak Show
356
Michael Jacksons Grotesque Glory
368
363
400
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About the author (1996)

Rosemarie Garland Thomson is Assistant Professor of English at Howard University.

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