"Listen to the stories, hear it in the songs" : musical theatre as queer historiography

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Title: "Listen to the stories, hear it in the songs" : musical theatre as queer historiography
Author: Dvoskin, Michelle Gail
Abstract: This dissertation takes musical theatre seriously as a historiographic practice , and considers six musicals that take the past as their subject matter in order to interrogate how these works craft their historical narratives . While there have been studies of historical drama and performance , musicals have generally been left out of that conversation , despite (or perhaps because of ) their immense popularity . This project argues that not only can musicals “do” history , they offer an excellent genre for theorizing what I call “queer historiography .” While sexuality remains one category of analysis , I use “queer” to signify opposition , not simply to heterosexuality , but to heteronormativity , and normativity more broadly . Musicals’ queer historiography , then , is a way of engaging past events that challenges normativity in form as well as content ; a way of productively challenging not only what we think we know about the past , but how we come to know it . Each chapter uses a different theoretical lens to guide close readings of a pair of thematically linked musicals . The first chapter considers 1776 (1969 ) and Assassins (1991 , 2004 ) as challenges to official narratives of United States history . My primary lens in this chapter is form , as I analyze how musicals’ structures influence their queer historiographic potential . Chapter 2 examines two musicals that offer histories of U .S . popular culture , Gypsy (1959 ) and Hairspray (2002 ) , considering how the placement of divas at the center of each show enables a historiography that is feminist as well as queer , challenging ideas about gender and sexuality while making women central to the histories they represent . In the third chapter I look to two musicals , Falsettos (1992 ) and Elegies : A Song Cycle (2003 ) , which present histories of trauma while featuring overtly gay , lesbian , and queer characters . I use these two texts to theorize how musicals might not simply present history as it “really” was , but also as it might have been , thereby offering what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick terms a “reparative reading” of history . In examining each of my six case studies , I analyze specific performances as well as written texts whenever possible .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /ETD -UT -2010 -05 -1057
Date: 2010-10-06


"Listen to the stories, hear it in the songs" : musical theatre as queer historiography. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /ETD -UT -2010 -05 -1057 .

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