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Title: The Irish in vaudeville and early American cinema : 1865 - 1905
Author: Mooney, Jennifer
Awarding Body: Ulster University
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2012
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Discussions of Irish representations in early American cinema often cite vaudeville as the source of crude Irish stereotypes. This thesis examines representations of the Irish in vaudeville from its beginnings and relates these to current debates regarding the function and significance of Irish stereotypes in early American cinema. The study of the Irish in popular culture has been recognised as one area where further research could shed light on ethnic identity formation among members of the Irish diaspora (Moloney 2009). To date, vaudeville has been overlooked in this regard. My thesis seeks to understand how Irish representations in vaudeville might have contributed to the development of an Irish-American identity during a period that witnessed the peak of both the Irish-born and second generation Irish population in America. This thesis makes a significant original contribution to knowledge. It adds to current debates in Irish film studies and shows that Irishness in vaudeville was imbued with meanings that were to become deeply embedded in American popular culture. It draws on a wide range of primary material, the majority of which has been neglected up to now in relation to vaudeville representations of the Irish. I have compiled a database of largely forgotten Irish vaudeville acts and show that Irish vaudeville performers contributed to images of themselves and other groups. I also present evidence of vaudeville plays which directly addressed Irish nationalist politics. Gender too influenced Irish representations and I illustrate the ways in which idealised versions of Irish masculinity and femininity were constructed in vaudeville. I conclude that vaudeville was not merely the source for early cinema's crude Irish stereotypes. Rather, I argue that the vaudeville stage provided one venue in which an Irish-American identity was constructed and negotiated, and that its Irish representations were more complex than has previously been understood
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available