Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: No neutral fantasy : women, gender and music in Britain 1880-1920
Author: Bruseker, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 0508
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This study examines the relationship between an English music hall performer, Vesta Tilley, and her largely female working-class audience through the lens of the Barthesian concept of the Neutral. The primary sources investigated include published autobiographies, but also an important collection of scrapbooks held by the Worcester Archives and Archaeology Service, containing extensive newspaper clippings as well as letters written by fans. An examination of these texts was undertaken alongside genealogical research to add greater depth to the lives of the historical actors investigated here. This analysis shows that Vesta Tilley’s gender performance as a male impersonator, and the success she had in this role, was due to her constant self-positioning and re-positioning as Neutral. This was largely accomplished by appropriating a hybrid gender identity, one which was both male and female. The texts also demonstrate that the Neutral was equally employed by her working-class female audience members to embrace and reproduce the pleasure that the music hall performance brought them. They prioritised the pleasure of the evening entertainment, and ensured the reproduction of these values in their own lives, and also across generations. Far from theoretical, the words written by these women – performer and audience – demonstrate the radicality of the Neutral, and also how radical they themselves were in a time usually understood to restrict the autonomous pleasure of women. Consequently, while Barthes concluded that the Neutral was merely a fantasy, the investigations here demonstrate that it was instead a strategy, a way for those in marginal positions to ‘get away with’ personal autonomy.
Supervisor: Jarman, F. ; Davies, A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral