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Title: Black bodies : racial representation and performance in Georgian-period drama
Author: Khan, Yasser Shams
ISNI:       0000 0005 0291 4532
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis focuses on the shifting popular cultural representations of the black body in Georgian-period drama. It enquires into the form and function of the black body in a variety of theatrical racial representations (noble savage, grateful slave, comic servant, vengeful Moor, rebel slave, racial type). By analysing these specific manifestations of the black body in their historical contexts, the thesis reconstructs a narrative of the periodic shifts in the formalization of the black body from late Restoration drama through sentimental drama to melodrama and other illegitimate dramatic forms like pantomimes and monopolylogues. In this thesis, I argue that these black character types are but varying provisional solutions to the representational crisis of a liberal empire that is economically dependent upon the institution of slavery and the slave trade. In considering the black body as a noble savage, the formal conflict between feudal notions of nobility and the more democratically sentimental notions of common humanity is staged in a manner in which popular narratives like Oroonoko and Inkle and Yarico were subtly altered, marking a shift from a noble body to a sentimental body during the eighteenth century. By the mid-eighteenth century, sentimental formalizations of the black body as grateful slaves and comic servants, under a representative regime of benevolent imperialism, supplanted the noble savage character. After the eruption of revolution in France, and Britain's involvement in the Revolutionary Wars, the black body was reformulated as a melodramatic rebel slave, competing with other melodramatized performances of vengeful Moors and sentimental slaves. The melodramatization of the black body was accompanied by its increasing racialisation in the early-nineteenth century, with the emergence of the racial type, which was performed in freak shows, lampooned in racial burlesques, and ultimately challenged in the performance of monstrosity.
Supervisor: Michael, Timothy Sponsor: Felix Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Race relations in literature ; Marxist criticism ; Nineteenth century Literature ; Eighteenth century Literature ; Drama