This chapter discusses the politics and poetics of affect in relation to the generic characteristics of melodrama and pantomime in the first half of the nineteenth century. Newey argues that melodrama and pantomime use fantasy and excess to link political protest and topical commentary with strong feeling. Using the pantomimes of the prolific London manager and playwright, Nelson Lee, the chapter locates pantomimic topicality and political comment in the ritual and symbolic elements of pantomime as well as its resort to fantasy and excess. Following Poole and Sanders’ explorations of the melodramatic structure of feelings, Newey argues that pantomime also reveals how early Victorians felt about themselves.
The politics of performance and the performance of politics
Peter Yeandle and Katherine Newey
Yeandle and Newey argue for the vital role played by theatre in political and popular culture of the long nineteenth century. Using Peter Burke’s description of the ‘performative turn,’ they outline the conditions for, and the consequences of the emergence of theatre and performance studies as an essential component in the reconstruction of the Victorian past. They argue that the theatre was not only one of the most important cultural institutions of the nation, but also an industry, increasingly founded on a model of speculative capitalism, but still enmeshed within older oligarchic structures of regulation and custom. The theatre of the nineteenth century offers a case study at large for the transformation of the public sphere and the creation of a spectacular public culture in Victorian Britain.
This book brings together political and cultural historians, theatre and performance scholars, and specialists in the study of popular culture. The essays offer a series of shared and interdisciplinary approaches to the material and conceptual dimensions of ‘performance’ as an analytical category in order to analyse the cultural work of the theatre in the wider realm of public political life in nineteenth-century Britain.