Ethics and Bias

Historiography and Anti-Theatrical Prejudice in Nineteenth-Century America


An examination of anti-theatrical prejudice in the United States in the nineteenth century helps focus an issue at the heart of ethical concerns in present-day research, namely, the anxiety about truth-telling. For much of the nineteenth century and two thirds of the twentieth century, the ideal was to suppress point of view in the writing of history, whereas our own day recognises, perhaps even embraces, the dominance of point of view and the futility of attempts to deny its presence and performance in history writing (Reinelt and Roach 1992, 293–4). Ethical concerns are magnified in writing cultural history because performance is, by its nature, unstable. In our own day, too, where the battle is for attention in a world with many other things to look at and where every man or woman is his or her own performer, the anti-theatrical prejudice emerges, I hope to show, as a real historical position, but (as Mark Hodin calls it) a ‘bad faith’ historiographical position, one that helps obscure, rather than reveal, the historical subject (Hodin 2000, 226).


Nineteenth Century National Capital Historical Subject American Theatre American Drama 
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© Rosemarie K. Bank 2016

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