By Harry Justin Elam; David Krasner
An anthology of severe writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and function in America.
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Additional info for African-American performance and theater history : a critical reader
Given the repression that abounded in nineteenth-century society, representations of blackness served as an outlet for baser instincts and an attempt to project them onto black bodies and distance them from polite society. Dyer describes white masculinity as including both light and dark elements, yet it is the triumph of the white aspects, linked to mental or spiritual pursuits, over their corporeal dark opposites that provides the strength of white manhood. The employment of the blackface embodiesthese baser aspects but projects them out of the white body and underlines the white’s mastery of them.
The audience was always aware that the intelligent “black” character on the stage who inspired compassion was a white woman. At the same time, the audience was aware that the “black” woman who ﬂouted the norms of society and stepped out of her place was also a white woman. The images that the white women created reinforced the need for control of black women. Through her near-white characters, Stowe sought to bring the tragedy of slavery close to the sympathies of her readers. But Stowe’s picture of pure black mothers is not so sympathetic.
Like Stowe herself, her characters speak for the absent black woman; Mammy’s existence is tied only to her physical service to the characters’ needs and to her thematic service as a vehicle for Stowe’s politics. Any discussion of the mammy ﬁgures in Uncle Tom’s Cabin would be incomplete without a recognition of Uncle Tom himself. Tom embodies many of the qualities suggested for women by the cult of true womanhood, which idealized motherhood. Uncle Tom, as feminized hero of the novel, displays many aspects of the mammy.