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Freak Shows at British Seaside Resorts 1900-1950

Purce, Emma Jane (2018) Freak Shows at British Seaside Resorts 1900-1950. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:65907)

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Abstract

This thesis merges the history of the seaside and the history of the freak show, to explore the display of freaks in the first half of the twentieth-century, including their meanings, representations and constructions for the British public. It builds upon the scholarly research conducted by Leslie Fiedler, Robert Bogdan, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, and Nadja Durbach that focuses on the exhibition of unusual bodies for entertainment in the nineteenth-century. Through concentrating on displays of freakery between 1900 and 1950, it assesses the continuation of freakery at British seaside resorts, spaces on the physical and metaphorical margins of British life. The thesis assesses the seaside space as a site for the continuation of freakery in the twentieth-century. It examines the different types of unusual bodies that were displayed as part of the coastal freak show including midgets, starvation performers, fat people, and 'half-men, half-women'. Through contextualising exhibitions of unusual bodies within their social and cultural context, it demonstrates how the British public understood themselves in relation to the unusual person on display, particularly in reference to health, wellness, 'normality', and 'abnormality'. Ultimately, the thesis argues that freak shows remained central to British culture in seaside locations until the mid-twentieth century, when other forms of amusement, such as films and television, became more popular in the leisure lives of the public, and became the primary way in which the public appeased their curiosity in those with unusual bodies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Anderson, Julie
Uncontrolled keywords: Freak shows, seaside resorts, Britain, culture
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2018 13:10 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 22:52 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/65907 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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