History of American Burlesque

History of American Burlesque

Every Summer, NYU Drama Department.

Burlesque has had a long, contentious, and constantly changing relationship to public mores, social expectations, and other forms of popular entertainment. Coined in the 16th century as a literary or theatrical form that inverts form and content, burlesque is a subset of parody that either elevates the mundane or vulgarizes the lofty. When Lydia Thompson and the British Blondes invaded the United States in 1868, the public understanding of burlesque transformed from a literary form to a performance style, and the worlds of “leg shows” and burlesque became intertwined in the public imagination.

This course comprised of lectures, discussions, readings, and the occasional homework assignment will cover some of the major historical shifts in the American burlesque tradition since the mid-nineteenth century. Special consideration will be given to understanding burlesque in relationship to other entertainment genres such as vaudeville, minstrelsy, early film, melodrama, musical theatre, world’s fairs, as well as to the larger social, cultural, and historical context in which burlesque has taken place.

This class has only been offered to the Drama Department at New York University since 2005 and once for the New York School of Burlesque.

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