The Scene of Harlem Cabaret: Race, Sexuality, Performance

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University of Chicago Press, 2009 - History - 257 pages
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Harlem’s nightclubs in the 1920s and ’30s were a crucible for testing society’s racial and sexual limits. Normally tacit divisions were there made spectacularly public in the vibrant, but often fraught, relationship between performer and audience. The cabaret scene, Shane Vogel contends, also played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance by offering an alternative to the politics of sexual respectability and racial uplift that sought to dictate the proper subject matter for black arts and letters. Individually and collectively, luminaries such as Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, and Ethel Waters expanded the possibilities of blackness and sexuality in America, resulting in a queer nightlife that flourished in music, in print, and on stage.

Deftly combining performance theory, literary criticism, historical research, and biographical study, The Scene of Harlem Cabaret brings this rich moment in history to life, while exploring the role of nightlife performance as a definitive touchstone for understanding the racial and sexual politics of the early twentieth century.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Chapter One American Cabaret Performance and the Production of Intimacy
39
1926 and After
74
Langston Hughes and the Queer Poetics of Harlem Nightlife
104
Uplift Sociology and the Problem of Amusement
132
Chapter Five Lena Hornes Impersona
167
Afterword Irrealizing the Queer Harlem Renaissance
194
Notes
203
Bibliography
227
Index
245
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About the author (2009)

Shane Vogel is assistant professor of English at Indiana University.

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