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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Extra resources for African-American performance and theater history : a critical reader
4 In the case of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, this trope functions in its reinscription of already-held stereotypes, its elevation of stereotype to archetype, and, ﬁnally, the continued repetition of these images on the stage, which yield a cultural penetration that is so deep that, despite the fact that Uncle Tom’s Cabin is no 20 Social Protest and the Politics of Representation longer read widely, its stereotypical ﬁgures are well ﬁxed in the American imagination. Although Stowe’s novel was immensely popular, the proliferation of the “Tom Shows” that followed the novel increased the potency and size of its stereotypes.
Stowe and her theatrical imitators rescue their heroines from slavery and abuse. Like the tragic mulatto, the mammy has inspired a variety of critical material. For example, in Plantation Mistress, Catherine Clinton contends that the mammy myth was a creation of the white imagination. She existed as a counterpoint to the octoroon concubine, the light-skinned product of a “white man’s lust” who was habitually victimized by slave Uncle Tom’s Women 31 owners’ sexual appetites. In addition the Mammy was integral to the white male’s emasculation of slavery, since she and she alone projected an image of power wielded by blacks—a power rendered strictly benign and maternal in its inﬂuence.
Eva, like young George Shelby, understands the value of a loyal servant even when her mother does not. Marie complains that Mammy does not show proper devotion to her: If Mammy felt the interest in me she ought to, she’d wake easier—ofcourse she could. I’ve heard of people who had such devoted servants, but it never was my luck. Now Mammy has a sort of goodness; she’s smooth and respectful, but she’s selﬁsh at heart. Now, she never will be done ﬁdgeting and worrying about that husband of hers. You see when I was married and came to live here, of course I had to bring her with me, and her husband my father couldn’t spare.