Aspirational circus glamour: rethinking the circus grotesque through female aerialists of the inter-war period

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this article, the author challenges the designation of circus and circus disciplines, including aerial performance, as grotesque. The term ‘glamour’ was used in inter-war newspaper reports and more accurately describes circus in this period. The fundamental difference between the two concepts relies on the experience generated in the audience: glamour is aspirational whereas the grotesque provokes derision. It is likely they have been confused by scholars because both rely on transformation, excess and transgression. The author discusses these three principles to conclude how circus glamour works differently from the grotesque, including how glamour pushes at the boundaries of what is acceptable within the dominant culture rather than upturning the established order. The most aspirational of circus stars of the 1920s was the female aerialist whose aerial movement inspired a positive fantasy within audience members. By analysing aerial action alongside newspaper reports, memoirs, and publicity images that glorified aerialists Lillian Leitzel and Luisita Leers, the author argues that aerialists generated and were protected by affluent circus glamour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-314
JournalEarly Popular Visual Culture
Volume15
Issue number3
Early online date6 Oct 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2017

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