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Show BoatPerforming Race in an American Musical$
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Todd Decker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759378

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759378.001.0001

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A Ferber Plot

A Ferber Plot

Chapter:
(p.13) 1 A Ferber Plot
Source:
Show Boat
Author(s):

Todd Decker

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759378.003.0001

Author Edna Ferber's inspiration and research methods while writing Show Boat are put in context with the vogue for Negro spirituals in 1920s Manhattan. The plot of the novel is situated within Ferber's previous work and the central character of Magnolia Hawkes Ravenal is compared to other Ferber heroines. Ferber's use of Negro spirituals to define Magnolia's identity and lay out the book's principal theme is critiqued from the perspective of popular entertainment history. Oscar Hammerstein II's alterations to Ferber's story, in particular his realignment of white characters' reactions to racial questions, are considered.

Keywords:   Edna Ferber, Jazz Age, miscegenation, Broadway theater, Show Boat, vaudeville, coon shouting, Negro spirituals

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