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Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker ‘In Broadway Playhouses’: Middlebrow Theatricality and Sophisticated Humour

Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker ‘In Broadway Playhouses’: Middlebrow Theatricality and... <jats:p> This essay proposes that humorists Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker cast the middlebrow professional as a modern performer in their drama reviews and fiction. Under the sign of sophistication, their work champions individual identity and social status based on professionalism, public performance, and wit. The article traces sophistication as an ideal on the Broadway stage of the 1920s and 1930s, analyzes the skeptical personae that Benchley and Barker create in their drama reviews for middlebrow magazines, and follows the trope of performance (monologue, song, stage) in fiction by Benchley and Parker. In their drama reviews, Benchley and Parker reclaim the tonal extremes of modernist drama for the alienated middle-class professional, and they insist that even artistic avant-gardes derive their techniques from low-cultural spectacle and mass media people-pleasing. In so doing, they encouraged their readers to view themselves as consumers and producers of modern performances. In their fiction, Benchley and Parker use the roles of the beleaguered businessman and the world-weary divorcée to advocate social mobility, professional independence, and hedonistic choice over self-abnegating duty. </jats:p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Modernist Cultures Edinburgh University Press

Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker ‘In Broadway Playhouses’: Middlebrow Theatricality and Sophisticated Humour

Modernist Cultures , Volume 6 (1): 121 – May 1, 2011

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Publisher
Edinburgh University Press
Copyright
© Edinburgh University Press 2011
Subject
Articles; Film, Media & Cultural Studies
ISSN
2041-1022
eISSN
1753-8629
DOI
10.3366/mod.2011.0007
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

<jats:p> This essay proposes that humorists Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker cast the middlebrow professional as a modern performer in their drama reviews and fiction. Under the sign of sophistication, their work champions individual identity and social status based on professionalism, public performance, and wit. The article traces sophistication as an ideal on the Broadway stage of the 1920s and 1930s, analyzes the skeptical personae that Benchley and Barker create in their drama reviews for middlebrow magazines, and follows the trope of performance (monologue, song, stage) in fiction by Benchley and Parker. In their drama reviews, Benchley and Parker reclaim the tonal extremes of modernist drama for the alienated middle-class professional, and they insist that even artistic avant-gardes derive their techniques from low-cultural spectacle and mass media people-pleasing. In so doing, they encouraged their readers to view themselves as consumers and producers of modern performances. In their fiction, Benchley and Parker use the roles of the beleaguered businessman and the world-weary divorcée to advocate social mobility, professional independence, and hedonistic choice over self-abnegating duty. </jats:p>

Journal

Modernist CulturesEdinburgh University Press

Published: May 1, 2011

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