University of Newcastle researcher, Dr Gillian Arrighi, aims to bring the unique cultural contribution of child performers to scholarly attention.

Creative arts researcher awarded US fellowship

07 May 2014

University of Newcastle researcher, Dr Gillian Arrighi, aims to bring the unique cultural contribution of child performers to scholarly attention.

Dr Gillian ArrighiDr Arrighi, a Senior Lecturer in creative and performing arts in the School of Creative Arts, has recently been awarded a 2014-2015 Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, US.

Her current research projects are concerned with the contribution of children to the global entertainment industry, and an investigation into the global 'youth' and 'social' circus.

"I am researching the contribution made by child performers to popular entertainment forms, including circus, variety, minstrelsy, and comic opera, during the latter decades of the 19th and early decades of the 20th centuries," Dr Arrighi said.

The Harry Ransom Center advances the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible original cultural materials. It houses an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, photography, film, art and the performing arts.

While based in Texas, US, for a month, Dr Arrrighi will delve deep into the centre's significant resource of printed materials from the era, including performing arts posters, programs, playbills, heralds, newspaper clippings, postcards, cigarette cards and photographs.

This rich array of ephemera will provide primary data to support questions that are central to Dr Arrighi's work, such as how producers and parents navigated the labor and education reforms aimed at preventing children from working.

"The labor of these entertaining children occurred in tension with the industrial and education reforms that were slowly but surely reshaping cultural attitudes to children and childhood," Dr Arrighi said. "Such reforms also contributed to the growing middle-class concern for the sanctity of the child's unique stage of life."

Dr Arrighi hopes to retrieve primary evidence that will contribute to a monograph investigating the correlation between professional child performers, the popular stage, and the drives of nation and empire building that influenced Anglo/American culture throughout the period under consideration.



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