“Precious Objects: The Material Culture of Nineteenth-Century Child Performers,” Guest lecture, MacKay Lecture Series, Faculty of Social Sciences, Dalhousie University, Nov. 6, 2014.

Snuff boxes, figurines, fans, medals, paper dolls, cups, sketches, tables, eggs, and ink pots. What do these seemingly disparate objects suggest about the production and consumption of child celebrity in the nineteenth century? What do they reveal about audience-performer relations and the immaterial labour undertaken by child performers in service to national or imperial agendas? How might theatre historians use these objects to re(dis)cover lost, overlooked, or forgotten performance repertoires? Responding to the recent “material culture” turn within theatre and performance studies and the uptake of “thing theory” by historians of the Victorian era, this talk will explore the careers of three celebrated child performers – Master William Henry West Betty, Jean Margaret Davenport, Charles S. Stratton (Tom Thumb) – through the objects that bear their image and circulated alongside them as they traveled from city to city and from one side of the ocean to the other.

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