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Charlotte M. Canning, The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance (2005)
Pithy one sentence summary:
Once one of the most popular entertainment forms but now nearly forgotten, in the early 20th century Circuit Chautauquas offered rural audiences the means to edify, entertain, educate, and enlarge their cultural horizons; as a performance form they functioned by disavowing their own theatricality (until 1913) in the process of reflecting back “American” values (especially the value of citizenship).
Pithy three sentence critique:
At the level of sheer information, a good read. At the level of interpretation, there’s much to be desired. Did the Chautauqua model overrun the writing of this book?