Circus Video: Dr. Janet Davis [Part I]

"Bearded Ladies, Dainty Amazons, Hindoo Fakirs, and Lady Savages: Circus Representations of Gender and Race in Victorian America", a talk by Dr. Janet Davis discusses gender and race issues in the American circus. Below is the video from her lecture at the University of Virginia, October 7, 2005. Sponsored by the UVa American Studies Department, UVa Drama Department, and the University Specical Lectures Committee.

The videos were captured in MPEG-4 format. They can be viewed in Quicktime, VLC Media Player, or other media players compatible to the MPEG-4 format. Dr. Davis' lecture text is also available to download here. [24 page pdf] Please note: No part of this talk can be reproduced without the expressed permission of Dr. Davis.

Click the images to view the clips.


Professor LaVahn Hoh introduces Dr. Davis:

Dr. Janet Davis, professor of American studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of The Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top.

Prof. Hoh also acknowledges the support his project has received from the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

Time: 3:44

The Circus Comes to Town

Davis' Opening Remarks:

Dr. Davis introduces circus posters as the central means of advertising the show months in advance of its actual arrival. Towns saturated with these images. Plastered on storefronts, barns, saloons, businesses--in exchange for "comp" tickets.

Time: 1:20


An Institution of American Culture

The Historical Moment of the Circus:

Dr. Davis describes the growth of the American Circus around the turn of the 20th century mirrored the growth of the Nation. The historical significance of "Circus Day"

Time: 3:09


Mabel Stark

Mabel Stark - A Particular Circus Woman

Mabel Stark felt alienated by the watchful gender mores of small-town life. While her adolescent classmates talked constantly of marriage, she wanted nothing of the sort. Instead, she wanted to escape. She first became a nurse, but the stress of the job frayed her nerves. Eventually she suffered a nervous breakdown and "ran away" to California, where she met the showman Al Sands. In 1913, she joined the Al G. Barnes circus

Time: 3:17

Click Here For more of Dr. Davis's lecture.

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