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Uncle Tom's Cabin as Dominant Culture

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Abstract:

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Uncle Tom's Cabin was the most frequently performed play in the United States. This article applies Raymond Williams's concept of epochal analysis to make sense of the dizzying array of adaptations of this text taking place well after the end of slavery in the United States. By 1876, Uncle Tom's Cabin was part of the dominant culture, and the Tom plays themselves appropriated other newly emergent aspects of popular culture, including jubilee singers, World's Fairs, and circuses. These examples illustrate a process of adaptation that had little to do with fidelity to an original text and much to do with tapping into the power of iconic images. These performances, including Edwin S. Porter's 1903 cinematic adaptation, Uncle Tom's Cabin or Slavery Days, provide a fascinating window onto the concerns and preoccupations of post-Civil War America.

Keywords: Tom plays; Uncle Tom's Cabin; adaptation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/jafp.1.1.45_1

Affiliations: University of Northern Iowa.

Publication date: 2007-11-07

More about this publication?
  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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