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Ol' (wo)man river?: Broadway's gendering of Edna Ferber's Show Boat

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Competing philosophies of American womanhood permeate Edna Ferber's Show Boat, which first appeared as a serial in the Woman's Home Companion. Published in 1926, in the midst of a dramatic redefining of American womanhood, Ferber's story engaged with the complexities of conflicting gender ideologies and offered a model for navigating the turbulent discourses in women's culture. While well suited for a women's magazine, Ferber's focus on femininity dissipated as Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II and Florenz Ziegfeld adapted her Show Boat into the iconic American musical familiar to theatre scholars. This essay examines gender ideologies in Ferber's original work and the restructuring of these ideologies in adapting her work for the stage.

Keywords: Edna Ferber; Show Boat; adaptation; gender; musical; women's culture

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of WisconsinMadison.

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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