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Spectacle of DeformityFreak Shows and Modern British Culture$
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Nadja Durbach

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780520257689

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257689.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Introduction: Exhibiting Freaks

Introduction: Exhibiting Freaks

(p.1) Introduction: Exhibiting Freaks
Spectacle of Deformity

Nadja Durbach

University of California Press

This introductory chapter first sets out the purpose of the book, which is to argue that freak shows should not be dismissed as merely marginal, exploitative, or voyeuristic forms of entertainment. In fact, displays of freakery were critical sites for popular and professional debates about the meanings attached to bodily difference. The book focuses on Britain from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. This is in part because it was here and during this moment of “taxonomic frenzy” that the European freak show arguably reached its apotheosis. The discussion then turns to the freak show and commercialized leisure, the freak show and the body, and the medicalization of monstrosity.

Keywords:   freak shows, Britain, commercialized leisure, body

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