Project Title

The Octoroon: Homophobia in the Antebellum American South

Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

COTA - Theatre and Performance Studies

Faculty Sponsor Name

Angela Farr-Schiller

Not required

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Historical plays act as records of past social belief systems, sometimes without an awareness of what they are recording. Analyzing Dion Boucicault’s 1859 play “The Octoroon, or Life in Louisiana,” which presents a picture of sexism, racism, and slavery in the antebellum American south, “The Octoroon”: Homophobia in the Antebellum American South argues that the play’s text reveals how homophobia, and a willingness to incriminate homosexuals over heterosexuals, present in the antebellum period, still exists today. This continuation is significant as the subtle homophobia within Boucicault’s text existed at a time when the “American Identity” was being crafted. Queer theory scholar Michael Ferguson and psychology and education scholar George Drazenovich lend support to my research through their studies on the understanding of sexuality in nineteenth century American culture. Through a close analysis of the play “The Octoroon”, my research concludes first that the criminalization of homosexuality, although not specifically stated in the text of the play, is existent within the story, and that this existence indicates a rapidly growing homophobia that we see in the demonization of homosexuality today.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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The Octoroon: Homophobia in the Antebellum American South

Historical plays act as records of past social belief systems, sometimes without an awareness of what they are recording. Analyzing Dion Boucicault’s 1859 play “The Octoroon, or Life in Louisiana,” which presents a picture of sexism, racism, and slavery in the antebellum American south, “The Octoroon”: Homophobia in the Antebellum American South argues that the play’s text reveals how homophobia, and a willingness to incriminate homosexuals over heterosexuals, present in the antebellum period, still exists today. This continuation is significant as the subtle homophobia within Boucicault’s text existed at a time when the “American Identity” was being crafted. Queer theory scholar Michael Ferguson and psychology and education scholar George Drazenovich lend support to my research through their studies on the understanding of sexuality in nineteenth century American culture. Through a close analysis of the play “The Octoroon”, my research concludes first that the criminalization of homosexuality, although not specifically stated in the text of the play, is existent within the story, and that this existence indicates a rapidly growing homophobia that we see in the demonization of homosexuality today.