The Circus and Victorian Society, by Brenda Assael

£39.99
The Circus and Victorian Society, by Brenda Assael
The Circus and Victorian Society, by Brenda Assael

Published by the University of Virginia Press in 2005, 237 pages. Hardback with Dust Jacket (S8295RWSO)

From the front inside fly leaf: It was during the Victorian era that the circus, whose origins lay in the fairground world, emerged as a com­mercialized entertainment that we would recognize today. This development was intricately tied to a widespread demand for circus acts by a broad range of classes. In The Circus and Victorian Society, Brenda Assael examines this interest in the circus as an artistic form within the context of a vibrant, and sometimes not so respect­ able, consumer market. In doing so, she not only provides the first scholarly history of the Victorian circus but also contributes to recent debates about the role of popular culture.

The Victorian circus ring was a show­ case for equestrian battle scenes, Chinese jugglers, clowns, female crobats, and child performers. Although such acts exhibited wondrous qualities, unabashed displays of physical power, and occasionally subversive humor, Assael reveals how they were also rendered as grotesque, lewd, or dangerous. The consuming public's desire to see the very kinds of displays that reformers wished to regulate put the circus establish­ment in a difficult position. Wishing to create a respectable reputation for itself while also functioning as a profitable busi­ness, the industry was engaged in a struggle that required the appeasement of both the regulator and the consumer. This conflict not only informs us of the complicated role that the circus played in Victorian society but also provides a unique view into a col­lective psyche fraught by contradiction and anxiety.


The condition of the book is generally very good. The dust jacket has one or two very minor scuffs, and several creases on the rear side, but the spine is tight and intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound.
Condition New