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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Passion, Purity and Patriotism: Melodrama and the Evangelical Divide

  • Author(s): Stone, Katie Neff
  • Advisor(s): Kubiak, Anthony
  • et al.

Passion, Purity and Patriotism: Melodrama and the Evangelical Divide is invested in the regulation of purity norms within the United States of America during the period immediately following the Civil War, looking at the development of time and emotion along gendered lines within melodramatic performances. Rather than relegating these constructions of time and emotion to the historical past, this work traces the history of temporal and emotional regulation into a reading of the contemporary Evangelical church, which relies on the same melodramatic tropes to control and construct gender performances. Historical inquiry, textual analysis of late 19th century melodramas, critical analysis of three distinct moments in the life of a woman—girlhood, marriage and childbirth—, and cultural analysis of the purity ball and Quiverfull movements highlight the various manifestations of purity culture throughout United States’ past and present, creating an idealized version of the woman, formulated through sentiment and futurity. This dissertation looks specifically at Dion Boucicault’s Rip Van Winkle, The Poor of New York, and The Octoroon, as well as James Herne’s Margaret Fleming, Augustine Daly’s Divorce, and the Broadway musical The Black Crook. My argument is that these forms of melodrama are the direct ancestors of Evangelical church culture in the contemporary United States, and that the vigilance over maintaining both national and personal purity through emotion and time is a project that creates not only the idealized woman as a daughter, wife and mother, but also an idealized American citizen who conforms to the societal and legislative definitions of purity.

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