Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900-1970s

By Jane Nicholas

© 2018

In 1973, a five year old girl known as Pookie was exhibited as "The Monkey Girl" at the Canadian National Exhibition. Pookie was the last of a number of children exhibited as 'freaks' in twentieth-century Canada.

Jane Nicholas takes us on a search for answers about how and why the freak show persisted into the 1970s. In Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900–1970s, Nicholas offers a sophisticated analysis of the place of the freak show in twentieth-century culture. Freak shows survived and thrived because of their flexible business model, government support, and by mobilizing cultural and medical ideas of the body and normalcy. This book is the first full length study of the freak show in Canada and is a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of Canadian popular culture, attitudes toward children, and the social construction of able-bodiness. Based on an impressive research foundation, the book will be of particular interest to anyone interested in the history of disability, the history of childhood, and the history of consumer culture.

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Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.9in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP004812

  • PUBLISHED APR 2018

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    ISBN 9781487522087
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  • PUBLISHED MAY 2018

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Quick Overview

In Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900–1970s, Nicholas offers a sophisticated analysis of the place of the freak show in twentieth-century culture.

Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900-1970s

By Jane Nicholas

© 2018

In 1973, a five year old girl known as Pookie was exhibited as "The Monkey Girl" at the Canadian National Exhibition. Pookie was the last of a number of children exhibited as 'freaks' in twentieth-century Canada.

Jane Nicholas takes us on a search for answers about how and why the freak show persisted into the 1970s. In Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900–1970s, Nicholas offers a sophisticated analysis of the place of the freak show in twentieth-century culture. Freak shows survived and thrived because of their flexible business model, government support, and by mobilizing cultural and medical ideas of the body and normalcy. This book is the first full length study of the freak show in Canada and is a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of Canadian popular culture, attitudes toward children, and the social construction of able-bodiness. Based on an impressive research foundation, the book will be of particular interest to anyone interested in the history of disability, the history of childhood, and the history of consumer culture.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.9in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    "In Canadian Carnival Freaks and the Extraordinary Body, 1900−1970s, Jane Nicholas seamlessly weaves together multiple histories: the history of the body, of children and childhood, of the working class family, of the cultural and social history of the carnival and the ‘freak show,’ among a number of others. Meticulously researched and sensitively argued, Nicholas adds immeasurably to our understanding of the central role that marginalized Canadians, particularly those with embodied differences, played in shaping broader ideas of normalcy, social acceptability, productive work, and cultural consumption."


    Mona Gleason, Department of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia

    "Working backwards from the last CNE ‘freak show’ in 1973, Nicholas demonstrates the workings of state and business that made the shows fundamental to a burgeoning modern popular culture − hence consumer culture. She positions the freak show as integral to a ‘modern exhibitionary complex’ focused on the body as spectacle, an innovative approach to the power relations inherent in race, gender, and class, as well as the lesser discussed, but nonetheless critical, categories of age and ability. In this provocative and exciting book, above all a welcome addition to the growing historiography on disability, the author adds much to understandings of the ‘normal’ body as historically contingent, socially defined, and culturally performed."


    Cynthia Comacchio, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University

    "This book represents the first in-depth scholarly examination of the freak show in Canada, an institution with deep roots in our popular consciousness. Jane Nicholas has produced a significant addition to our understanding of the history of Canadian entertainment, attitudes towards children, and the social construction of able-bodiedness."


    Keith Walden, Department of History, Trent University

    "Original, careful research combined with insightful analysis makes this book an important contribution to our understanding of popular culture and human variation."


    Bob Bogdan, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Syracuse University
  • Author Information

    Jane Nicholas is an associate professor in the Department of History and Department of Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies at the University of Waterloo.
  • Table of contents

    List of illustrations
    Acknowledgements

    Introduction:  Pookie’s Story

    Chapter 1:  Monsters and Freaks:  Exhibitionary Culture and the Order of Things

    Chapter 2:  The Carnival State:  Protest, Moral Regulation, and Profits

    Chapter 3:  The Carnival Business in Canada:  Paternalism, Belonging, and Freak Show Labour         

    Chapter 4:  The Twentieth Century Freak Show:  Medical Discourse, Normality, and Race

    Chapter 5:  Not Just Child’s Play:  Child Freak Show Consumers and Workers

    Chapter 6:  The Spectacularization of Small and Cute:  Midget Shows and the Dionne Quintuplets

    Epilogue:  ‘I guess it really is all over’:  The End Which is Not One

    Bibliography