Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination
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Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  51 ratings  ·  8 reviews
A staple of American popular culture during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the freak show seemed to vanish after the Second World War. But as Rachel Adams reveals in Sideshow U.S.A., images of the freak show, with its combination of the grotesque, the horrific, and the amusing, stubbornly reappeared in literature and the arts. Freak shows, she contends, have...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published December 1st 2001 by University Of Chicago Press
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Stevi Costa
Adams produces a cultural investigation of the freakshow, as well as the factors that lead to its decline and its revolutionary/counterculture recapitulations in the 1960s and beyond. Her history is capably done and compelling, but what's most striking is the way in which she blends this history with criticism. A sideshow afficionado myself, I can't say that Adams historical work on freakshows, her readings of freak photography, or the use of the camera/narrative in Tod Browning's Freaks were al...more
I requested this book thru ILL and got a copy from the IUPUI library.

Adams approaches the concept of "freaks" from a variety of angles, combining true stories with literary and cinematic portrayals and interpretations of the freak world. The writing style is academic, yet still engaging. Each chapter is written almost in the style of a formal paper, with a thesis, supporting materials, and concluding paragraphs. Her Notes and Bibliography sections are substantial (20 & 15 pages respectively...more
Sezin Koehler
Adams explores the history of the word and world of freaks, from the sideshow to the streets, as the term and existence of freaks changes through the times.

I took a number of breaks while reading this since it is an academic study and the language can be a bit exhausting if you're not used to reading gender studies, literary criticism and queer theory, so while reading this book I also read "Beloved", "The Wizard of Oz", and "How To Make An American Quilt", which was interesting since themes fr...more
I thought this book would focus more on the history of the sideshow, but I was not disappointed. It starts with a breif history of sideshows and then moves on to discuss how the term freak has changed over time, the appearance of freaks in film and literature, etc. The most interesting thing I learned was that the Bronz Zoo once had a pygmy on display in a cage with an orangutan, and a native american was on display in a museum in California.
Jul 12, 2014 Susan marked it as unfinished
Very good book, covering the movie "Freaks", Carson McCullers' writing, Diane Arbus'photos. It's definitely worth reading, but I'm looking more for history right now.
Sep 16, 2007 j rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: freaks
Recommended to j by: NYU met/gender studies
used this book to conduct research and write a paper on the urban performativity of tattoo.
also, i love anything related to freaks/hows. academic but still kickass.
I particularly liked the chapter on Tod Browning's Freaks.
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Rachel Adams is a writer and Professor of English and American Studies at Columbia University. She is the author of numerous academic articles and book reviews, as well as two books: Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination and Continental Divides: Remapping the Cultures of North America (both published by the University of Chicago Press). Her writing has also appeared in the...more
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