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Vol. 1 No. 2 (2020): Soundscapes, Sonic Cultures, and American Studies

The Gendered Sounds of Revolutionary American Theater

  • Leopold Lippert
April 1, 2019


This article examines the relationship of sound and gender politics in revolutionary America by reading two late eighteenth-century dramatic texts, the 1774 pamphlet A Dialogue, Between a Southern Delegate, and His Spouse (written pseudonymously by Mary V. V.), and Virginia playwright Robert Munford's five-act play The Patriots (written c1777, published only posthumously in 1798). Even though the sounds of early America cannot be accessed directly, as there was no sound recording in the modern, technology-based sense, and even though neither of the two dramatic texts has a known record of performances, the article sets out to explore how sound and speech were heard and negotiated, and how they reflected on prevailing cultural assumptions about gendered personhood, and the relationship between gender and politics. Arguably, attention to sound in these texts offers specific insights into the joint articulation of gender and transatlantic politics in the larger struggle over the American revolution. As this article shows, both texts, albeit for different reasons, strategically use gendered sounds to stage specific political interventions: By "listening" carefully to these sounds (as they are represented in writing), one can understand in more detail how acoustic environments impacted on the articulation, legitimation and deliberation of political argument in revolutionary America.


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