“Polish Theatre Revisited” is out!

You can now purchase my book on the history of theatre fans via University of Iowa Press webpage, Amazon.com, MIT Press Bookstore, Thriftbooks, Hugendubel, and other bookstores worldwide, both in paperback and epub. I am passionate about this book so do not hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to talk about it!

The term “fan” originated in England as an abbreviation for “fanatic,” which meant a “religious zealot.” It acquired its contemporary meaning, that of a “passionate enthusiast” or “devoted admirer” two centuries later in the American press (describing baseball aficionados). As Caroline Heim states: “Using the term to refer to theatre enthusiasts followed shortly thereafter with the grand entrance of the Matinee Girl into the theatre auditorium. Before that time, theatre fans were predominantly referred to as admirers or followers” (2016: 42). By 1914 American journalists applied the word to actors’ most devoted admirers, “although still placing it within quotes to mark it as novel slang” (Marcus 2019: 75). In the Polish language, they were most often called “theatremaniacs” (a direct translation of teatromani). The timing of the rise of this terminology does not indicate that “fan” culture only became visible in the nineteenth century. As Mark Duffett notes, “It is easy to make swift generalizations and say that prototypical forms of fandom therefore never existed in the earlier times. That would, however, mistake the invention of the label for the beginning of the phenomenon”(Duffet 2013: 5). Calling the most engaged nineteenth-century spectators “theatre fans” is a deliberately provocative and political gesture. It allows me to construct an analytical framework that questions images of historical spectators and contemporary fans and the social role fans played in nineteenth-century theatre. The introduction of a fan label into a historical narrative blurs the distinction between art and entertainment. It highlights how class tastes indicate what is culturally respectable, desirable, and acceptable, in scholarship as well as society. (p. 7)





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