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Gilbert and Sullivan: Gender, Genre, Parody (Gender and Culture Series) Hardcover – November 25, 2010
The Amazon Book Review
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A superb examination of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas... Highly recommended.Library Journal(Library Journal)
Rich, challenging, irritating, inspiring, provocative, just what one wants in a new G&S study, this is a worthwhile albeit tough read.(CHOICE)
Williams substantive study is all the more praiseworthy because her biting insights into gender and sexuality, sharpened through the lens of contemporary critical theory, are tucked within what could pass as a much more staid study of Gilbert and Sullivan.(Josephine Lee Nineteenth Century Gender Studies)
Unmodified rapture should best describe the scholarly reponse to this exciting contribution to a broad swath of disciplines...(Victorian Studies)
this book will be an important reference point for future discussions of Gilbert and Sullivan, gender, and the Victorian stage.(Benjamin D. O'Dell English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920)
[A] triumphant cultural history.(Joseph Bristow Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900)
An outstanding pick... this is a recommendation for any college-level course in Gilbert and Sullivan, and for readers who would receive a fine reinterpretation of their works and impact.(Midwest Book Review)
Carolyn Williams highlights what ought to have been obvious all along about Gilbert and Sullivan's portrayal of gender: they're just kidding. Williams gives these wonderful works the reading they deserve.(Robyn Warhol-Down, Ohio State University)
In its details, intelligence, breadth of scholarship, and original archival research, this book offers treasures and a beautifully written, sometimes exhilarating read. A brilliant, unique contribution to Victorian studies that will prove to be a benchmark.(Adrienne Munich, Stony Brook University)
It takes superb critical tact and intelligencenot to mention a finely-developed affection for the ludicrousto write well about the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. How, indeed, to capture their classic mixturethe satiric fizz and musical japes, sublimely silly plots and galumphing stage turns, the gorgeous lyrical flightswithout destroying everything that is funny, significant, and ravishing? Yet in Gilbert and Sullivan, Carolyn Williams has done exactly that: given us a scholarly study as full of dazzle, wit, generosity, and surpassing intelligence as the Savoy operas themselves. Yes, one appreciates at once the graceful, marvelously informed discussions of individual works, but this book is always opening out into something larger and more magisterial too. In the complex and absorbing way Williams has mobilized a spectacular panoply of themesthe history of nineteenth-century comic theater, Victorian feminism and sexual mores, the nature of parody and burlesque, the dramatic use of choruses, political satire, Wagnerism in England, the Aesthetic movement-she astounds and delights. Pour, oh pour, the pirate sherry: this is joyful, joyous, life-enhancing scholarship.(Terry Castle, Stanford University, author of The Professor and Other Writings)
Top Customer Reviews
But I had to write this review in reply to the negative customer review by Koko, who despairs that William's analysis of Gilbert & Sullivan's works is not as funny as the comic operas. This is to miss the point and the pleasure of this book!
Williams's aim is to illuminate for us how parody works, e.g. that it is "a mode, not a genre"; that we should notice how it typically plays smartly on the very question of "originality" and "convention" and "recognition"; and that it juxtaposes historical theatrical types with present-day social types to expose us all as a pack of fools.
For me, one of the most important effects this book had was to rescue Gilbert and Sullivan from what I had taken to be their unthinking sexism--but of course I was not crediting the *parody* enough: for instance, Williams shows how the opera's divisions over and over into male and female choruses makes a joke out of the idea of tidy gender oppositions and stereotypes.
Sometimes to get a joke, you really do need to have someone explain it. With great sensitivity to the humor, Williams does that for the jokes--and for the serious cultural critiques that lurk behind them--and so there is a good chance this book will make you like your favorite Savoy opera even more.
What the book is not doing is giving a history or biography of G&S, or a musical analysis. If one is seeking these, one might look elsewhere.