The American Freak Show

image courtesy SimplySchmoopie
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Taught by Anni Irish

Anni Irish's work focuses on the representation of bodies, fetishism, and the social history of tattooing in America. Irish currently holds a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University, an MA in Gender and Cultural Studies, and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University. Irish has been a contributing writer to several online publications including Boston based publication, The Dig, New York Arts Magazine, and Tattoo Artist Magazine among others. She has presented at numerous academic conferences and has also guest lectured. Her article “The New Tattooed Lady: A Social and Sexual Analysis” was published in 2013 summer edition of MP an international online feminist academic journal affiliated with Rutgers University. She has also worked as a research assistant for Simmons College English Faculty member and Director of the Gender and Cultural Studies Program, Renee Bergland. She is currently developing a manuscript on American female tattooing practices. Irish was born and raised in Manchester, CT and resides in Brooklyn, NY. 

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What is the history behind the American freak show? What does the modern day freak show look like? Who were the performers that made up the freak show? And how has the term “freak” become popularized through this history? In this class we will attempt to answer these very questions while also exploring the history of the freak show within American society. From Brooklyn's infamous Coney Island to AMC's reality television show, Freak Show, we will consider the various ways in which the side show and circus culture has come to be viewed today.

Through the use of archival images and clips from several documentaries, we will get a visual history of circus and freak show culture while also trying to put it in a contemporary context. Although this class will be mainly lecture based, come armed with all your questions regarding all circus, side and freak show things!

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