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A place where it was acceptable to be unacceptable: twenty-first century girls encounter nineteenth-century girls through amateur theatricals and dance

Faculty Advisor




performance-based research, girl-centered research, 19th-century girlhoods, at-home theatricals

Abstract (summary)

This self-reflexive article about girl-centered, performance-based historiography uses Carole Lynne D’Arcangelis’s cautions about self-reflexive research writing and Caroline Caron’s concerns about girl studies as activist research focused on social change to explore how the presence of girls and listening to girls shaped the knowledge that was created. By staging encounters between living 21st-century girls and 19th-century girls, the process reveals possibilities about the lives of girls in both eras. Encounters drew attention to issues concerning power, gender, agency, present-mindedness, emotion work, embodiment, and racialized identities. The article demonstrates how girls’ actions and insights complicated understandings about 19th-century girlhoods and at-home theatricals and, simultaneously, exposed power structures influencing their lives today and opportunities to work within or subvert them. Working through concepts like “radical reflexivity” (D’Arcangelis), “theatrical ethic of inappropriation” (Michelle Liu Carriger), “the wince” (Stephen Johnson), and the “foolish witness” (Julie Salverson), the article describes research pivot points and argues that ways of listening to girls alters how meaning is made.

Publication Information

Fitzsimmons Frey, Heather. "A place where it was acceptable to be unacceptable: Twenty-first Century Girls Encounter Nineteenth-Century Girls Through Amateur Theatricals and Dance." Journal of Childhood Studies, vol. 44, no.3, 2019, pp. 85-105. doi:10.18357/jcs00019176


Item Type





Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)