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May IrwinSinging, Shouting, and the Shadow of Minstrelsy$
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Sharon Ammen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040658

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040658.001.0001

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The “Only One Boss Bully”

The “Only One Boss Bully”

(p.90) 4 The “Only One Boss Bully”
May Irwin

Sharon Ammen

University of Illinois Press

Chapter four continues the examination of the coon song begun in chapter three, narrowing the focus to Irwin’s two most popular songs, “The Frog Song” and “The Bully.” The author analyzes the differing responses of black and white audiences to the coon song and the accompanying cakewalk. She discusses the case of black female coon shouters, such as Belle Davis, who parody May Irwin’s style of singing. The author looks at Irwin as a white mammy figure and delves into the layers of meaning inherent in her performance of the Bully, layers that reveal the intersection of racism and misogyny; the ideology of Victorian womanhood and the rape myth; and the significance of late nineteenth century vitalism and naturalist racism.

Keywords:   “Frog Song”, “The Bully”, cakewalk, Belle Davis, mammy figure, misogyny, rape myth, racism, Victorian womanhood, vitalism

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