Private Theatricals and Feminist Abolitionism: "Jo's" and "Meg's" Sensation Plays


  • Daniela Daniele



Louisa May Alcott started her career as an actress and a playwright. I explore some of the juvenile plays that she rehearsed in family barns with her siblings. Later collected by her elder sister, Anna, they reflect the racial turbulences and the radical reforming spirit which animated the pre-bellum years, referring to the ethnic issues raised by the Romantic revolutions in Europe and by the US-Mexican war in the Southern regions. In these neglected plays, Alcott maturely and bravely embraces the abolitionist positions expressed in Lydia Maria Child's tales on intermarriage, showing her ability in mastering the popular genres of sensation and melodrama to dramatize the racial controversies aroused by the process of annexation in the Southern regions. In particular, Alcott reenacts the colonial myth of Pocahontas and of the redemptive role played by a Moorish beauty as an allegory of the interracial intercourse involved in the process of American expansionism in the Spanish-speaking colonies, in a conflict which paved the way to Civil War toward the consolidation of North America as a mainly Anglophone country.






Articles (general section) - American language, literature, and culture