Abstract

The flourishing scholarship on gender and humor in recent decades has focused on written texts, film, and stand-up comedy to the near exclusion of performing arts genres—particularly those that do not use written or spoken language, such as dance and instrumental music. This article examines The Race of Life (1937–38), a collaboration by modern dancer Doris Humphrey and composer Vivian Fine. Based on a series of drawings by James Thurber, the Humphrey/Fine production alters both the order and content of Thurber's graphic narrative, ultimately creating a different interpretation that privileges women characters and female perspectives. Building on work by Regina Barreca, Joanne R. Gilbert, Kathleen Rowe, and Nancy A. Walker, this article argues that The Race of Life exemplifies how creative women in the performing arts used humor, dance, and music to satirize misogynist stereotypes of womanhood (such as “bitch” and “vamp”) that were widely circulated during the Depression era.

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