Richard Bauman’s theory of performance has supported feminist work in folklore but proves incompatible with contemporary concepts of gendered subjectivity. Bauman’s combination of formalist and behaviorist perspectives paradoxically de-emphasized and undertheorized audience and emotion. The threat posed by women’s performance is better explained by exploring how performance constructs reciprocal positions for audience and performer, mobilizes desire, and motivates investment in gendered subject positions. Analysis of two stories Bessie Eldreth tells about audience response to her singing exemplifies the power of this gender-informed approach.

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