CREES Noon Lecture

The Scandal of the Orpheum: Budapest Commercial Entertainment at the Fin de Siècle

Budapest Orpheum

Mary Gluck, professor of history and comparative literature, Brown University.

In the years between 1880 and 1914, Budapest Orpheum pioneered one of the most innovative entertainment industries of Central Europe. The phenomenon was closely identified with the Jewish lower middle classes, but its appeal was much broader, encompassing middle class professionals and members of the nobility as well. Perhaps the most famous client of Budapest Orpheum was the Archduke Rudolf, who made frequent trips from Vienna to sample the famous nightlife of Budapest.

The lecture explores the broader cultural and theoretical implications of Orpheum in the Central European context. It argues that Orpheum challenged the private/public taxonomy of bourgeois ideology and created a new notion of intimacy that was public, performative and non-domestic. It thus made possible the rise of a uniquely Central European version of bohemia, which helped transform Jewish artisans into urban consumers and helped create for society at large an alternative to the conformism of middle class cultural life.

Mary Gluck is professor of history in the Department of History and Comparative Literature at Brown University. She is an intellectual-cultural historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe, with special expertise in Central Europe and France. She has published extensively on Georg Lukacs, modernism, and avant-garde culture and the Jewish Question, and is the author of Popular Bohemia: Modernism and Urban Culture in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Harvard, 2005). Her current research focuses on Jewish humor and assimilation in fin-de-siècle Budapest and on bohemias in a global perspective.

Co-sponsors: Avant Garde Interest Group.

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