“Partly American!”: Sarah Bernhardt’s Transnational Disability in the American Press (1915-1918)

Ignacio Ramos-Gay

Abstract


The aim of this paper is to analyze the representation of Sarah Bernhardt’s physical disability in the American press prior to and during her last tour in the United States (1915-1918), and how the amputation of her right leg ignited a series of allegories associating the actress with both French and American national identities. Bernhardt’s maimed physicality was rapidly construed as a metaphor of the mutilated French soldiers of the Great War and of a devastated France itself. However, as I will show, one of the prosthetic devices crafted by American manufacturers symbolically turned the tragedienne into “partly an American citizen” as well as into a token of modern western technology. Bernhardt’s artificial leg encapsulated a number of cultural, economic and national attributes linking therapy with American industrial capitalism, and her conceptualization as an American icon thanks to prosthetics reflects the use of non-normative bodily metaphors to encourage national belonging in the press.


Keywords: American press; Transatlantic Studies; Sarah Bernhardt; disability; prosthetics


Full Text:

PDF

References


Broussky, Salomé. 2001. La Comédie-Française. Paris: Le Cavalier Bleu.

Bud, Robert, Bernard Finn and Helmuth Trischler, eds. 1999. “Series Preface.” Manifesting Medicine. Bodies and Machines, xi-xii. Amsterdam: Harwood.

Collins, Patricia Hills 1999. “Moving Beyond Gender: Intersectionality and Scientific Knowledge.” In Revisioning Gender, edited by Myra Marx Ferree, Jusith Lorber and Beth H. Hess, 261-284. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

de la Pena, Carolyn. 2006. “‘Slow and Progress,’ or Why American Studies Should do Technology.” American Quarterly 58 (3): 915-941.

Dinerstein, Joel. 2006. “Technology and Its Discontents: On the Verge of the Posthuman.” American Quarterly 58 (3): 569-595.

Dodman, Trevor. 2006. “‘Going All to Pieces’: A Farewell to Arms as Trauma Narrative.” Twentieth-Century Literature 52 (3): 249-274.

Elliott, Carl. 2003. Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream. New York: W.W. Norton.

Gottlieb, Robert. 2010. Sarah. The Life of Sarah Bernhardt. New Haven and London: Yale UP.

Hahn, H. Hazel 2009. Scenes of Parisian Modernity. Culture and Consumption in the Nineteenth Century. Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hathorn, Ramon. 1996. Our Lady of the Snows: Sarah Bernhardt in Canada. New York: Peter Lang.

Koven, Seth. 1994. “Remembering and Dismemberment: Crippled Children, Wounded Soldiers, and the Great War in Great Britain.” The American Historical Review 99 (4): 1167-1202.

Linker, Beth. 2011. War’s Waste. Rehabilitation in World War America. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P.

Marks, A.A. 1914. Manual of Artificial Limbs—Copiously Illustrated—An Exhaustive Exposition of Prosthesis. New York: n.p.

Marks, Patricia. 2003. Sarah Bernhardt’s First American Tour (1880-1881). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Marx, Leo. (1964) 2000. The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America. New York: Oxford UP.

Minich, Julie Avril. 2014. Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico. Philadelphia: Temple UP.

Mobley, Jennifer-Scott. 2014. “The Body as a Cultural Text.” In Female Bodies on the American Stage, edited by J. S. Mobley, 9-27. Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Musser, Charles. 2013. “Conversions and Convergences: Sarah Bernhardt in the Era of Technological Reproductibility, 1910-1913.” Film History 25 (1-2): 154-175.

Ngai, Mae M. 2004. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton UP.

Nye, David E. 1994. American Technological Sublime. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

O’Connor, Erin. 1997. “‘Fractions of Men’: Engendering Amputation in Victorian Culture.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 39 (4): 742-777.

Oliver, Michael. 1996. Understanding Disability. From Theory to Practice. Houndmills, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ong, Aihwa. 1999. Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality. Durham, NC: Duke UP.

Serlin, David H. 2004. Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P.

Slavishak, Edward. 2003. “Artificial Limbs and Industrial Workers’ Bodies in Turnof- the-Century Pittsburgh.” Journal of Social History 37 (2): 365-388.

Tocqueville, Alexis de. (1835) 2004. Democracy in America. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. New York: The Library of America / Literary Classics of the United States.

Wills, David. 1995. Prosthesis. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP.

Newspaper Articles Cited

Akron Beacon Journal (OH). 1915. “Leg Caterer to Bernhardt.” April 3, 4.

Baltimore Sun (MD). 1915. “In Race to See Bernhardt. Baltimore Artificial Leg Salesman Has a Rival.” March 30, 16.

Boston Daily Globe (MA). 1915. “Trouble for Bernhardt.” March 30, 16.

—. 1915. “Editorial Points.” November 15, 6.

Cincinnati Enquirer (OH). 1915. “The Divine Sarah.” December 23, 4.

Evening Ledger (Philadelphia, PA). 1915. “Sarah Bernhardt’s Leg Amputated.” February 22, 2.

—. 1915. “The Annapolis Verdict.” August 17, 8.

Evening World-Herald (Omaha, NE). 1917. “Quand Meme [sic]!” January 6, 6.

Grand Rapids Press (MI). 1915. “Divine Sarah Ends Career as Actress.” September 12, 4.

Gulfport Daily Herald (MS). 1915. Untitled. March 15, 4.

Kansas City Star (KS). 1915. “Bernhardt’s Wonderful Wooden Leg.” May 31, n.p.

Los Angeles Times. 1891. “Notes of the Day.” August 12, 4.

Morning Oregonian (Portland, OR). 1915. Untitled. February 23, 6.

New York Times. 1915. “Bernhardt Asked Amputation of Leg.” February 21, 3.

—. 1915. “Surgeons to Operate on Bernhardt Today.” February 22, 1.

—. 1915. “Bernhardt Rages Against War.” May 23, 19.

—. 1915. “Bernhardt is Now Partly American.” November 14, 19.

—. 1916. “Mme. Bernhardt at the Knickerbocker.” September 10, 6.

New York Tribune. 1915. “Pasted Jewels.” March 14, 10.

Omaha Daily Bee (NE). 1915. “The Poet Rostand’s Sonnet to Bernhardt’s Severed Leg.” May 16, n.p.

Pittsburgh Press (PA). 1915. “Sarah Bernhardt Eulogizes Her Wooden Leg.” September 12, 38.

Princeton Union (NJ). 1915. “Bernhardt not Downcast.” March 4, 2.

Republic (Waterbury, CT). 1915. “Sarah Bernhardt Able to Leave Hospital.” March 13, 1.

Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA). 1915. “Busy Baltimore.” April 1, 6.

Salt Lake Telegram (UT). 1915. “The Woman Who Would Rather Be Mutilated than Powerless.” February 20, 4.

—. 1915. “Sarah Bernhardt Eulogizes Her Wooden Leg.” 12 September, 38.

Sunday Herald (Boston, MA). 1915. “Artificial Leg Makes Bernhardt Partly American.” November 14, 2.

Topeka State Journal (KS). 1915. “Make Sarah a Leg.” March 29, 6.

—. 1915. Untitled. 1 April, 4.

Washington Herald. 1915. “Maybe Sarah’s Leg Will Make this City Famous.” March 30, 2.

Watauga Democrat (Boone, NC). 1915. “Bernhardt’s Wish.” September 2, 1.


Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Atlantis. Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies
ISSN: 0210-6124 | e-ISSN: 1989-6840. © Atlantis/Aedean 2013.
Contact | Privacy Statement | Copyright notice | Journal Help| Site Map