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”Pageantitis”: Visualising Frank Lascelles’ 1907 Oxford historical pageant, visual spectacle and popular memory

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In 1907 a wave of 'Pageantitis' swept across Britain and Frank Lascelles, a professional actor, artist and Oxford graduate, staged the Oxford Historical Pageant. At least six other events were inspired by the success of the 1905 Sherborne Historical Pageant, produced by Louis Napoleon Parker. Staged outdoors, preferably in a place of historical interest, pageants told the history of places in a series of episodes. Crucial to their success was the participation of the general public as actors - or pageanteers - in huge numbers. Relying on visual spectacle rather than the spoken word, pageants were a popular and influential form of early-twentieth-century visual culture that constructed public memories.This article focuses on the ways in which Lascelles and his pageant reconfigured and visualized memories of Oxford's past in its present. It pays particular attention to the interaction of performers and audience in the pageant, giving them agency in the invention of tradition. Furthermore, by demonstrating the enormous influence the Oxford Pageant had on the development of the genre in both Britain and the United States, this article challenges and revises the historiography of the modern pageant. It also argues for the distinctiveness of Lascelles' visual sensibility and its impact on the development of the genre.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-82
Number of pages19
JournalVisual Culture in Britain
Volume8
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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