George Colman's The Iron Chest and Blue-Beard and the pseudoscience of curiosity cabinets

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Abstract

By the mid-eighteenth century, curiosity cabinets were evolving from private, amateur collections into public, professional demonstrations that were at once scientific, commercial, educational, and sensational. The "quack" sexologist Dr. James Graham's Temple of Health and Hymen offers one example of the curiosity cabinet as public demonstration. The Temple whetted spectators' curiosity and theatricalized peeping in the same way that two contemporary plays by George Colman the Younger, The Iron Chest and Blue-Beard; or, Female Curiosity!, do. Like Graham's pseudoscientific performance, Colman's plays foreground the satisfaction of curiosity through visual inspection, making a theatrical display of the mysterious or the forbidden a type of curiosity cabinet in itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-257
Number of pages8
JournalVictorian Studies
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2007

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