Barnumism

Barnumism

showmanship or any activity taking advantage of people’s credulity or desire for sensational entertainment, as practiced by P. T. Barnum (1810-91).
See also: Performing
showmanship or any activity taking advantage of people’s credulity or desire for sensational entertainment, as practiced by P.T. Barnum (1810-91).
See also: Behavior
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(42.) "The Latest Barnumism," Fayetteville Observer, 16 July 1855; "Baby Shows," New York Times, 30 July 1870.
Harvey Blume argues that "the genres it was most crucial for Barnum to confound were those of fact and fiction"; "display, on the one hand, the claim of authenticity, on the other, are twin pillars of Barnumism and with them Barnum exemplifies the fixations of his age." (35) Alger's fiction strikes the same balance; on the one hand, it insists on its realism through footnotes and historical and geographical references, and by basing the characters of Johnny Nolan and Mickey Macguire on actual boys; and on the other hand, in the midst of all of this realist detail it displays to us the wonder of Ragged Dick--a pure fabrication.
As relayed by John Lahr in a profile of Mamet that appeared in The New Yorker, a colleague referred to his "intellectual Barnumism" and once told another interviewer, "[Mamet] would be talking--`As Aristotle said, blah blah.' Or, `I was rereading Kierkegaard the other day.' I remember saying, `Aristotle never said that!
"Can it be," a reviewer asks, "that 'Barnumism' has been spreading silently and widely among us, and that in the domain of art the pitiable trickeries of the showman are taking the place of painstaking endeavour and conscientious work?" (8) Evidence of the incorporation of Barnumism within British culture was, however, plentiful.