MA Creative Thesis Defense for Sarah Bernstein
Thursday, April 26th, 1pm in Carleton Hall, Room 304
Title: We must all make do with what rags we find
“We must all make do with what rags we find” tells the story, in fragments of prose poetry, of music-hall singer Fréhel, who was born Marguerite Boulc’h in Paris in 1891 and who died in a Pigalle loft 60 years later. This project explores the role of the chanteuse réaliste as allowing a kind of “freedom of paradox” for French women of the inter-war period. In exhibiting themselves to a male public for whom they were repositories of anxiety over new cultural roles for women, realist singers nonetheless managed to maintain control over their projected images. Fréhel’s performance of “underworld” womanhood challenged not only the misogyny of French culture, but by incorporating (in her songs, her sets, her performances) specific socio-economic conditions of street women, she also managed to critique the ways in which women represented a disproportionate percentage of Paris’ poor.