Ghosts Under the Marquee Lights: Mummers in Alberta, England, and Newfoundland

  • Author / Creator
    Levitt, Mathew J
  • The word “mummer” has been used to describe many different people doing many kinds of things, ranging through both space and time, from at least the 18th century to modern days, from the Old World to the New World. In the past these have conventionally been treated as discrete practices or traditions, too varied to warrant comparison. Intertextual theory, however, suggests that these various instances, or texts, are related. The word “mummer” becomes an activating term, bringing all these texts into a forever occurring discourse. This discourse takes place in a world of made of multiple genres and multimedia; including performances both recorded and remembered, words both written and spoken, fiction, non-fiction, film, internet websites and videos, art and visual imagery. Across all of these, contestations and negotiations take place as ideas about tradition, innovation, identity, authority, and authenticity come into play. This study has focused on three groups of mummers from three different places: The Alberta Avenue Mummers Collective who perform in the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; The Coventry Mummers from Coventry, West Midlands, England, who also perform in neighbouring villages such as Stoneleigh and Newbold; and Gerald Matthews, a mummer from Baie Verte, Newfoundland. The relationship of these mummers with the places they appear is integral to an understanding of the phenomenon as a whole, often displaying a substantiating affect where practice helps to make place and vice versa. When considered as one phenomenon, the many diverse texts that make up the intertextual discourse explored here reveal traits of the phenomenon that might otherwise be missed or, at the very least, dismissed. For instance, in sites in Alberta, Newfoundland, and England, mumm[er]ing appears as a ritual meant to perpetuate, if nothing else, the ritual itself. There is also a remarkable tendency for merry and scary commentary to stick to mumm[er]ing, thus revealing an uncanniness related to ideas about home and death. *The video I produced for the public presentation portion of my PhD Defense, "New Folk Old Lore," can be downloaded from the University of Alberta Dataverse at

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2016-06:Fall 2016
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Anthropology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Zivkovic, Marko (Anthropology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Palmer, Andie (Anthropology)
    • Nahachewsky, Andriy (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
    • Hurley, Natasha (English and Film Studies/Women's Studies)
    • Harrop, Peter (External Reader, University of Chester)
    • Hill, Joseph (Anthropology)