This essay attempts to define into existence the supergeneric category of “escapism” by way of analyzing Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. The essay (following the genre-defining procedures of Tzvetan Todorov) argues that there are three rules of escapism: all problems must be solved by personal relations, the escapism must be self-conscious, this self-conscious escapism must be muddled with an actual escape. But the sign of escapism by which it can be initially recognized is inescapability. The opposite of Utopian, escapism is Topian: what is escaped is not a place but the unloveliness of that place. According to the third rule, an actual location must ostensibly be escaped—in The Sound of Music, post-Anschluss Austria. It is, however, the unloveliness of performing in public, as felt by Captain von Trapp on behalf of the musical, that must be transmuted within Austria, and the public stage of escapism is continuous from there to Broadway to (via the film) the world. It is by way of the world reach of The Sound of Music that we can conceive of escapism as the soul of globalization: the essence of globalization is that there is no elsewhere, which means that to escape the profane world can only be to repurpose it as sacredly lovable. When The Sound of Music resorts at the end to the tombs of the abbey, however, it puts a period to its own escapism.
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John Limon; Escapism; Or, the Soul of Globalization. Genre 1 April 2016; 49 (1): 51–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-3429237
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