A new open-access piece in History of the Human Sciences will interest AHP readers: “‘You never need an analyst with Bobby around’: The mid-20th-century human sciences in Sondheim and Furth’s musical Company,” by Jeffrey Rubel. Abstract:
This article offers a case study in how historians of science can use musical theater productions to understand the cultural reception of scientific ideas. In 1970, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical Company opened on Broadway. The show engaged with and reflected contemporary theories and ideas from the human sciences; Company’s portrayal of its 35-year-old bachelor protagonist, his married friends, and his girlfriends reflected present-day theories from psychoanalysis, sexology, and sociology. In 2018, when director Marianne Elliott revived the show with a female protagonist, Company once again amplified contemporary dilemmas around human sciences expertise—this time, the biological fertility clock. Through Company, Sondheim and Furth—and later Elliott—constructed arguments about modern society that paralleled those put forth by contemporary human scientists, including psychoanalytic models of the mind, the lonely crowd phenomenon, and shifting conceptions of masculinity and femininity. Because of their wide popularity and potential for readaptation, musicals such as Company offer a promising source base for analyzing the relationship between contemporary society and scientific expertise in specific historical contexts.