Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 09/04/2021

Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Degree In


First Advisor

Platte, Nathan

First Committee Member

Wilson Kimber, Marian

Second Committee Member

Cook, Robert


In the early twentieth century, the American eugenics movement began to dominate much of the public discourse surrounding disability, particularly the disability known as “feeble-mindedness.” Eugenicists broadly depicted the feeble-minded as both innocent children because of their supposed lack of intelligence and moral deviants who could harm members of society. There are many studies that have analyzed the effects of this construction of disability in popular culture and American films. However, only a few scholars, such as Joseph Straus and Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, have asked what the feeble mind sounds like. Through a musical analysis of the leitmotifs present in the film scores for Of Mice and Men (1939) and Oklahoma! (1955), this thesis argues that the symptomology of feeble-mindedness and social stereotypes of the disability seeped into and influenced the musical portrayals of Jud Fry and Lennie Small.

Jud and Lennie reflected many of the anxieties surrounding disability during the eugenics era. Although the films’ narratives reveal the ideological positions towards disability, music also plays a significant role announcing characters’ disability and encouraging particular responses to disability. The musicians for these films, including Aaron Copland, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Robert Russell Bennett, accomplished this task by musically imitating a disabled embodiment. By mimicking either physical symptoms or social stereotypes of feeble-mindedness, particularly obsession and idiocy, the film scores represent Jud and Lennie as either innocent children or social menaces to support the ideological stance of each film.


Disability, Eugenics, Film Music, Musicals, Of Mice and Men, Oklahoma!


vii, 113 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 104-113).


Copyright © 2019 Andrew Tubbs

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