The Nineteenth-Century Home Theatre: Women and Material Space.

Mazur, Ann, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Booth, Alison, Department of English, University of Virginia
O'Brien, John, Department of English, University of Virginia
Chase Levenson, Karen, Department of English, University of Virginia
Connolly, Julian, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia

The Nineteenth-Century Home Theatre: Women and Material Space recovers the nineteenth-century phenomenon of the parlour play, demonstrating the importance of theatre and acting in the everyday life and domestic spaces of Victorian women. While Victorian theatricality has been well canvassed, existing scholarship focuses on the theatricality of the novel and a select number of male playwrights such as Wilde, Shaw, and Pinero. As my research cultivated from the British Library, the Houghton Library, and other archives reveals, the hitherto overlooked parlour play occupied a literary marketplace dominated by women, most frequently the authors and the intended actors of home theatre. My project complicates our thinking about gender, the everyday, and domestic practices in the nineteenth century, through restoring the centrality of amateur performance to discussions of the middle-class Victorian woman’s identity and daily life. The parlour drama unsettles and refines the official histories of drama by disclosing the important role of women’s theatre-writing and amateur performance.

My project is invested in the cultural potency of particular spaces: indeed, the parlour play endows the ordinary Victorian home—including its language and objects—with the dramatic, to transform the imaginative and physical lives of many middle-class Victorian women. In this manner, my dissertation changes our understanding of the intersection between theatre and gender by reshaping our understanding of how theatrical realism developed—less as a remarkable transformation brought about by Ibsen at the turn-of-the-century, and more as a widespread domestic practice controlled by women in the preceding decades. The simultaneously private and public space of the parlour allows home drama to shift cultural and behavioral norms. While the parlour playwright’s didactic thrust spans a range of possibilities, both transgressive and conservative, the home drama in general emerges as a method for teaching women to be independent, assertive New Women.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Victorian literature, drama, women's studies, feminist studies, transatlantic studies, theatre history, theatre, amateur performance, performance, domestic space
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