Shakespeare in an Age of Visual Culture  
   
STAGING THE SELF: THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE AND IDENTITY IN EARLY MODERN ENGLAND
Erika Lin

The Renaissance has often been seen as the historical moment when modern notions of the self as internal essence, unique to each autonomous "individual," first came into being. Likewise, the Renaissance is often considered a turning point in theatre history, with the rise of the first commercial theatres in England. My dissertation examines the intersection of these two phenomena. How did the actual stage performance of Renaissance plays reflect and/or enable changing conceptions of identity?

In recent years literary scholars have examined early modern playtexts in relation to the theatre as social institution as well as the role of that institution in the culture at large; but the relation between playtexts and performances has been assumed rather than interrogated. Playtexts have been largely read as if they functioned within the culture in ways similar to other texts. Yet the material conditions of their production in the theatre were significantly different. Performance scholars have done much to deepen our understanding of Renaissance theatrical practices and to interpret playtexts in relation to them, but few explore how performance practice relates to larger cultural understandings. My project seeks to integrate and so complicate these two critical methodologies by examining how the performance of Renaissance plays constructed and reflected cultural conceptions of identity and did so in ways different from what we might expect if we considered only the representational content of the plays. While an exclusive focus on the representational content of playtexts often leads scholars to see marks of modern notions of identity in these plays, an examination of performance practice suggests fissures and discontinuities in performed representations of "the human." By examining how the plays repeatedly draw attention to their own signifying practices—the ways in which theatrical presentation comes to signify represented action—in depictions of boy heroines, violence/death, plays-within-plays, soliloquies, clowning, processions, dances, and other semiotically complicated theatrical performances, I hope to suggest alternative narratives of early modern subject formation that do not point inevitably toward the modern "individual."


Of Bears and Chairs and Empty Space
Visualizing the Material Culture of Shakespeare's London
Staging the Self: Theatrical Performance and Identity in Early Modern England
Implied Action and Renaissance Play Text
Othello After O.J.: A Photo Negative Image
Sharing Shakespeare: An Academic's Adventures with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company

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