'an obvious caricature': The Consequences of Scientific Discourse on Theatrical Madness, 1807-1895
Abstract: This dissertation explores the consequences of the collision between the Victorian stage and scientific writing on madness. I determine how and why tropes of madness persisted in the public imagination despite the prevalence of new scientific discoveries, reforms, and legislation surrounding insanity that circulated throughout British society. In particular, this project asks how the ... read morestage mediates this collision, how it reflects the mentalité of the period, and why the theatre returns again and again to madness as a dramatic tool. To determine the consequences of these collisions, I use archival research rooted in microhistory. Specifically, I read and interpret an archive of disparate sources including play texts, theatrical ephemera including performance reviews, images, diary entries, and autobiographies, medical monographs, scientific writing in the popular press, and legislative documents. These materials recreate not only performances of madness, but also the ways in which audiences understood these representations in the context of scientific and legislative discourse. Existing critical scholarship on madness in the theatre is limited to discussions of canonical works, namely Ophelia and Hamlet in Hamlet, Lear in King Lear and Lucy Audley in adaptations of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret. While these provide an invaluable framework for this study, I also examine lesser-known and under-studied plays including Moncrieff's The Lear of Private Life (1820), Somerset's Crazy Jane (1829), Collins's The Woman in White (1871), Donizetti and Cammarano's Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) and Morton's A Roland for an Oliver (1819). Taken as a new and significant in the study of theatre history, these less popular works demonstrate that the public used the stage as a site to experiment with new ideas throughout the nineteenth century. These texts and the materials associated with their production demonstrate the consequences of circulating scientific knowledge and reveal how the theatre grappled with the social implications of madness.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2018.
Submitted to the Dept. of Drama.
Advisor: Laurence Senelick.
Committee: Heather Nathans, Matthew Smith, and Barbara Grossman.
Keywords: Theater history, European history, and Science history.read less