Sixth-Year Doctoral Student (in 2016-17), Department of English
Project: Mediating Machines: Human Mechanisms and the Modern Stage
In the wake of the industrial revolution, modern theatre artists wrestled with the implications of the mechanization of modern life by staging the relationship between live and mechanical bodies in a variety of plays and theatrical experiments. Most critical examinations of these works view the mechanical bodies as displacing the human bodies; in doing so they implicitly argue that machines become the primary mediator of human experience. In many of these works, however, the live performing body onstage resists this narrative of displacement, since the live actor's body is still physically present even when it has been metaphorically or representationally subsumed. This project focuses on plays and theatrical experiments that cast live human bodies in the roles of machines or mechanized bodies (automatons, puppets, robots, etc.), considering what happens when human bodies insist on their presence in a new mechanically-oriented world. As this dissertation argues, the modern theatre's focus on mechanical bodies directs attention to the role of the live performing body, ultimately re-claiming the live body's role as the primary mediator of human experience.