School of Humanities
Ph.D., Yale University, 1995, Comparative Literature
B.A., Columbia University, 1987, English
University of California, Irvine
431 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code: 2650
Irvine, CA 92697
Seminar Leader, Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research at Harvard University, June, 2011
Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars/ACLS: Fellow in Residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2008-09)
Trustee, the English Institute, 2010-13.
My current book project, “Theater after Film,” concerns the impact of mass culture on forms of drama after World War II, with chapters on Antonin Artaud’s late work for radio, Samuel Beckett, Tennessee Williams, and others. Like my other books, it draws on my training as a comparatist, and will treat work in French and German as well as in English. The project’s central argument is that the formal experiments of postwar theater owe much to theater’s way of rethinking the place of the audience in the aftermath of mass culture’s thoroughgoing remaking of the conditions of spectatorship. In dialogue with work in media studies and film theory as well as theater studies, “Theater after Film” argues that postwar drama responds to the altered conditions of spectatorship through a negative incorporation of mass cultural spectatorship. The metatheatrical experiments of Beckett, for instance, are not so much another chapter in the long history of theater’s knowing acknowledgement of its audience as they are a historically specific challenge to the conditions of mass culture’s production of intimacy and estrangement. While this model of negation is crucial to Beckett’s theater, something very different is at work, for instance, in Williams, where the embrace of mass-mediated forms of experience results in correspondingly different dramatic forms. Among my publications, my article in Theater, “Theater and Media Before ‘New’ Media: Beckett’s Film and Play,” best represents this work in progress.
“Theater after Film” builds on my second book, Forgetting Lot’s Wife: On Destructive Spectatorship (Fordham, 2007), which argues that the Biblical victim of looking back provides a privileged figure for picturing ideas about the potentially damaging consequences of looking in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The book includes chapters on theater (Artaud); cinema (film noir); and painting (Anselm Kiefer), as well as a coda on 9/11. Drawing on art history, cinema studies and film theory, as well as theater history and performance theory, Forgetting Lot’s Wife exemplifies the transdisciplinary scholarship I pursue. The argument of Forgetting Lot’s Wife is by design more circumscribed than that of “Theater after Film”: it traces representations of and aesthetic investments in catastrophic spectatorship across media, focusing closely on particular objects from Artaud’s essays on theater to Robert Aldrich’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers to a massive canvas by Kiefer. Forgetting Lot’s Wife is a historical project: its argument concerns the modern forms of an old fantasy about the unmediated consequences of witnessing. That said, “Theater after Film” will locate similar concerns about subject formation, and deformation, more directly in mid-century conceptions of what artworks do to their spectators.
My first book, Scare Quotes from Shakespeare: Marx, Keynes, and the Language of Reenchantment (Stanford, 2000), argues that the supernatural in Shakespeare provides a lexicon for the perseverance of the irrational in a culture that imagines itself as disenchanted. Published on the cusp of the explosion of interest in the question of the secular, the book is about the ways allusion to Shakespeare’s ghosts and witches provides a way to picture the partial failure of secularization. With chapters on Marx and Keynes, as well as on Shakespeare, the book begins with an introductory chapter on Henry Dircks, the inventor of the so-called “Pepper’s Ghost” apparatus, which produced unprecedented supernatural illusions on the mid-nineteenth-century stage.
Forgetting Lot’s Wife: On Destructive Spectatorship. New York: Fordham University Press, 2007.
Scare Quotes from Shakespeare: Marx, Keynes, and the Language of Reenchantment. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.
Articles and Book Chapters
“The End of a Trope for the World” In “If Then the World a Theatre Present . . .” Revisions of the Theatrum Mundi Metaphor in Early Modern England. Ed. Björn Quiring. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter (2014). 221-39.
“Das Ende einer Trope für die Welt.” Trans. Thomas Dikant. In Theatrum Mundi: Die Metapher des Welttheaters von Shakespeare bis Beckett. Ed. Björn Quiring. Berlin: August Verlag, 2013. 191-217. (German of above.)
“Theater and Media Before “New” Media: Beckett’s Film and Play.” Theater 42(2) (2012): 7-25.
“Beckett’s Ghost Light.” In Popular Spirits: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture, ed. Esther Peeren and María del Pilar Blanco. London and New York: Continuum, 2010.
“Regarding the Pain of Rats: Kim Jones’ Rat Piece.” TDR 51.1 (Spring, 2007) 160-65.
“Isabella’s Room, or Untimely Mediations.” In No Beauty for Me There Where Human Life Is Rare: On Jan Lauwers’ Theatre Work with Needcompany. Ed. Christel Stalpaert, Frederik Le Roy, and Sigrid Bousset. Ghent, Belgium: Academia Press, 2007.
“Misrecognition and Antimodernism in the Grove Plays of the Bohemian Club,” Modern Drama 47.3 (Fall 2004) 367-98.
“Richard Foreman and the Ends of an Avant-Garde,” Theatre Journal 56.1 (March, 2004) 83-96.
“Forgetting Lot’s Wife: Artaud, Spectatorship, and Catastrophe,” The Yale Journal of Criticism, special issue on Visuality and Cultural Production, 11.2 (Spring, 1998) 221-38.
“Flying the Angel of History.” In Approaching the Millennium: Essays on Angels in America, ed. Deborah R. Geis and Steven F. Kruger. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
“Homo Alludens: Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire,” New German Critique 66 (Fall, 1995) 35-64.