Vol. 3 No. 2: Winter 2011
Theatricality and Performance in Victorian Literature and CultureBeth Palmer
(University of Surrey)
Performance and theatricality have become key terms for scholars working across wide reaches of Victorian studies. Closely related and multiply resonant as they are, I will not attempt to disentangle them here. Thomas Postlewait and Tracy Davis in defining just one of these terms suggest that:
the idea of theatricality has achieved an extraordinary range of meanings, making it everything from an act to an attitude, a style to a semiotic system, a medium to a message. It is a sign empty of meaning; it is the meaning of all signs. Depending on one's perspective, it can be dismissed as little more than a self-referential gesture or it can be embraced as a definitive feature of human communication. Although it obviously derives its meanings from the world of theatre, theatricality can be abstracted from the theatre itself and then applied to any and all aspects of human life.
We see how richly useful and widely usable these terms are in the diverse approaches demonstrated by the work gathered in this issue of Victorian Network. These are not articles purely about the theatre but they do recognise the importance, both metaphorically and literally, of theatricality and performance in a number of areas of nineteenth-century culture and society.Â Read the full text here
(Cover image scanned by George P. Landow.)