Abstracts for Week 9

by staffpostgraduate14

Hugh Kelly’s A Word to the Wise – Assessing assemblage theory in Georgian Theatre

The purpose of this paper is to use the cultural and political context surrounding Hugh Kelly’s play A Word to the Wise (1770) as a case study against which David Worrell’s assertion that Georgian theatre was a centre of cultural interfaces can be assessed. Assemblage theory, as first articulated by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, is used by Worrell to ‘model Georgian theatre in the state of its contemporary activity, that is, as a working and materialised economy of performance.’

The paper will also assess the significance of the text in its transnational context, and examine how it fits into the broader body of Kelly’s journalism, government pamphleteering, and his earlier poetic and novel writing attempts. The impact of the disruption that accompanied the first attempted performances of the play changed the course of Kelly’s career as a playwright, and was seen by Garrick as a potential watershed moment for the politics of the London stage – a line that should not be crossed.

The paper will conclude with a brief examination of the educational possibilities that are presented by the text by considering how – in its edited and contextualized form – it might be useful at an undergraduate/postgraduate level when engaged in Literary Studies, Transnational methodologies, or Theatre Studies. It might also offer a snapshot of what the play might look like in a post-modern meta-theatrical production – but that depends on how brave I am…

Jerome Devitt

Lines in the sand: Western Settlement and Conceptions of Space in Dorothy Scarborough’s The Wind (1925)

‘“I miss a fence,” she mourned. “I feel lost without one.”’

This paper will investigate the shifting conceptions of space during the colonial settlement of the American West in Dorothy Scarborough’s pseudo-supernatural frontier novel, The Wind (1925).
Settled space, in both postcolonial and settler literature, is typically constructed as a secure location situated within the colonised territory. Synecdoches of empire, these settled spaces are symbolic in their mastery of nature through methods of farming and/or fencing off, thereby taming the indigenous environment. Their boundaries, though essentially imagined, enclose the settler within a familiar, domesticated space, separating the colonial settler both physically and psychologically from the indigenous ‘Other’. On the surface however, what initially appears to be a symbol of colonial progression, i.e. a space of cultivated land, is frequently exposed as the opposite: “The colonial space”, as Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert puts it, “is by its very nature a bifurcated, ambivalent space, where the familiar and unfamiliar mingle in an uneasy truce”:
At its heart this settled space is a site of danger, in constant flux with the hostile environment upon which it is built.
Set at the height of American Manifest Destiny, on the West Texas frontier during the droughts of 1886-87, The Wind charts the gradual psychological breakdown of protagonist and involuntary pioneer, Letty Mason. Using postcolonial and settler theory, this paper will investigate settled space in the novel, and analyse the ways in which traditional conceptions of gender, identity, home, and nation are eroded and inverted in the liminal space of the frontier.

Aoife Dempsey