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Title: Reading stage directions : from Robertson to Shaw and Barker
Author: Fraser, M. L.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis argues that an understanding of how to read stage directions involves a non-theoretical but historically-nuanced awareness of the mediating processes of text and performance. In order to illuminate these mediating processes, the thesis maintains that those playwrights involved in all aspects of dramatic production provide the most significant evidence for understanding the reading of stage directions. The thesis further argues that the most decisive redefinition of the literary and critical significance of stage directions emerges in the period spanning the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The thesis takes two parts. Part One examines the contexts for reading stage directions historically. It considers the stage direction and its place in the developing censorship and copyright laws of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It then illustrates the development of the written and performed stage direction, drawing upon the work of Robertson, Shaw and Barker and supplementing the discussion with an analysis of the plays, rehearsal techniques and play publications of Gilbert and Pinero. Part Two provides the reader with three case studies. The first, which considers Robertson's play, Caste (1867) challenges the accepted perception of Robertson's staging reforms by reading the stage directions of manuscript and privately published versions alongside the posthumously published text. It then goes on to consider how the information described in the stage directions might have been interpreted in performance. The second case study analyses a group of stage directions at the end of Shaw's Heartbreak House (pub. 1919; perf. 1921). By considering the written and performed stage directions in an historical and theatrical context, the thesis provides a key to interpreting the play. The final study examines Barker's topically resonant play, Waste. In its comparison of the three extant versions of the play, 1907, 1909 and 1927, the thesis seeks to consider how the stage directions mediate the relationship between the play's text and context.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available