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Title: Towards a grammar of theatrical blindness
Author: Ward, Marchella
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Since the fifth century, the theatre has been a place for seeing. In spite of this, blind figures repeatedly appear on the stage, from Oedipus, Polymestor, Tiresias and the Cyclops to Shakespeare's Gloucester, Beckett's Hamm, Friel's Molly Sweeney and Kane's Ian. These blind characters have an important role to play in articulating the task of the spectator, both in their aural and imaginative construction of the fictional world in pre-naturalistic theatre, and also in their ability to see through the dramatic illusion in later drama. These scenes of blindness and blinding also have consequences for reception studies, since the relationship between them is not straightforwardly a textual reception history. Instead, these blind characters and the scenes in which they appear are read as what Deleuze and Guattari term an 'assemblage': a heterogenous multiplicity that is produced at the moment of reading / watching with reference to other scenes of blindness and blinding. This thesis sketches out a grammar for such an assemblage, and each chapter focuses on a rule in this grammar. When read as part of an assemblage of blindness, blind characters always have a special relationship with death (Chapter 2), showcase their own performance (Chapter 3), undermine the fictional setting that has been established onstage (Chapter 4), have access to a kind of superhuman knowledge (Chapter 5) and alter the position of their spectators (Chapter 6). Each chapter is structured around a particular moment when the theatre's interest in blind characters resurges, as a response to changes in the social, cultural or scientific understanding of vision and visual impairment. In each chapter, the grammar that is outlined in Chapter 1 with reference to ancient plays returns to the fore, but is refracted through the historical period back on to the grammar of the assemblage.
Supervisor: Macintosh, Fiona Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Blindness ; Disability Studies ; Theatre ; Classical Reception