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avatar for Kate Newey

Kate Newey

University of Exeter
The melodrama stage as a machine for thinkingI take the title and the concept I wish to explore in this paper from Leibniz’s description of a ‘machine for thinking’ and using it as a metaphor for the London stage in the early nineteenth century. I’m thinking about the melodrama stage as an experimental three-dimensional space, where managers, playwrights, scenic artists and technicians, and actors collaborated to create a new theatrical language. I am interested in the way we can see melodrama at the forefront of British aesthetic modernity in the nineteenth century, and in the way that melodrama and the melodramatic becomes an epistemology – a kind of knowledge and way of knowing. Melodrama was the single most important generic innovation of the early nineteenth century theatre, and worked aesthetically and ideologically to resituate human subjectivity within a structure of feeling, seeing, and understanding which was radically altered from preceding classical modes. While there has been a tendency to locate melodrama within a broadly textual field, linked to Romanticism (for example in Peter Brooks’ influential The Melodramatic Imagination) in this paper I want to explore the consequences of placing melodrama in an emergent visual and material culture, and with it, a new kind of affective economy. I am interested in the ways we can interpret the three-dimensional mise-en-scene of early melodrama from the archival record, and find ways to read that record with a focus on the embodied, sensory environment physically created on the boards of the theatre stage.Kate Newey is Professor of Theatre History at the University of Exeter, and Chair of SCUDD. She is an historian specialising in nineteenth century British popular theatre and women’s writing. She has published widely on melodrama, tragedy, popular culture, the theatre of the nineteenth century, and Victorian women’s writing, particularly playwriting. Her books include the edited collections Politics, performance and popular culture : theatre and society in nineteenth-century Britain and Ruskin, the theatre and Victorian visual culture (both with Jeffrey Richards) as well as her monographs, John Ruskin and the Victorian Theatre (Palgrave, 2010) and Women’s Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain (Palgrave, 2005). She has held several Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded projects, including ‘A Cultural History of English Pantomime, 1837-1901’ with Jeffrey Richards and Peter Yeandle, and currently is Co-Investigator on 'Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth-Century,' with Jim Davis, Kate Holmes, and Pat Smyth.

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Thursday, July 18
 

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Friday, July 19
 

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Saturday, July 20
 

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