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Introduction: Framing the Victorian Woman Playwright

  • Katherine Newey

Abstract

This book is about the appearances, disappearances, and reappearances of women’s words in the British theatre from the late Romantic period to the beginning of the twentieth century. My principal focus is play-writing for the commercial London theatre, although I also consider the substantial work of women for amateur and home theatricals, women’s work in translating and adapting for the stage, the agitprop theatre of the suffragette movement, and the para-theatrical writing — not quite closet drama, not quite stage success — which characterized dramatic writing by women in the mid- and late-Victorian periods. My aim is to make visible those previously invisible women writers, whose work has been shrouded by a combination of factors: the material practices of the London theatre industry which presented a misogynist obstacle course, Victorian gender ideology which theorized the public nature of the playwright’s task to be unfeminine, a practice of theatre historiography which has consistently converted partisan aesthetic judgements into universal statements of fact, and the scholarly discipline of Victorian Studies which has consistently ignored the theatre as a significant element of nineteenth-century culture.

Keywords

Legitimate Theatre Woman Writer Scholarly Discipline Romantic Theatre London Theatre 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See, for example, the debates around Joan Scott’s book, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), and particularly the exchange between Scott and Laura Lee Downs following its publication.Google Scholar
  2. Laura Lee Downs, ‘If “Woman” is Just an Empty Category, Then Why am I Afraid to Walk Alone at Night? Identity Politics Meets the Postmodern Subject,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History, 35: 2 (April 1993), 414–37, and Scott’s somewhat exasperated response, ‘The Tip of the Volcano,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History, 35: 2 (April 1993), 438–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    See particularly, Michel Foucault, ‘What is an Author?’ (1969),Google Scholar
  4. reprinted in Paul Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984).Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Agnes Heller, ‘Death of the Subject?,’ in Anthony Giddens, David Held, Don Hubert, Debbie Seymour, and John Thompson (eds), The Polity Reader in Social Theory (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994), 247.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    Catherine Burroughs, Closet Stages: Joanna Baillie and the Theater Theory of British Romantic Women Writers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), 23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 6.
    Misty Anderson, Female Playwrights and Eighteenth-Century Comedy: Negotiating Marriage on the London Stage (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002), 204–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 7.
    Tracy C. Davis, ‘The Sociable Playwright and Representative Citizen,’ in Tracy C. Davis and Ellen Donkin (eds), Women and Playwriting in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 30.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    James Robinson Planché, Recollections and Reflections, A Professional Autobiography (London: Tinsley Brothers, 1872), Vol. 2, 98.Google Scholar
  10. See my discussion of Emma Robinson’s attempts to negotiate the gap between her position as an educated gentlewoman and her professional career as a writer in ‘“From a Female Pen”: The Proper Lady as Playwright in the West End Theatre, 1823–1844,’ in Tracy C. Davis and Ellen Donkin (eds), Women and Playwriting in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 206–7.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ellen Donkin, Getting into the Act: Women Playwrights in London, 1776–1829 (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 185.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See particularly Catherine Burroughs, Closet Stages: Joanna Baillie and the Theater Theory of British Romantic Women Writers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997),CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. and Thomas Crochunis (ed.), Joanna Baillie, Romantic Dramatist: Critical Essays (London and New York: Routledge, 2004).Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    For the best recent discussion of Baillie’s ‘self-fashioning’ as a playwright, see Thomas Crochunis, ‘Authorial Performances in the Criticism and Theory of Romantic Women Playwrights,’ in Catherine Burroughs (ed.), Women in British Romantic Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 223–54.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Peter Bailey, ‘Theatres of Entertainment/Spaces of Modernity: Rethinking the British Popular Stage 1890–1914,’ Nineteenth Century Theatre, 26: 1 (Summer 1998), 5–24.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    Helen Day, ‘Female Daredevils,’ in Viv Gardner and Susan Rutherford (eds), The New Woman and Her Sisters: Feminism and Theatre 1850–1914 (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), 137.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    Jane Moody, Illegitimate Theatre in London, 1770–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 244.Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    Angela Leighton, Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1992), 203.Google Scholar
  19. 18.
    E. Warwick Slinn, Victorian Poetry as Cultural Critique (Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2003), 28.Google Scholar
  20. 19.
    Sally Ledger, Henrik Ibsen (Plymouth: Northcote House Publishers, 1999), 3.Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    Hilary Fraser, Stephanie Green and Judith Johnston, Gender and the Victorian Periodical (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 100.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Katherine Newey 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Newey

There are no affiliations available

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