Date of Award

Fall 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Douglas Lanier


My dissertation examines the theatrical depiction of corpses as both stage-objects for theoretical speculation and as performance phenomena of the early modern English stage. Investigating popular drama on the London stage from 1587 -- 1683, I demonstrate that the performance of the dead body by the living actor (what I term the "theatrical corpse") is informed by early modern secular and religious polemics over the materiality of the body, the efficacy of performative behavior, and emerging theories of theatrical presence.

Previously, literary scholars have approached the performance of death on the stage using the insights of psychoanalysis or medical science, arguing for a rise of the subject and a growing sense of the individual via the emergence of empirical science and anatomical dissection. By contrast, my dissertation focuses on the material realities of the performance event such as staging, sets, and performance objects. In so doing, my dissertation reveals the theatrical corpse on stage---much like the early modern corpse off stage---to function as an active narrative agent beyond its death.