Acting Naturally: Victorian Theatricality and Authenticity
by Lynn M. Voskuil
University of Virginia Press, 2004
Cloth: 978-0-8139-2269-0
Library of Congress Classification DA533.V67 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.484094109034

ABOUT THIS BOOK | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In Acting Naturally Lynn Voskuil argues that Victorian Britons saw themselves as "authentically performative," a paradoxical belief that focused their sense of vocation as individuals, as a public, and as a nation. Rather than confirming the customary view of Victorian England as fundamentally antitheatrical, Voskuil shows instead how the Victorians' fabled commitment to the culture of sincerity was often authorized, rather than invariably threatened, by their equally powerful fascination with acting and performance. She explores a diverse range of materials: plays, novels, drama and theater criticism, newspaper reviews and columns, theatrical memoirs, private diaries and letters, cartoons, political pamphlets, and satires. Throughout, Voskuil charts the mid-Victorian heyday of these beliefs and their late-Victorian transformations in a variety of cultural practices and controversies, among them the conduct of audiences at sensation theater in the 1860s, political debates over the Eastern Question in the 1870s, and the cult of personality that shaped the popularity of stage actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in the late 1880s.

By demonstrating that Britons were perceived or enjoined to "act naturally" in such cases, this pathbreaking book not only offers an innovative interpretation of Victorian culture but also challenges what has become a theoretical commonplace: the unreflective use of postmodern theatricality to explain earlier cultures and literatures. Precisely by analyzing central issues in the historical context of the nineteenth century, Acting Naturally reconceives widely used theoretical models that have influenced literary, performance, and cultural studies more broadly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.



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Lynn Voskuil is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston.
Nearby on shelf for History of Great Britain / England / History: