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  • Artist, Professional, Gentleman: Designing the Body of the Actor-Manager, 1870-1900

Walter, Helen, 2015, Thesis, Artist, Professional, Gentleman: Designing the Body of the Actor-Manager, 1870-1900 PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

In the historical record of British theatre in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the figures of London’s actor-managers are constantly present. As such, over the intervening century, they have been subjected to detailed historical enquiry by any number of different scholars in terms of their theatrical achievements, management styles, and their role in the changing nature of theatre in this period. However, despite the vast amount of extant visual material pertaining to these individuals in British, and other, collections, little attention has been paid to the image of the actor-manager in this period, and still less to the role of the body in the legacy of such figures. Given the nature of the actor’s craft as body-orientated, the explicitly visual nature of theatre in this period, and a burgeoning mass-media industry intent on the dissemination of such images, from a design history perspective this historiographical gap is surprising.
Taking as its starting point the contention that the primacy of London’s actor- managers in this period was not, despite the claims of some contemporaries, an inevitable result of natural talent, but rather the outcome of carefully mediated verbal and visual discourses of theatrical and social achievements, this thesis examines how the framing of the body in such texts and images contributed to the legacy of the actor-manager as the central figure of late-Victorian theatre for a number of different audiences. It does this by using a synthetic approach which encompasses a number of distinct disciplines, including theoretical perspectives on the body, theatre historical scholarship that informs the context of the primary material, and design historical narratives of production and consumption. Ultimately, however, it is led by the depiction of actor-managers in the late nineteenth century, and the manifestation of multi-valent identities through the body, which constructed them for popular and critical consumption as artists, professionals and gentlemen of the late-Victorian era.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Other > Historical and Philosophical studies > V100 History by period
Other > Historical and Philosophical studies > V300 History by topic > V370 History of Design
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 25 Jun 2015 17:10
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2015 12:30
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1698

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