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Acting naturally : Victorian theatricality and authenticity /
Lynn M. Voskuil.
imprint
Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 2004.
description
xi, 268 p. : ill.
ISBN
0813922690 (Cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 2004.
isbn
0813922690 (Cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5171397
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Lynn M. Voskuil is Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-12-01:
In this fascinating interdisciplinary study, Voskuil (English, Univ. of Houston) throws down the gauntlet to performance theorists like Judith Butler. Taking as her starting point the theory of "natural acting" developed by William Hazlitt and G.H. Lewes, Voskuil argues that scholars have created a binary opposition between "theatricality" and "authenticity" when, for the Victorians, none existed. She demonstrates her point through case studies of Victorian sensation drama, George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, the debate over the Royal Titles bill, and the performance theories of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. By the end of the book, Voskuil has convincingly shown that the famed Victorian prejudice against theatricality was, at most, a prejudice against certain kinds of theatricality. Just as important, she makes clear that theatricality could serve multiple formal, cultural, and political functions--not just subversive ones. This reviewer's only quibble is that Voskuil's analysis of Benjamin Disraeli's political performance addresses antagonistic responses to his "Jewishness" without registering that Jewish identity, too, was part of his carefully crafted self-image. Both Voskuil's argument and her method make this book required reading for Victorianists and those interested in performance theory in general. ^BSumming Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. M. E. Burstein SUNY College at Brockport
Reviews
Review Quotes
" Acting Naturally stands to make a significant and lasting contribution to Victorian studies and performance theory.... There is nothing quite like it out there, and it is going to be unavoidably influential -- no one will be able to adopt the thesis that the Victorians were antitheatrical without taking Voskuil into account, without answering to her brilliant reframing of the problematic.
"" Acting Naturally stands to make a significant and lasting contribution to Victorian studies and performance theory.... There is nothing quite like it out there, and it is going to be unavoidably influential -- no one will be able to adopt the thesis that the Victorians were antitheatrical without taking Voskuil into account, without answering to her brilliant reframing of the problematic." -- Amanda AndersonJohns Hopkins University, author of The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, December 2004
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
Arguing that Victorian Britons saw themselves as authentically performative, Viskuil shows how the Victorian's fabled commitment to the culture of sincerity was often authorised, rather than threatened, by their equally powerful fascination with acting & performance.
Main Description
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 the 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. Victorian Literature and Culture Series
Main Description
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 the 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.Victorian Literature and Culture Series
Short Annotation
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.
Unpaid Annotation
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.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. viii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
"Spectators of Ourselves" Theatricality and Self-Knowledgep. 21
Feeling Public: Sensation Theater, Commodity Culture, and the Victorian Public Spherep. 62
National Theaters: Daniel Deronda and the Theatricality of Nationhoodp. 95
A Political Masquerade: Disraeli, Victoria, and the Royal Titles Billp. 140
Natural Celebrities: Henry Irving, Ellen Terry, and the Power of Personalityp. 182
Epiloguep. 224
Notesp. 227
Bibliographyp. 241
Indexp. 255
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

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