Though structuralism began in the 1950s and 1960s, it has its roots in the thinking of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure was a key figure in the development of modern approaches to language study. He emphasised that the meanings given to words are purely arbitrary, and that these meanings are maintained by convention only. This chapter examines Saussure's pronouncements about linguistic structures which the structuralists later found so interesting. The other major figure in the early phase of structuralism was Roland Barthes, who applied the structuralist method to the general field of modern culture. The chapter lists the activities of structuralist critics and provides examples on the methods of literary analysis described and demonstrated in Barthes's book S/Z. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter provide the reader with some ‘hands-on’ experience with the subject discussed.
This chapter explores whether stylistics, a critical approach, is really a form of critical theory at all. It presents a historical account of stylistics with emphasis on critical practice rather than critical theory. Stylistics developed in the twentieth century and its aim is to show how the technical linguistic features of a literary work, such as the grammatical structure of its sentences, contribute to its overall meanings and effects. It is the modern version of the ancient discipline known as 'rhetoric'. The chapter describes the specific differences between conventional close reading and stylistics, as well as the ambitions of stylistics. A STOP and THINK section suggests readers to make use of a few basic reference tools in understanding stylistics. The chapter includes some critical activities of stylistic critics and presents three examples of stylistics, each of which uses some technical aspect of language in critical interpretation.
This chapter mentions four general shifts or 'settlements' in the intellectual landscape of theory itself. Firstly, theory has become less willing than hitherto to suspend disbelief in the face of vast and speculative intellectual claims. Secondly, there is evidence of a turning away from the dominant materialism epitomised by British cultural materialism and American new historicism. Thirdly, there has been a marked shift away from the 'linguistic sublime'. Finally, a new kind of cultural critique has arisen in response to extreme events such as 9/11, and the global pessimism which is the product of apparently intractable problems such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, the spread of religious fundamentalism, and the relentless progress of environmental deterioration. The chapter looks at five areas of development which beginning-theorists might usefully be aware of: presentism, new aestheticism, cognitive poetics, consilience and 'conciliatory' approaches to literary studies, and posthumanism.
This chapter begins by explaining the rise of English studies by indicating what higher education was like in England until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. A STOP and THINK section includes multiple choice questions that indicate the scope of this chapter. F. D. Maurice regarded literature as the particular property of the middle class and the expression of their values. For him the middle class represents the essence of Englishness so middle-class education should be specifically English. The chapter presents a list of the values and beliefs which formed the English subject's half-hidden curriculum. It sketches out a characteristic liberal humanist reading of Edgar Allan Poe's tale 'The Oval Portrait'. The growth of critical theory in the post-war period seems to comprise a series of 'waves', each associated with a specific decade, and all aimed against the liberal humanist consensus.
This chapter analyses issues relating to ageing, beginning with the
professional effect of physical changes to the actress’s body. Statistics
demonstrating the availability and limited nature of the repertoire of
dramatic roles deemed suitable for older women support a wider examination
of how age impacted working prospects and are presented in the context of
contemporary gerontological discourse. Examination of the consequences of
retiring from the stage, either voluntarily or through ill health, reveals a
wide income disparity. Some women were able to assume a comfortable
retirement, but the less fortunate were forced to adopt alternative
income-generating activity, such as teaching, or to access the profession’s
various charitable funds to offset poverty. The chapter concludes with an
assessment of the legacy of the Victorian actress and the relevance of her
experience to her twenty-first century counterparts.
This chapter illustrates various routes into the dramatic profession in the
Victorian period and analyses the potential advantages of different means of
learning acting and stagecraft through examination of the early performance
history of selected actresses. Some commenced work as child performers while
others began as adults after receiving private tuition from a professional,
performing on the amateur stage or giving dramatic readings. Discussion of
the strategy of gaining experience in provincial or minor London theatres
before risking appearing on the more prestigious West End stages reveals
multiple benefits in terms of skill enhancement and press and audience
response. The examples are used to argue for the importance of British
provincial theatres, not only as training grounds for performers but also as
instrumental to the economic health and stability of both the actress and
the theatrical industry.
For an actress with ambitions of stardom on the competitive Victorian stage,
establishing a recognisable name and identity was fundamental to her success
in gaining and then maintaining employment. This chapter addresses issues of
identity by considering how it is framed by the repertoire she adopts and
how she chooses to present her own history. Career advancement in the
mid-nineteenth century was linked to a stratified framework embedded in the
stock company structure and divided into distinct lines of business.
Analysis focuses on the progression from juvenile to leading lady and two
contrasting dramatic specialisms – the burlesque actress and the ‘heavy
woman’ – to reveal the implications of playing specific types of role in
terms of employment opportunities and image creation. Featured cases include
cross-dressed Hamlet portrayals and spurious self-fashioning.
The introduction situates the professional touring of Victorian actresses
within the context of theatre history and scholarship. It provides an
overview of the era, explains the cultural and gendered expectations of
women in a period dominated by ‘separate spheres’ ideology, and outlines key
features of the nineteenth-century theatrical industry. Following a
rationale for the focus on the careers and lives of neglected ‘mid-tier’
actresses, brief individual biographies of featured performers are given
with discussion of the source material researched for the book. Explanation
of the organisation of the volume, which follows the stages of an actress’s
lifecycle, concludes with a summary of the contents of each chapter.
In Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania the limited size of the recently
established theatrical industry created particular challenges and pressures
for some of the intrepid nineteenth-century British actresses seeking to
find work on its stages. This chapter reveals the practical reality of
long-distance travel and the potential financial profit derived from
colonial touring by juxtaposing the case-histories of Louisa Cleveland and
Emily Don. Both women undertook tours of Australasia in the 1860s, initially
performing with their actor husbands, but returned to the UK as widows. The
chapter assesses the reception of different dramatic repertoires and the
success of strategies adopted by women to counter the widespread
professional rivalries and monopolistic practice that characterised the
Victorian colonial stage.
For the successful actress, developing her career through a move into theatre
management was less easy as a woman than for her male co-workers. This
chapter explores the dynamics of different managerial and business models
adopted by some of those who took the risk in the mid nineteenth century and
considers the challenges and misogyny that attended their endeavours. It
examines the factors that could lead to success, such as repertoire choice,
favourable critical reception and understanding of audience taste, and
conversely analyses examples of financial failure leading to bankruptcy.
Featured studies cover tenures in geographically disparate centres including
London, Nottingham, New York, Melbourne and Dunedin.