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The Challenge of Nineteenth Century Theatre in Sheffield

Wilson, Hillary (2014) The Challenge of Nineteenth Century Theatre in Sheffield. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis evaluates the status and significance of theatrical performance in Sheffield during the nineteenth century, through an examination of its challenges: those it faced, and those it presented. It investigates the ways producers tackled and often overcame obstacles, which were both practical (arising mainly from economic and political instability) and ideological (moral or aesthetic disapproval). Three case studies document and analyse specific provocative or innovative plays within the contexts of their productions, and assess their contribution to the cultural landscape. My reading of the texts and associated archival research is interdisciplinary and draws on a range of analytical tools. The concept of ‘challenge’ connects material with method: questions are raised by the subject matter of the plays, the circumstances of their creation and reception, and by my historiographical approach. I ask why they have never received any critical attention since their first production, and have all but disappeared from the records - a fate shared by much popular entertainment. Provincial theatre histories are especially vulnerable; there is an urgent need to record and evaluate the available material before it disappears. Theatre was at the centre of an exuberant, and rapidly changing, panorama; Sheffield grew beyond all recognition from the beginning of the century to its end. My narrative positions its creative life in relation to its civic evolution, and considers the dynamic relationship between both kinds of development. It traces the cultural history of a place, from the years when one theatre served its inhabitants, through the competitive advent of music hall and circus, to those of a busy city full of entertainment venues. Whilst challenging prejudices about provincial, popular theatre and the role of women, I demonstrate the special qualities and identity of Sheffield, and reclaim its position as a significant city in nineteenth century theatrical history.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.631460
Depositing User: The Sheffield Research Degrees Office
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2014 12:15
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2016 12:16
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7501

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