Corporeal Remains of the Nineteenth Century Female Body

Sally O'Gorman

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis looks at adaptations of nineteenth-century novels/plays by Mats Ek, Robert Wilson, Shared Experience, Foursight Theatre, Company:Collisions and The Maly. All the productions, companies and individuals discussed have used past material remains in the form of a novel or dramatic text to create a contemporary interpretation. In my research, I have used nineteenth-century material remains as a guide to understanding how these past indicators have affected the female performing body today. For instance, how the choreographer/director’s knowledge of past forms of physical inscription and intertextual approach reveal an embodied knowledge of the past, allowing the choreographer/director/performer to explore them within the present female body.

I have chosen adaptations of nineteenth-century novels and dramatic texts, because this era focussed on physical movement as conveying emotional messages, which transferred to what was represented upon the stage. As a consequence, acting manuals were published in the nineteenth century, displaying illustrations of physical codes. These physically coded messages, historical illustrations and other material remains provided a way to read the past body and identify its traces today. In using this approach, I was able to discern what links remained from the original referent through past perceptions and representations.

The rationale for choosing the productions and companies discussed within this thesis was their focus on the expressive aspects of the physical body in performance as well as the recreation of specific nineteenth-century novels/plays. In particular, Mats Ek and Robert Wilson use physical dance traditions of the past moving body and this has affected the choice of movement patterns for their performers. However, I also chose to compare their work against the female collective approach of other companies and how this informed the techniques used in rehearsal and performance. Lastly, I looked at an ensemble company and how the continuity of their collaboration compared against the previous companies discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Normington, Catherine, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2011
Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

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