Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/13/2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Florence S. Boos


This study focuses on a series of late-century works by women writers that incorporate facets of theatrical performance into the printed book. Literary drama was a common genre of the Victorian and Edwardian period, used by writers such as Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, and Matthew Arnold to elevate drama to the status of literature, a term synonymous with the printed page and the experience of reading. However, this project examines a series of women writers who, in contrast, used this hybrid form to challenge the assumed superiority of text. The values ascribed to the printed page—that it was a disembodied enterprise unattached to the whims of its audience or the particularities of its author—were antithetical to the experiences of women writers, whose work was often read in the context of their gendered bodies.

My study proceeds chronologically, reading the literary dramas of five writers—George Eliot, Augusta Webster, Katharine Bradley and Edith Emma Cooper (writing under the pseudonym “Michael Field”), and Elizabeth Robins—alongside changes in print practice and theatrical staging as well as evolving discourses about “literariness.” I argue that these women allude to theatrical performance in the text to show that the page always bears the physical traces of its authors and its audience. Each chapter blends book studies with performance studies, showing the way the form of a work invites particular responses from its readers. Overall, this project has two goals: one, to recover marginalized texts by women writers and revise narratives about the period to incorporate these pieces; and two, to span the scholarly chasm between Victorian poetry and drama and demonstrate, instead, the mutually constitutive relationship of these two art forms.


v, 253 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 230-253).


Copyright © 2017 Annmarie Steffes

Available for download on Saturday, July 13, 2019