Reimagining Performance Network – Graduate ‘Work-in-Progress’ Event

RPN logo - a moving dancer in a black outfit on a stage against a black background, with white text 'Reimagining Performance Network'


TORCH Reimagining Performance Network – Graduate ‘Work-in-Progress’ Event

Wednesday 17 May 2023, 6pm–7.30pm

Colin Matthew Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building

All welcome.


The TORCH Reimagining Performance Network is delighted to host a graduate ‘work-in-progress’ discussion seminar. The event will include three short presentations by Julia Tonsberg (Aarhus University), Rachel O'Nunain  (Mansfield College, Oxford), and Tzen Sam (Jesus College, Oxford) on their doctoral research, followed by audience questions and discussion. The event is open to all, and we particularly welcome students and early career researchers interested in theatre and performance.

We hope that this will be an informal and relaxed setting to meet other graduate students/ ECRs who are working in theatre across the University.

Light refreshments will be provided. All welcome!


Speakers and presentations:


Female playwrights and the morality debate in late 19th century Scandinavia

Julia Tonsberg (Aarhus University)

My presentation will focus on Scandinavian female playwrights who either had or tried to have their plays performed at The Royal Danish Theatre in the late 19th century, a period which in Scandinavia is usually referred to as The Modern Breakthrough. I will look at how these women used the medium of the stage to express their views on society, particularly regarding gender roles and sexual morals which were hugely debated in the Nordics during the 1880’s. Furthermore, I will look into the reception of the plays by looking to the press coverage and the controversies (sometimes) surrounding them.

Julia is a Ph.D. student at the Department of Dramaturgy and Musicology, Aarhus University, DK. Her research is about how female playwrights positioned themselves artistically and rhetorically in the public sphere in the late 19th century. She is currently a visiting scholar in the Faculty of English.


Master Builders and Jerry Builders: assimilating the visionary into 1890s realist drama

Rachel O'Nunain (Mansfield College, Oxford)

This paper explores the cultural debates around the place of metaphysical enquiry in realist drama which arose in the wake of the British premiere of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder (1892). In particular, it examines the figure of the misunderstood visionary in two little-known plays by contemporary avant-garde dramatists: John Todhunter’s The Black Cat (1893) and Edward Martyn’s The Heather Field (1899). In doing so, my presentation seeks to foreground how experimental dramatists in Britain utilised the scepticism around the status of Ibsen’s visionary characters in order to further probe and develop the metaphysical potential of realist drama.

Rachel is a third-year DPhil student in the English Faculty. Her DPhil research focuses on the emergence of avant-garde theatre movements in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the works and associates of the Independent Theatre Society. Her studies are funded by the AHRC, Oxford University’s Clarendon Fund, and Mansfield College’s John Hodgson Theatre Research Fellowship.


Recovering the female voice: a study of Ibsen’s early female translators in late-Victorian England

Tzen Sam (Jesus College, Oxford)

The introduction of Henrik Ibsen’s plays to England began in the 1870s and culminated in the heated ‘Ibsen battles’ of the 1890s. While this period has received sustained critical attention, this has largely focussed on the role of several prominent men who are credited as the main Ibsen champions in England. While men such as Edmund Gosse, William Archer and George Bernard Shaw were undoubtedly instrumental in shaping the impact of Ibsen on the theatrical culture of the fin-de-siècle, it is vital to redress the scholarly imbalance that has focussed so extensively on their contributions while obscuring the fact that it was the translations of three women which first introduced Ibsen to England. In the context of late-Victorian socialist, suffragist and spiritualist movements, the phenomenon of the female Ibsen translator and mediator invites renewed attention. In this paper, I compare Eleanor Marx’s translation of A Wild Duck with the subsequent versions released by William Archer and his wife Frances Elizabeth Archer. Through an analysis of the translators’ treatment of Gina Ekdal, I consider the extent to which translation can offer us an insight into each translator’s hidden agenda. 


Tzen is a third-year DPhil student in English. Her research focuses on the ‘Ibsen battles’ of the late-Victorian period when Henrik Ibsen’s plays were first translated and performed in England. In particular, Tzen considers the work of three women (Catherine Ray, Henrietta Frances Lord and Eleanor Marx) whose translations first introduced Ibsen to England.


The event is open to all, and we particularly welcome students and early career researchers interested in theatre and performance.


Reimagining Performance NetworkTORCH Networks