Ambiguous Sexualities on the Eighteenth-Century Stage


Thursday 5th and Friday 6th February 2015

Senate Room, University College, Durham University

The theatre is inherently a space of transformation and disguise. As the curtain rises, the stage becomes a Roman forum, chorus girls turn into nymphs, cardboard cut-outs are now mountain ranges. Just as temporal and geographical boundaries are crossed within this fantasy, so too are those of sex as actors perform as women and actresses inhabit male bodies, and characters (try to) pass themselves off as individuals of the opposite sex. What might that crossing or passing mean? What is the effect and importance of that transgression? Is the boundary destabilised, reinforced or even conjured away?

As well as being a realm of fantasy, the theatre is simultaneously a place within the polis and, crucially, and it offers a collective experience; I am aware of the spectators around me, I sense their reactions to…

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