Book Review: Staging Modernist Lives: H.D., Mina Loy, Nancy Cunard, Three Plays and Criticism.

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Book Review

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Sasha Colby’s Staging Modernist Lives models an innovative research practice that has the potential to solve a perpetual dilemma for humanities scholars: how to pursue a research agenda while also reaching a broader audience. Building upon recent work in performance studies, Colby advocates “literary ‘research theatre’” (9). This research model comprises a complementary pair of methodologies combining the kinetic, embodied practice of theatre with the text-based practices of literary studies: research-based performance (“the pursuit of knowledge through theatrical methods such as improvisation and enactment”) and performance-based research (“the dramatization of literary knowledge that we have already acquired through more traditional forms of inquiry”) (13). While practice-based research is standard in the sciences, the humanities have hesitated to move past traditional forms of research (reading) and dissemination (criticism). Colby suggests the fields of literature and drama are a natural fit—historically, formally, and thematically. Scholars “perform” in the classroom and in delivering conference presentations, so it is not a practice unfamiliar to them. Modernist work, with its “preoccupation with staging the self,” is uniquely suited to this research method. While modernist studies has begun to embrace more theatre scholarship, “the idea of pursuing modernist inquiry through theatre” remains largely untested (9).

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The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914-1945




Copyright © 2020 Nicole Flynn

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.