Title page for ETD etd-10252006-144137

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Wright, John William
Author's Email Address john.wright@uwc.edu
URN etd-10252006-144137
Title Performing Citizenship: Tensions in the Creation of the Citizen Image on Stage and Screen
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Theatre
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Leslie A. Wade Committee Chair
Leigh Ann Clemons Committee Member
Michael Tick Committee Member
Wayne Parent Committee Member
Emily Erickson Dean's Representative
  • theatre
  • drama
  • ditizen
  • citizenship
Date of Defense 2006-10-18
Availability unrestricted
What does it mean to be a “citizen” of the United States? In the simplest of terms,

citizenship is a limited position of identity, relegated to a narrow definition of legal and

geographical position for an individual. But to be a “citizen” in America means far more than that – it becomes an accepted image of our collective identity which seeks an historical and political supremacy that allows America, and its citizens, to claim ideological status over anyone who is not a part of that nationalistic frame. The citizen has, for us, become a set of understood rights and privileges, inexorably connected to a further set of duties and responsibilities that we must perform in exchange for those rights.

This study seeks to examine the ways in which theatre has contributed to the creation of, reinforcement of, and subversion of a dominant ideological view of Americans citizens. The evolution of our concept of citizenship is explored, from its origins in Greek philosophy to twentieth-century expansions of who is and who is not considered to be a citizen. Theatrical movements and productions from differing eras are examined to reveal how each of these reacted to their historical contexts in presenting the image of the citizen on stage and screen, and how our understanding of who we are, as Americans, becomes so engrained in all aspects of society that even theatrical attempts to challenge or subvert this ideology become entangled in calls for the very same rights and privileges. Ultimately, this work challenges theatre to eradicate our stubborn and subconscious adherence to what we perceive as our fundamental rights, and to create images of the citizen which are more holistic in relationship to the world around us.

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