The preeminent account in English fiction of preparations for a private theatrical performance is Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. In that novel, Austen was exploring a trend of which she had direct experience and which had widespread popularity among the gentry and aristocratic class in the British Isles and beyond. In this talk, Professor Gillian Russell will contextualise Austen’s representation of the ‘epidemic of acting’ in late Georgian culture in relation to how other women writers addressed this theme. Theatricals have the potential to usurp attics and bedrooms and, as in Mansfield Park, the core of the patriarch’s domain. This talk will show how this disruptive aspect of Mansfield Park is illuminated by the neglected context of private theatricals in contemporary Georgian Ireland.
Gillian Russell is an honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne. She has published widely on Irish and British literature, and culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, focusing on theatre, war, sociability, and gender, including her book Women, Sociability and Theatre in Late Georgian London (2007).