The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Dr Helen Brooks
Drama and theatre Studies
- 01227 82(7142)
Helen Brooks teaches and publishes on theatre history from the eighteenth-century to the early twentieth-century.
I joined the Drama Department at Kent in September 2009. Before this I spent two years as a Lecturer in Drama at the University of Nottingham, and four years as an Associate Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter where I also gained both my Undergraduate BA (Hons) First in Drama and my PhD.
The majority of my research is in theatre and performance history, and spans the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My interests are diverse but tend to focus around the topics of women's involvement in theatre, cross-dressing, acting theory, histories of gender and sex, the economics of the stage, amateur and private theatricals, and the theatre as a site of social engagement. I have been the recipient of AHRC and British Academy funding, and in 2013 won the Southeastern Association of Eighteenth Century Studies, Annibel Jenkins prize for my essay 'One entire nation of actors and actresses': Reconsidering the Relationship of Public and Private Theatricals'.
As a teacher I am constantly exploring new ways of engaging students with theatre histories, and have developed innovative modules in which students combine primary historical research, practical work, and seminar discussion. As such my research is integral to my teaching and the synergies between these two areas are a central feature of my work. My achievements as a teacher have been recognised in recent years, when in Spring 2011 I was awarded both the Humanities Faculty Teaching Prize for my work on integrating new technology with archival research in teaching theatre history, and the Best Teacher award in the first Kent Union Teaching Award Scheme.back to top
- The Wiley Encyclopedia of British Literature, 1660-1789: Drama (expected in press January 2014), Associate Editor
- Year's Work in English Studies (Vol. 88 - present), Reviewer for Restoration Drama
- Actresses and the Eighteenth-Century Stage: Playing Women Palgrave Macmillan, (expected in press 2014)
- 'The Divided Heart of the Actress': Late Eighteenth-Century Actresses and the 'Cult of Maternity', in Stage Mothers, ed. by Elaine McGirr and Laura Engel, (Bucknell University Press) expected 2014
- 'Theorizing the Woman Performer' in The Oxford Handbook to the Georgian Playhouse 1737-1832 (OUP) in press 2013
- 'One entire nation of actors and actresses' - Reconsidering the relationship of public and private theatricals', Nineteenth-Century Theatre and Film, Special Issue: Amateur Theatre Studies, 38.2, (2011). Winner of the Southeastern Association of Eighteenth-Century Studies Annibel Jenkins Prize, 2013.
- 'Early Eighteenth-Century Performance Historiography: Problems and Possibilities', Studies in Theatre and Performance, 31.1, (2011).
- 'Negotiating Marriage and Professional Autonomy in the Lives of Eighteenth-Century Actresses' Eighteenth-Century Life 35.2, (2011).
- 'Women and Theatre Management in the Eighteenth Century' in The Public's Open to Us All: Essays on Women and Performance in Eighteenth-Century England ed. by Laura Engel (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2009)
- 'Your Sincere Friend and Humble Servant': Evidence of Managerial Aspirations in Susannah Cibber's Letters', Studies in Theatre and Performance, 28.2 (2008)
- Review: Teaching British Women Playwrights of the Restoration and Eighteenth Century ed. by Bonnie Nelson and Catherine Burroughs, Women’s Writing, 19.2 (2012)
- Rival Queens: Actresses, Performance, and the Eighteenth-Century British Theater by Felicity Nussbaum, Theatre Research International, 36.2 (2011).
- Review: Women's Romantic Theatre and Drama - History, Agency and Performativity edited by Lilla Crisafulli and Keir Elam (Ashgate: Farnham, 2010), New Theatre Quarterly 27(1), 2011
- Review: Ruskin, the Theatre and Victorian Visual Culture Edited by Anselm Heinrich, Katherine Newey and Jeffrey Richards. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, Theatre Research International 36.1
- Review: Women Players in England, 1500-1660: Beyond the All-Male Stage Edited by Pamela Allen Brown and Peter Parolin (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, Theatre Research International 32.1 (2007)
- Women on Stage in Stuart Drama by Sophie Tomlinson (CUP: Cambridge, 2005), Theatre Research International 32.2 (2007)
As a theatre historian much of my teaching focuses on the history and historiography of theatre and performance. I have particular interests in areas such as women’s involvement in theatre and performance, performances in fairs and in private contexts, drag and cross-dressing, race in historic performance, and ‘illegitimate’ performance and I explore areas like this in my modules. In teaching theatre history I place strong emphasis on both the use of new technology to bring history ‘to life’ and on practical engagement with archival sources so that students learn about the practice of history at the same point as they learn about the history itself. If you’d like to see some of the things we explore in the modules you will find a lot of information in the Moodle sites.
Modules I teach include:
- Victorian and Edwardian Theatre
- English Theatre: Restoration to Victoria
- Places of Performance
- Performing History
- Theatres of the Past 1
- Theatres of the Past 2
- Texts for Theatre
A significant part of my research focuses on long eighteenth-century theatre and performance and I am particularly interested in women’s involvement in theatre of the period. I am currently writing a monograph called Actresses and the Eighteenth-Century Stage: Playing Women which is due to be published with Palgrave in 2014 and which has been supported by a grant from the British Academy and from the Society for Theatre Research. The monograph examines the relationship between the eighteenth-century actress and changing notions of gender. Within this I consider areas including female-to-male cross-dressing, the economics of the stage, the body in performance, motherhood, and notions of the ‘natural’ in performance. In addition I am Associate Editor for Drama for the forthcoming Wiley Encyclopedia of British Literature 1660-1789. I have previously published on areas including the relationship between actresses’ work and their choices in marriage (ECL, 2011); female rhetorical performance (STP 2011); and women as theatre managers (Engel, 2009 and STP, 2008).
Another key strand of my research is focussed on theatre and the Great War, and I am interested both in theatrical practices during the war years, as well as representations of the war in theatre since 1918. I am currently developing work in this area in collaboration with colleagues in History.
Another area of my research is in applied drama and performance, which is where my practice was focused prior to my PhD. In 2009 I was co-investigator with Professor Nicki Shaughnessy on the Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise Project which explored the application of applied drama tools in business contexts.back to top
I am interested in supervising students working in any of my areas of interest, which include
- Performance history and theory
- Restoration and long eighteenth - century theatre and culture
- Victorian and Edwardian theatre
- World War One and the theatre
- Applied drama
- Queer and Camp Theory and Performance
- Drag and Cross-dressing