The library is pleased to feature the influential and cutting-edge work of our AUS faculty researchers. In a newly launched library series, faculty from across the schools discuss their work and areas of research focus.
AUS Featured Researcher: Daniel Keegan, Assistant Professor – Department of English, CAS
I came to academia and to literary studies via the theatre: I have acted and directed since I was in middle school. I did my undergrad at Oberlin College, where I studied Math and, ultimately, Creative Writing, and then dove right back into the theatre through the University of Texas’s Shakespeare at Winedale program: I studied and worked there for five summers from 2002 to 2006. That experience led me to an MA in English and Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama and a PhD in Drama, Theatre, and Critical Theory at the University of California, Irvine.
What brought me back to school? Let me tell you: theatre people have a lot of ideas about how language, and especially Shakespearean language, works, or is supposed to work, in the theatre—how it should be spoken, how it affects an audience, etc. I do not think that any of these ideas are correct. I believe that the interaction between language and theatre is far more anarchic that is generally understood. Indeed, I argue that this interaction can be and is a figure of anarchy.
This “dramaturgical anarchism” continues to animate my research. I am about to publish my manifesto on the topic, an essay called “Indigested in the Scenes: Hamlet’s Dramatic Theory and Ours.” In this piece, I argue that the language of Shakespeare’s Hamlet disrupts—indigests—not only its own organization of the play but also our current categories of performance theory. My essay is scheduled to appear in the January 2018 issue of PMLA, although I can link you to a pre-publication version here. (If it’s comforting to any students reading this, I’d note that I’ve been writing this article, in one version or another, since my first year at Irvine in 2009. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time! I’d also note, because I can’t help myself, that this is the first essay on Hamlet that PMLA, one of the foremost journals in literary studies, has published since before I was born!)
My current research and writing continues to develop this “dramaturgical anarchism.” I just presented at a conference at NYU Abu Dhabi where I started to trace this theme into the late nineteenth-century reception of Shakespeare. I am also working on an article about how the potentialities of theatrical language can explode recent receptions of the philosophical concept of “potentiality” into theatre and performance studies. Most of all, I am working on a book called Is there a Shakespearean theatre? This book extends the insights of the Hamlet article to argue that Shakespearean language works to constitute a domain of theatrical experience that departs from and critiques what we typically think of as “the theatre.” This language organizes, instead, a democratic, durational experience that highlights the anarchic interplay of language and theatre.
You catch me at an interesting moment. I have just recast this book project from my dissertation project, which focused on the relationship between prophetic language and Shakespearean language. Again, I hope that my own experiences with research—which, despite their successes, have often been hesitating, meandering, uncertain—can serve as a comfort to AUS students engaged in their own research projects. Whatever our fields, there is no certain way, and the only thing to do is to follow the words wherever they lead you.