After all, the theatrical stage was an important and early battleground on which women fought to make their public presence acceptable. Each time [actresses] stepped before an audience, they made a corporeal case for women’s rightful place on the stage and in the acting profession – Lindal Buchanan
Through its focus on the figure of the Victorian actress, my research explores the intersections of visual and literary representation, material culture, and rhetoric. I demonstrate the ways in which female performers attained agency through multi-modal rhetoric and thus, altered the view of women in the British public sphere. My dissertation draws upon archival research and contributes to the growing body of scholarship that analyzes the rhetoric of material culture—nineteenth-century portraits, theatrical postcards, souvenir books, programs, and annotations in play scripts—along with more traditional rhetorical expressions, such as autobiographies, drama reviews, and novels that feature fictional performers.