“To be natural . . . is such a difficult pose to keep up”: Elocution’s Extended Dénouement, a Case for the Revival of Thomas Sheridan’s Sincere Performer in Contemporary English Studies
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This thesis analyzes elocutionary theory and practice on a national, literary, and individual level, placing emphasis on the ways in which the eighteenth century treatises of elocutionist Thomas Sheridan address, and ultimately promote, speaking as both a public (or performative) and private (or authentic) act. Moreover, the thesis extends a consideration of the impact of elocutionary theory on various historical moments throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, respectively. Beginning with the works of elocutionist Thomas Sheridan and concluding with an analysis of recent pedagogical theories and narratives within the field of composition studies, this thesis also defines the impact of Sheridan's theories on the construction of Irish national identity. It presents nineteenth and twentieth-century Irish theatre as a compelling case study in order to argue that performance?a key theoretical concept in elocutionary theory?remains essential to the study and investigation of voice in the contemporary English classroom. Focusing on the dramatic works of Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Brian Friel, this thesis contends that Irish drama, in addition to presenting a forceful illustration of the ways in which Sheridan's elocutionary theories have been adapted and challenged on the national and civic level, provides current scholars access to recent dramatic representations of authenticity and voice as well as the virtues/pitfalls of performativity. Wilde, Shaw and Friel specifically present linguistic performance as a process of negotiation and exchange, using the stage to reflect and construct Irish national and civic identity. Each playwright offers a lens through which to reevaluate ongoing debates over language acquisition, particularly as such debates arise within the context of composition studies. Through a careful examination of elocutionary theory and its various influences across a variety of historical moments, this study encourages contemporary composition scholars and pedagogues to reconsider the role of authenticity and performance within the writing classroom, prompting students and teachers to explore writing as an expression of both the public and private self. In doing so, this thesis argues that scholars and teachers will become better equipped to address discussions of voice, authenticity and performance in their writing classrooms.
Snodgrass, Lindsay (2012). “To be natural . . . is such a difficult pose to keep up”: Elocution’s Extended Dénouement, a Case for the Revival of Thomas Sheridan’s Sincere Performer in Contemporary English Studies. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from