The dissertation project focuses on the significance of American “college drama” in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The literary corpus comprises dramatic dialogues officially performed at the colleges as well as (mostly British) theater plays which were brought to the stage as “clandestine productions” by members of student fraternities. Same-sex relations between men engaged in these theatricals will occupy center stage. As a starting point, the changing role of masculinity in those days shall be renegotiated, especially as far as homosociality and homosexuality are concerned. Answering the question as to what extent engaging in theatrical acticivites fostered male-male relationships will be of special importance here. By arguing that eighteenth-century colleges can be described as “total institutions”—a term coined by Erving Goffman—the project seeks to explore the extent to which the rigid control exercised by college officials reinforced male-male relations, especially with regard to students’ drama clubs that staged clandestine productions of plays. Moreover, the dissertation aims at giving evidence of the impact academic drama and the homosocial bonding that went hand in hand with these theatrical endeavors had on students’ later political careers and their endorsement of America’s independence.
Michael Streif is a PhD candidate and research fellow in the project “Gender and Comedy in the Age of the American Revolution” at the Department of English and American Studies at the University of Salzburg. In 2013, he received the Fulbright Prize for Best Master’s Thesis in American Studies for his work “The Hollwood Conque(e)ror: Marlene Dietrich and the Representation of (Homo)Sexuality and Gender Roles in Classical American Cinema.” He is spending the academic year 2016/17 in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, USA (Minnesota Doctoral Research Fellowship, granted by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and Economy.)