105 Johnson Chapel
PO Box: AC# 2234
Christopher A. Grobe
Assistant Professor of English
Departmental affiliation:EnglishAmherst College
Ph.D. (2011), M.Phil./M.A. (2009), Yale University, English Department
B.A. (2005), Yale University, English & Theatre Studies Departments
I specialize in the twentieth-century entanglement of literature, performance and media, and I teach across the long history of drama. I came to literary studies from a career in the theater, and this background explains my interests as a thinker and a teacher. In traditional theater, the actor’s task is to inhabit that no-man’s-land between the printed text of the play and the proliferating possibilities of its performance. My years spent in this no-man’s-land convinced me that whenever we deal with texts, we must pay attention to the performances they prompt or presume. Is that book you’re holding meant to be read silently or aloud, in private or in public, alone or together? Is it meant to be read at all? We instinctively consider such questions when reading plays, but what of novels, poems, or essays? We must ask not only what they offer us as readers, but also what they demand of us.
My current book project, Performing Confession: Poetry, Performance, and New Media since 1959, explores a particular body of texts (recent American confessional narrative) in light of the performances that have been crucial in shaping and disseminating them. Under this rubric of “confessional performance,” I gather the public readings of confessional poets, the consciousness-raising monologues of early feminist performance artists, the self-revelation of theatrical monologuists, and even the “confession booth” speeches that pervade reality television. Autobiography, I argue, has become not only “performative” (as scholars of life-writing are eager to claim) but something literally to be performed.
My next book project, Thinking in Public, will offer a history and theory of performed intellectualism from Socrates to the TED talk. Public sphere theory has tended to assume that "rational-critical reflection" and "embodied sociability" are (or have been until quite recently) conflicting impulses, but I will show how centuries of theater artists and charismatic intellectuals have rejected this false binary. Every idea, they assume, must be made public, and every public idea must be performed. This is not a matter of belatedly tarting up our ideas with performance—i.e., after the "real" thinking is done—but of thinking in and through performance. In the end, this is the simplest and most powerful way to make the notional actual, the thinkable livable.
- “The Breath of the Poem: Confessional Print/Performance Circa 1959." PMLA 127.2 (March 2012): 215-230. (Link)
- “Love and Loneliness: Secular Morality in the Plays of Conor McPherson.” Princeton University Library Chronicle 68.1-2 (2006): 684-704.
- (excerpted in the Norton anthology of Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama, 563-568)
Reviews & Other Short Essays
- "Memoir 2.0; or, Confession Gone Wild," Public Books. Online. (Link)
- Review of American Poetry in Performance: From Walt Whitman to Hip Hop. Modern Drama 55.4 (Winter 2012): 579-81. (Link)
- "Refined Mechanicals; Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Share the Stage: New Scholarship on Theater and Media." Theater 42.2 (May 2012): 139-146. (Link)
- “Canonical Improvisations: The Case of Them.” Theater 41.2 (2011): 5-7. (Link)
- “Twice Real: Marina Abramović and the Performance Archive.” Theater 41.1 (2011): 104-113. (Link)
- The New Haven Independent (head theater critic, 2007-2008)
- The Village Voice (contributing theater critic, 2008-2010)