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Embodied Astronomies: Performances of Telescopes and Other Detection Devices

Appler, Vivian (2015) Embodied Astronomies: Performances of Telescopes and Other Detection Devices. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Embodied performance is essential to scientific practice. Using methods from cognitive theory, performance studies, and close readings of plays and other performance texts, I propose that theatre provides a popular space in which people who are not science experts might participate in the production of science ideas. This process is particularly apparent when science machines are represented on the theatrical stage. This dissertation focuses on plays and performances that feature the telescope as central to the action of plays that explicitly deal with questions about the pursuit of the unknown.
The first chapter, “History: Telescopic (mis)Information on the Early Modern Stage,” examines the doubled narratives in Thomas Tomkis’s Albumazar (1614) and Aphra Behn’s The Emperor of the Moon (1687). Both of these plays enact verbal narratives that are skeptical of the usefulness of the telescope as applied to the practice of astronomy. Close readings of the scenes that do feature telescopes reveal that the machines enact their own narratives within the metaenvironment of the theatre.
Radio-telescopes take the stage in the second chapter, “Criticism: Credit and Authority in the Performance of Trustworthy Astronomy.” In this chapter, telescopes feature in plays and performances that stage social criticisms of the institutional practices of late twentieth century astronomy and its related, theoretical sibling, cosmology. Lauren Gunderson’s play, Background (2003) and the film, Contact (1997), based on the novel by Carl Sagan, are performances that dramatize inequalities of access and authority that plague the performance of science in the domain of the laboratory.
The final chapter, “Praxis: Towards an Accessible Performance of Astronomy,” examines performances from scientific and theatrical domains that explicitly endeavor to stage equitable science practice. The American Astronomer Vera Rubin broke boundaries of access within her astronomy career, and publicly advocated for the inclusion of women and other minorities in the field of astronomy. Performance artist Laurie Anderson blurs the art-science divide with her one-woman show, The End of the Moon (2005) whereby she further articulates the networked system of contemporary culture in which politics, science, and the arts all share the stage.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Appler, Vivianvra4@pitt.eduVRA4
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberMcDermott, Ryanrjm95@pitt.eduRJM95
Committee ChairWaldron, Jenniferjwaldron@pitt.eduJWALDRON
Committee MemberMcConachie, Brucebamcco@pitt.eduBAMCCO
Committee MemberPalmieri, Paolopap7@pitt.eduPAP7
Date: 9 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 12 August 2015
Approval Date: 9 September 2015
Submission Date: 31 July 2015
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 212
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: telescope, embodiment, performance, cognition, early modern, Laurie Anderson, Aphra Behn, Albumazar, Contact, Tomkis, Ben Jonson, Lauren Gunderson, Paul Godfrey
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2015 20:44
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:29


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