Shakespeare's Olivier: Selfhood, Nationhood and the Cinema (1944-1958)
Barnes, Jennifer Ann
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I want to publish my work as a monograph and the thesis is subject to copyright restrictions
This thesis traces the construction and evolution of the star text of Laurence Olivier as it relates to cinematic Shakespeare production and formulations of nationhood in 1940s and 1950s Britain. Organised around an examination of Olivier’s four Shakespearean film adaptations (including the unmade Macbeth), the project focuses on the ways in which the concept of 'Shakespeare' – signalled throughout by its italicisation – is appropriated through Olivier’s image in relation to the industrial and cultural contexts of the wartime and post-war British film industry. It also examines articulations of Shakespearean selfhood and related reappropriations of the filmic image in Olivier’s life writing, exploring how Olivier engages with his own star persona. In examining the relationship that exists between broader industrial-cultural appropriations of 'Shakespeare' and a sense of a star’s personal connection with the national poet, the thesis explores (in addition to the film texts) extratextual materials such as fan letters, publicity documents, theatre and film ephemera, magazine interviews, newspaper criticism, industrial reports and personal and professional correspondence in order to interrogate the national-cultural function of a star text whose image is aligned to 'Shakespeare'. This thesis seeks to make an original contribution to Shakespeare on screen studies by constituting the fullest study of Laurence Olivier’s cinematic Shakespearean career to date. In introducing and analysing previously unseen archival material (including screenplays and shooting scripts relating to the unmade Macbeth), the thesis informs our understanding of the evolving history of British Shakespeare production and, therefore, of the history of Shakespeare on screen. Rethinking Olivier’s cultural currency as a Shakespearean star in 2012 and in the space of the archive, the thesis also contributes to the theoretical thinking underpinning Shakespearean performance studies and archival studies. Finally, the thesis opens the way for further considerations as to how (and to what effect) the Shakespearean star operates as a national and transnational phenomenon.
PhD in English