Thomas Sheridan's Career and Influence: An Actor in Earnest

Thomas Sheridan's Career and Influence: An Actor in Earnest

by Conrad Brunstorm


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Thomas Sheridan's Career and Influence: An Actor in Earnest by Conrad Brunstorm

Ambitious polymath Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788) was the lynch pin of the most fascinating family in Anglo-Irish literary history. The godson (and future biographer) of Jonathan Swift, the son of Thomas Sheridan senior, a talented poet and scholar, the husband of the novelist Frances Sheridan and the father of the dramatist and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan, this new study reconstructs this much maligned transitional Sheridan as a monumental figure in his own right. This book discusses the varied and relentless energies of Thomas Sheridan in an attempt to recover an overall purpose and agenda which unites his adventures as actor-manager of Smock Alley Theatre Dublin with his pioneering campaigns in the fields of oratory, elocution and lexicography. Infused with civic republican zeal (derived in part from close reading of Montesquieu and an admiration for native North American culture) Sheridan believed that humanity in general and Anglophones in particular suffered from a cultural and political enervation as a result of the cultivation of written language at the expense of spoken language. It is argued that "republicanism" functioned more as a figure of political virtue than as a preferred mode of government. Enjoying particular success in Edinburgh with his public lectures, Sheridan sought to unify the peoples of Britain and Ireland by making the principles of elocution available to all, effectively de-centralizing the linguistic claims of metropolitan center. The Sheridan who emerges from this study is a phonocentric obsessive who left an abiding mark on the future of both acting and speech-making, but whose limitations are equally interesting and influential. In seeking to tame the riotous eighteenth-century stage, he anticipated (unknowingly) a far more passive "cinematic" form of spectator entertainment (accelerated by his mentorship of the great Sarah Siddons, arguably the first player to be experienced as a "movie star").

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611480382
Publisher: Bucknell University Press
Publication date: 04/18/2011
Series: Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650-1850 Series
Pages: 168
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Conrad Brunström is lecturer in English at the National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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