Interview with W. B. Worthen, conducted by Diana Taylor, founding director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. This interview is a part of a series curated by the Hemispheric Institute, articulated around the question 'What is Performance Studies?' The series aims to provide a multifaceted approach to the often difficult task of defining the coordinates of both a field of academic study as well as a lens through which to assess and document cultural practice and embodied behavior. The contingent definitions documented in this series are based on the groundbreaking experiences and the scholarly endeavors of renowned figures in contemporary performance studies and practice.
W. B. Worthen is Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts, and Professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is the author of several books, including The Idea of the Actor (Princeton University Press 1984), Modern Drama and the Rhetoric of Theater (University of California Press 1993), Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance (Cambridge University Press 2002), and most recently Print and the Poetics of Modern Drama (Cambridge University Press 2006), and Drama: Between Poetry and Performance (Wiley-Blackwell 2010). He is also the author of widely used textbooks on dramatic literature, most recently the Wadsworth Anthology of Drama, and of the award-winning Modern Drama: Plays, Criticism, Theory. He is the former editor of the professional journals Modern Drama and Theatre Journal, and his articles have appeared in PMLA, Shakespeare Quarterly, TDR, Modern Drama, Performance Research, among other publications. Professor Worthen received his B. A. in English at the University of Massachusetts, and his Ph.D. in English Literature at Princeton University.
Professor Worthen has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, Northwestern University, the University of California at Davis, the University of California at Berkeley, and at the University of Michigan. He has also been a founding faculty member of the International Centre for Advanced Theatre Studies sponsored by the University of Helsinki, Finland. He has held grants from a number of foundations, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Guggenheim Foundation. Most recently, he is a Fellow of the "Interweaving Performance Cultures" International Research Center, Institute for Theater Studies, Freie Universität Berlin. He teaches a wide range of courses in drama, theatre and perfomance theory, and is Co-Chair of the Doctoral Subcommittee on Theatre, Theatre Division, School of the Arts, Columbia University. He is also affiliated with the Columbia Department of English and Comparative Literature. Professor Worthen is currently writing a book on literature and performance studies.