Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2007 Newsletter

Upcoming Exhibitions

Drawing of a man carrying suitcases

Image used in promotional materials for Death
of a Salesman
. Arthur Miller collection,
Harry Ransom Center.

Rehearsing the American Dream: Arthur Miller's Critical Theater
August 28, 2007-January 1, 2008

The American playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005) articulated an unparalleled engagement with his historical moment through such plays as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. He remained committed throughout his life to a politics of freedom. This engagement was never simplistic or topical, one of the reasons that his work has remained such a significant part of the staged canon. He compellingly married the emotional and psychological elements of character with concerns about public and political responsibility. The idea of theater providing the conscience for a nation—Miller's intellect and artistry were forged by his US citizenship—pulls his disparate works together into a whole. The exhibition uses Miller's plays to explore conscience in its theatrical expression: as an intertwined and interdependent political and emotional life.


Four men wearing Scottish Highlander costumes

"Highlander" by Joseph Cundell. 1856.

Dress Up: Portrait and Performance in Victorian Photography
August 28, 2007-January 1, 2008

Portrait and genre photography of the Victorian period typically employs vivid artifice and unconcealed theatricality, placing it in opposition to today's conventional portraiture. The Victorians embraced a coexistence of fact and fiction, and in these images we find that masquerade, costume, and performance all become elements of identity, regardless of whether the photographer's purpose is portraiture, documentary, or fine art.

This exhibition will present two groups of images for comparison. In the first group, models and sitters are staged, costumed, and presented so as to indicate or perform roles of some kind, whether literary, artistic, or purely imaginary. In the second group, models and sitters are instead costumed and photographed so as to represent themselves as embodiments of specific roles or well-defined identities. In essence, the first group brings together images of people dressed to play someone else, while the second has images of people posing to reveal the self. In true Victorian fashion, however, all of these subjects are "playing" roles, so many images will occupy a middle ground between the extremes of identity and theatricality.


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