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Performing with the Environment


Focusing on twentieth through twenty-first century ecological theater, literature, film, and new media in the United States, I ask how humans may interact with the environment rather than only act upon it. While the nascent field of eco-theater recognizes the importance of space and place, this dissertation goes a step further, combining spatial theory and ecocriticism in order to generate a spatialized eco-performance. The project takes up the prefix trans- to consider human and nonhuman environmental encounters and how these spatiotemporal crossings illuminate both spatial injustices and interspecies dependency. I argue that, while each environment has its own particularities, there are parallels to be made between the systems of environmental injustice in one site and those in another. I adapt interdisciplinary methodologies of ecocriticism, urban political ecology, and environmental justice in order to strengthen reciprocity between humans and other bio-organisms, as well as to expose the unequal power dynamics historically embedded in human and nonhuman relations.

The first half of the dissertation centers on land. It explores the ways in which land and metropolites have become separated from each other, and it analyzes performances that expose this constructed divide by transgressing boundaries of "public" and "private" space. The second half of the dissertation centers on water. It considers how water exploitation can lead to disasters that both displace and destroy local ecologies but also make humans aware of their ecological interdependency. Through the prefix trans-, this project analyzes how diverse bio-organisms cross and converge, be it in congested cityscapes or moments of crisis. Elucidating performances that foster egalitarian, symbiotic relationships between humans and other bio-organisms, this dissertation both exposes the joint subjugation of people and place and highlights interdependency between humans and their environments.

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