The Peripheral Iconoclast: The Rise of Ibsen in the American Theatre

Lecture | February 13 | 4-6 p.m. | 6415 Dwinelle Hall

 Svein Henrick Nyhus, University of Oslo

 Department of Scandinavian, Institute of European Studies

Henrik Ibsen’s breakthrough in the American theatre is characterized by controversy and contradiction. In 1902 the influential critic William Winter dismissively named him the “Bard of Bacteria”. In 1906, the year of his passing, William Dean Howells praised Ibsen as a classic. How did this Norwegian playwright, coming from the European periphery, manage to become a leading figure in the American theatrical world? And, importantly, who were the people responsible? What discernable social, cultural and historical forces made this development possible? Focusing on the period from 1879 to 1914 my project aims to approach these questions with a methodology drawing on both digital humanities and theatre historiography. In my talk I will give an outline of the project’s central concerns, and highlight conjectures regarding the role of the immigrant theatre and the structure of the American theatrical field for the assimilation of Ibsen.

Svein Henrik Nyhus is a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Scandinavian and a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre for Ibsen Studies at the University of Oslo.

 issa@berkeley.edu, 510-642-4484