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Bridget Orr

Associate Professor

My work focuses on two areas: the colonial dimensions of British theatre in the long eighteenth century and writing from and about Aotearoa/New Zealand. My perspective on Restoration and eighteenth-century literature and culture was shaped by experiences in New Zealand in the year prior to my departure for graduate study at Cornell University, where I undertook doctoral work under the direction of Laura Brown. I participated in the campaign against the South African rugby team touring New Zealand in the winter of 1981, a process that forced me to think about the racist inequities enjoined by my nation’s colonial past and present. Doctoral study of eighteenth-century British literature and theatre provided a means of thinking through the colonialist origins of pakeha culture while teaching at Cornell offered the possibility of engaging with postcolonial literature.

My first book, Empire on the English Stage, 1660-1714 (Cambridge, 2001) describes and analyzes the plethora of ways in which late Stuart theatre dramatized the potential – and costs – of empire in the early stages of colonial expansion. My second, British Enlightenment Theatre: Dramatizing Difference (Cambridge, 2020), focuses on radical dimensions of early eighteenth-century English theatre, exploring plays about religious toleration, indigenous critique of imperial invasion, masonic concerns over commercial capitalism and the ‘local savagery’ of the countryside. I am currently researching a book about rural drama from the early modern period forward to explore the role of the countryside in England’s theatrical imaginary.

My first publication was an essay about Katherine Mansfield and settler criticism and I continue to write about Aotearoa/New Zealand poetry, fiction and film, as well as eighteenth-century voyage literature. My current New Zealand project concerns Bruce Mason, a pakeha playwright who was involved in the creation of the Maori Theatre Federation.