Department of English

University of Toronto

Switzky, Lawrence

Lawrence Switzky
Associate Professor; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor (UTM)
UTM Office Phone: 905-569-4577
UTM Office Location: Deerfield Hall 1047
UTSG Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 813
Office Hours and/or Leave Status: On leave July 1, 2019 - November 15, 2019

Lawrence Switzky is currently completing a manuscript, The Rise of the Theatre Director: Negotiations with the Material World, 1880-1956, which demonstrates how the evolution of an artistic executive responsible for the interpretation and sensuous materialization of theatrical texts shaped fundamental ethical and aesthetic debates on the modern stage. Modernist artists across a variety of media (literature, painting, music, architecture) refined the pliability of their respective materials in an attempt to expand the expressive range of their art forms. But directors confronted special challenges because their material was the recalcitrant body and volition of the actor. How did early directors persuade actors to yield their individual agency to the “unity” of a stage representation, and how did their rhetorical strategies mimic similar agendas in contemporary politics? Despite their reputation as autocrats, directors also worried about the legibility of their labour in performances. By locating directors alongside attempts to document other emergent modernist professions like psychoanalysis, film editing, scientific management, graphic design and literary criticism, this project identifies new forms of “directorial writing” pioneered by directors to preserve their work despite its apparent invisibility in performance. Finally, this project asks how playwriting changed as writers became suspicious of directors as designated intercessors between play-texts and audiences. How did strongly autonomous playwrights “director-proof” their plays, and how did the resistance to directing influence the formal experimentation of modern drama? Studying a range of directors and director-playwrights, including Georg II, Richard Wagner, Gordon Craig, Adolphe Appia, Konstantin Stanislavski, Max Reinhardt, Bertolt Brecht, Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, The Rise of the Director argues that directing is not a marginal art form, but instead is vital to understanding representation, mediation, and the aestheticization of politics during the first half of the twentieth century.

Research interests
Modern and contemporary drama; British and continental modernism; performance theory; literature and music; nineteenth-century intellectual and cultural history; the relationship between the arts; media theory and theories of technology; theories of creativity

B.A. – Yale University (English); M.A., Ph.D. – Harvard University (English)




Shakespeare's Things: Theatre and the Non-Human World in History, Theory, and Performance, co-edited with Brett Gamboa; collection of 18 peer-reviewed essays (under contract with Routledge, forthcoming in 2018)

Editor, Collected Works of Bernard Shaw, Vol. 2: Arms and the Man, The Devil's Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra (under contract with Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2019)

Manuscript in progress, The Rise of The Director: Negotiations with the Material World, 1880-1956 (under contract with Northwestern University Press).

Guest Editor of Modern Drama 59:2 with Marlene Goldman, special issue on “Modern Drama, Aging, and the Life Course” (forthcoming Summer, 2016). Introductory essay (co-authored with Marlene Goldman): “Modern Drama, Aging, and the Life Course.”

"Tadeusz Kantor and the Early Directorial Avant-Garde: Craig, Schlemmer, Meyerhold." Forthcoming in The Theatre of Tadeusz Kantor, ed. Kathleen Cioffi and Magda Romanska (Northwestern University Press, 2016).

"Marriage Contract/Social Contract: Sources of the (Conjugal) Self in Shaw's Three Plays for Puritans." Forthcoming in Marriages and Misalliances, ed. Bob Gaines. Palgrave, 2016. 

"Transmedia Ethics: Why Theater Needs Philosophy Needs VR Needs Video Games." Forthcoming in Theater, special issue on "Digital Feelings," Summer 2016.

"Media and Technology." Bernard Shaw in Context, ed. Brad Kent, Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Guest-Editor of SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies 35.1: Special Issue on "Bernard Shaw and Modernity." June 2015. Introductory essay: “Enchanted Shaw and Other Shavian Modernities.”

"Allegory and its Limits in the Ring: Bernard Shaw and Patrice Chereau on Wagner." The Opera Quarterly 30:2, Summer 2015.

"Marathon Theatre as Affective Labour: Productive Exhaustion in The Godot Cycle and Life and Times." in Canadian Theatre Review vol. 162, special issue on :"Performing Products," Spring 2015.

"Dramaturgy as Function, Skill and Verb." In The Routledge Companion to Dramatugy, ed. Magda Romanska. Routledge, 2014.

“Directors/Directing,” “Bernard Shaw” and “Max Reinhardt” Forthcoming in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, ed. Penny Farfan et al.

"Hamlet in the British Novel." in Hamlet Handbuch, ed. Peter Marx. Metzler Verlag, 2014.

"Shaw and Cruelty." Shaw and Feminisms: On Stage and Off, ed. D. A. Hadfield and Jean Reynolds. University Press of Florida, 2013.

"The Shelf Life of Shock: Alice Tuan's Ajax (por nobody) in the Flesh." TDR 57:3. Fall 2013.

“Hearing Double: Acousmatic Authority and the Rise of the Director.” Modern Drama 54:2. Summer 2011. 29 pages.

     Co-winner of the 2011 Best Essay Award.

“Shaw Among the Modernists.” SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies, vol. 31. 2011. 17 pages.

“The Last Word on Last Words: Shaw and Catastrophic Drama.” SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies, vol. 27. 2008. 11 pages.

The Return of the Prodigal” and “J. B. Priestley” in The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. Columbia University Press, 2007.


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