Theatre-fiction

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Theatre-fiction refers to novels and short-stories that focus on theatre. Characters often include actors, playwrights, directors, prompters, understudies, set designers, critics, or casting agents. Common settings may include theatre auditoriums, dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces, or other places in which theatre is created and performed. Theatre-fiction may engage with and represent many different varieties of theatre, from performances of Shakespearean tragedy to Kabuki theatre to pantomime or marionette shows.

List of Novels and Stories about Theatre[edit]

The novels and stories in this list share a substantial and sustained focus on theatre. Many of them could be described as "theatre-novels" or "theatre-stories", as Graham Wolfe has defined these terms (Wolfe is referring to works whose engagement with theatre as artistic practice[s] or industry "is sufficiently developed to become a dominant" in the text[1]). In some cases (e.g. Twain's Huckleberry Finn or Tolstoy's War and Peace), only particular segments or chapters focus on theatrical performance or characters associated with theatre; in other cases, the novel or story is dominantly concerned with theatre.

  • Paul Scarron, Le Roman comique (1651)
  • Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (1749)
  • Oliver Goldsmith, “The Adventures of a Strolling Player” (1759)
  • Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield (1766)
  • Fanny Burney, Evelina (1778)
  • Thomas Holcroft, Alwyn; or The Gentleman Comedian (1780)
  • Thomas Holcroft, The Adventures of Hugh Trevor (1794)
  • J. W. Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1796)
  • Sophie Mereau-Brentano, “Die Flucht nach der Hauptstadt” (1806)
  • Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814)
  • Carl Jonas Love Almquist, The Queen's Tiara (1834)
  • Charles Dickens, “Mrs. Joseph Porter Over the Way” (1836)
  • Honoré de Balzac, Illusions perdues (1837)
  • Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby (1839)
  • Edgar Allan Poe, “The Spectacles” (1844)
  • Henry Chorley, Pomfret; or, Public Opinion and Private Judgment (1845)
  • Geraldine Jewsbury, The Half Sisters (1848)
  • Mrs. E.J. Burbury, Florence Sackville, or Self-Dependence (1851)
  • Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853)
  • Charles Reade, Peg Woffington (1853)
  • Anna Cora Mowatt, Mimic Life (1855)
  • Albert Smith, The Fortunes of the Scattergood Family (1855)
  • Annie Edwards, The Morals of Mayfair (1858)
  • Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1860)
  • Wilkie Collins, No Name (1862)
  • Louisa May Alcott, Behind a Mask (1866)
  • Théophile Gautier, Le Capitaine Fracasse (1863)
  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (1867)
  • Joseph Hatton, Christopher Kenrick: His Life and Adventures (1869)
  • William Black, In Silk Attire (1869)
  • Ivan Turgenev, Torrents of Spring (1872)
  • George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876)
  • B. H. Buxton, Jennie of ‘The Prince's’ (1876)
  • B. H. Buxton, Nell—On Stage and Off (1879)
  • B. H. Buxton, From the Wings (1880)
  • Émile Zola, Nana (1880)
  • Florence Marryat, My Sister the Actress (1881)
  • Edmond de Goncourt, La Faustin (1881)
  • Edgar Monteil, Cornebois (1881)
  • Florence Marryat, Facing the Footlights (1882)
  • Florence Marryat, Peeress and Player (1883)
  • Edith Drewry, Only An Actress (1883)
  • Arsène Houssaye, La comédienne (1884)
  • Mary Augusta Ward, Miss Bretherton (1884)
  • Harriet Jay, Through the Stage Door (1884)
  • Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn (1884)
  • William Black, Judith Shakespeare (1885)
  • George Moore, A Mummer’s Wife (1885)
  • John Coleman, Curley An Actor’s Story (1885)
  • John Coleman, The Rival Queens: A Story of the Modern Stage (1887)
  • Eva Ross Church, An Actress’s Love Story (1888)
  • Jean Blaize, Les Planches (1888)
  • Henri Bauer, Une comedienne: Scenes de la vie de théâtre (1889)
  • Bjarne P. Holmsen, Papa Hamlet (1889)
  • Henry James, The Tragic Muse (1890)
  • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
  • Georges Rodenbach, Bruges-la-Morte (1892)
  • Henry James, “The Private Life” (1892)
  • Henry James, “Nona Vincent” (1893)
  • Francis Gribble, Sunlight and Limelight: A Story of the Stage Life and the Real Life (1898)
  • Leonard Merrick, The Actor-Manager (1898)
  • Louis Vaultier, Une étoile (1898)
  • Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900)
  • Anatole France, Histoire comique (1903)
  • Saki, “Reginald’s Drama” (1904)
  • Arthur Symons, “Esther Kahn” (1905)
  • Rudyard Kipling, "Weland's Sword" (1906)
  • Émilie Lerou, Sous le masque (1907)
  • Louise Closser Hale, The Actress (1909)
  • Sholem Aleichem, Wandering Stars (1909)
  • Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera (1909–10)
  • Colette, La Vagabonde (1910)
  • Leonard Merrick, The Position of Peggy Harper (1911)
  • Colette, L’Enfant de Bastienne (1912)
  • Colette, L’Envers du music hall (1913)
  • Colette, Mitsou (1919)
  • D.H. Lawrence, The Lost Girl (1920)
  • Rafael Sabatini, Scaramouche (1921)
  • Avery Hapwood, The Great Bordello: A Story of the Theatre (1928)
  • Patrick Hamilton, Twopence Coloured (1928)
  • Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, Enter Sir John (1928)
  • J. B. Priestley, The Good Companions (1929)
  • Clemence Dane, Broome Stages (1931)
  • Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, Re-Enter Sir John (1932)
  • Rachel Ferguson, A Child in the Theatre (1933)
  • Dorothy Parker, “Glory in the Daytime” (1933)
  • Alan Melville, Quick Curtain (1934)
  • Agatha Christie, “Swan Song” (1934)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Enter a Murderer (1935)
  • Noel Streatfeild, Ballet Shoes (1936)
  • Mikhail Bulgakov, Black Snow: A Theatrical Novel (1930s, published 1967)
  • Klaus Mann, Mephisto (1936)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Vintage Murder (1937)
  • Michael Innes, Hamlet, Revenge! (1937)
  • Somerset Maugham, Theatre (1937)
  • Margery Allingham, Dancers in Mourning (1937)
  • J. B. Priestley, Birmanpool (1939, unpublished)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Overture to Death (1939)
  • Dorothy Sayers, “Nebuchadnezzar” (1939)
  • Dorothy Sayers, “Blood Sacrifice” (1939)
  • Geoffrey Trease, Cue for Treason (1940)
  • W. Somerset Maugham, “Gigolo and Gigolette” (1940; in the collection The Mixture as Before)
  • Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (1941)
  • Gypsy Rose Lee, The G-String Murders (1941)
  • Frances Lockridge and Richard Lockridge, Death on the Aisle (1942)
  • Noel Streatfeild, Curtain Up (1944)
  • James Thurber, “The Macbeth Murder Mystery” (1945)
  • Ngaio Marsh, “I Can Find My Way Out” (1946)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Final Curtain (1947)
  • J. B. Priestley, Jenny Villiers (1947)
  • Christianna Brand, Death of Jezebel (1948)
  • Antonia Forest, Autumn Term (1948)
  • Rumer Godden, A Candle for St Jude (1948)
  • Mary Orr, “The Wisdom of Eve” (1950)
  • Robertson Davies, Tempest-tost (1951)
  • Noel Coward, “Star Quality” (1951)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Opening Night (1951)
  • Antonia White, The Sugar House (1952)
  • Yukio Mishima, “Onnagata” (1953)
  • Herman Wouk, Marjorie Morningstar (1955)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Off with his Head (1957)
  • Karen Blixen, “Tempests” (1958)
  • Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum (1959)
  • Elizabeth Jane Howard, The Sea Change (1959)
  • Mary Renault, The Mask of Apollo (1966)
  • Ngaio Marsh, False Scent (1960)
  • Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road (1961)
  • John le Carre, Call for the Dead (1961)
  • Margaret Drabble, The Garrick Year (1964)
  • Dodie Smith, The Town in Bloom (1965)
  • J. B. Priestley, Lost Empires (1965)
  • Fritz Leiber, "Four Ghosts in Hamlet" (1965)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Death at the Dolphin (1967)
  • Angela Carter, The Magic Toyshop (1967)
  • Michael Blakemore, Next Season (1968)
  • Doris Lessing, The Summer Before the Dark (1973)
  • Angela Carter, “The Loves of Lady Purple” (1974)
  • Harry Secombe, Twice Brightly (1974)
  • Simon Brett, Cast, In Order of Disappearance (1975)
  • Ian McEwan, “Cocker at the Theatre” (1975)
  • Robertson Davies, World of Wonders (1975)
  • Agatha Christie, Sleeping Murder (1976)
  • Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire (1976)
  • A. S. Byatt, The Virgin in the Garden (1978)
  • Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea (1978)
  • John Mortimer, “Rumpole and the Showfolk” (1979)
  • John Arden, Silence Among the Weapons (1982)
  • Ngaio Marsh, Light Thickens (1982)
  • Charlotte Worgitzky, Meine ungeborenen Kinder (1982)
  • P. D. James, The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982)
  • Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984)
  • Angela Carter, “The Cabinet of Edgar Allan Poe” (1985)
  • Beryl Bainbridge, “Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie” (1985)
  • Simon Brett, “The Haunted Actress” (1985)
  • Linda Barnes, Blood Will Have Blood (1986)
  • Robert Kenneally, The Playmaker (1987)
  • Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion (1987)
  • Normand Chaurette, Scènes d'enfants (1988)
  • Edna O’Brien, “Dramas” (1989)
  • Beryl Bainbridge, An Awfully Big Adventure (1989)
  • Penelope Fitzgerald, At Freddie's (1989)
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)
  • Caroline Graham, Death of a Hollow Man (1989)
  • Harry Mulisch, Last Call (1989)
  • Jane Gardam, “Groundlings” (1989)
  • Christopher Stasheff, A Company of Stars (1991)
  • Angela Carter, “In Pantoland” (1991)
  • Angela Carter, Wise Children (1991)
  • Michael Malone, Foolscap, or, The Stages of Love (1991)
  • Robert Lee Hall, Murder at Drury Lane (1992)
  • Rumer Godden, Listen to the Nightingale (1992)
  • Simon Shaw, Bloody Instructions (1992)
  • Mike Ockrent, Running Down Broadway (1992)
  • Ellen Hart, Stage Fright (1992)
  • Parnell Hall, Actor (1993)
  • Peter Ackroyd, Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem (1994)
  • Doris Lessing, Love, Again (1995)
  • Barry Unsworth, Morality Play (1995)
  • Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet (1998)
  • Timothy Findley, Spadework (2001)
  • Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
  • Edgardo Cozarinsky, The Moldavian Pimp (2004)
  • Robert Goddard, Play to the End (2004)
  • David Lodge, Author Author (2004)
  • Anita Nair, Mistress (2005)
  • Reggie Oliver, "The Skins" (2005)
  • John Irving, Until I Find You (2005)
  • David Nicholls, The Understudy (2005)
  • Caryl Phillips, Dancing in the Dark (2005)
  • Will Eaves, Nothing to Be Afraid Of (2005)
  • Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (2006)
  • Claire Legendre, La Méthode Stanislavski (2006)
  • Sally Gardner, The Red Necklace (2007)
  • Patrick Rothfuss, Name of the Wind (2007)
  • Nicola Upson, An Expert in Murder (2008)
  • Eleanor Catton, The Rehearsal (2008)
  • Philip Roth, The Humbling (2009)
  • Valerie Martin, The Confessions of Edward Day (2009)
  • Nicola Upson, Angel with Two Faces (2009)
  • A.S. Byatt, The Children's Book (2009)
  • Ann Featherstone, Walking in Pimlico (2009)
  • Joseph O’Connor, Ghost Light (2010)
  • Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog (2010)
  • Helen Peter, The Secret Hen House Theatre (2010)
  • Esther Freud, Lucky Break (2011)
  • Boris Akunin, All the World’s a Stage (2011)
  • Lyn Gardner, Olivia’s First Term (2011)
  • Priya Parmar, Exit the Actress (2011)
  • Essie Fox, The Somnambulist (2011)
  • John Irving, In One Person (2012)
  • Barclay Price, Misdirection (2013)
  • Michelle Magorian, Impossible! (2014)
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (2014)
  • Sadie Jones, Fallout (2014)
  • Natalie Haynes, The Amber Fury (2014)
  • Dwayne Brenna, New Albion (2016)
  • Margaret Atwood, Hag-Seed (2016)
  • Eimear McBride, The Lesser Bohemians (2016)
  • Orhan Pamuk, The Red-haired Woman (2016)
  • Susan Choi, Trust Exercise (2019)
  • Mona Awad, All’s Well (2020)

Further reading[edit]

  • Ackerman, Alan. The Portable Theatre: American Literature and the Nineteenth-Century Stage. Baltimore, MA: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999.
  • Allen, Emily. Theater Figures: The Production of the Nineteenth-Century British Novel. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2003.
  • Barish, Jonas. The Anti-theatrical Prejudice. Berkeley: U of California P, 1981.
  • Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama, and the Mode of Excess. New Haven: Yale UP, 1976.
  • Brooks, Peter. Realist Vision. New Haven: Yale UP, 2008.
  • Buckler, Julie. The Literary Lorgnette: Attending Opera in Imperial Russia. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2000.
  • Dickinson, Linzy Erika. Theatre in Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine. Amsterdam: Brill, 2000.
  • Franklin, Jeffrey. Serious Play: The Cultural Form of the Nineteenth-Century Realist Novel. U of Pennsylvania P, 1999.
  • Jouanny, Sylvie. L'actrice et ses doubles: figures et représentations de la femme de spectacle à la fin de XIXe siècle. Genève: Droz, 2002.
  • Kurnick, David. Empty Houses: Theatrical Failure and the Novel. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2012.
  • Litvak, Joseph. Caught in the Act: Theatricality in the Nineteenth-century English Novel. Berkeley: U of California P, 1992.
  • Marshall, Gail. Actresses on the Victorian Stage: Feminine Performance and the Galatea Myth. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.
  • Miller, Renata Kobetts. The Victorian Actress in the Novel and on the Stage. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2020.
  • Newark, Cormac. Opera in the Novel From Balzac to Proust. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.
  • Newey, Katherine. Women’s Theatre Writing in Victorian Britain. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
  • Putzel, Steven D. Virginia Woolf and the Theatre. Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2012.
  • Russell, Gillian. “The Novel and the Stage.” Oxford History of the Novel in English, vol. 2, English and British Fiction 1750-1820, edited by Peter Garside and Karen O’Brien, Oxford UP, 2015, pp. 513-529.
  • Saggini, Francesca. Backstage in the Novel: Frances Burney and the Theater Arts. Trans. Laura Kopp. Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 2012.
  • Wolfe, Graham. "Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal: Theatrical Fantasy and the Gaze." Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 49.3 (2016): 91–108.
  • Wolfe, Graham. "Theatrical Extraneity: John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany and Dickensian Theatre-Fiction." Dickens Quarterly 35.4 (2018): 350–372.
  • Wolfe, Graham. Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris Lessing: Writing in the Wings. New York: Routledge, 2019.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wolfe, Graham. Theatre-Fiction in Britain from Henry James to Doris Lessing: Writing in the Wings. New York: Routledge, 2019. 4.