Incitement to Discourse: The Lord Chamberlain’s Censorship of Plays in Late Victorian England, 1890-1910

Matthew Lewsadder :

Mentor: Professor Sharon Marcus, English

Matthew’s project will take him to the British Library in London this summer, where he will investigate the censorship of plays during the transition from Victorianism into Modernism. In particular, he will be examining the significant role the Lord Chamberlain played in maintaining English “morality” through his censorship powers. Taking Foucault’s theories as a starting point, Matthew will test his hypothesis that the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship activities, which were deployed inconsistently, were less concerned with the maintenance of “decency” and “morality” than they were with who had the authority to control the expression of desire. Matthew proposes to examine both the original manuscripts of the censored plays, with the Lord Chamberlain’s annotated markings, as well as periodicals and newspapers from the period that will help provide a critical historical context for understanding Foucault’s insight that censorship leads paradoxically to a proliferation of a discourse on sex. The resulting study will be submitted as Matthew’s Seniors Honors Thesis in English.