– Scholarship –

As a scholar, I am deeply invested in understanding how the stories people tell themselves—through drama, film, performance, and history—shape human behavior and thought. My research focuses on cross-cultural avant-garde, cognitive science, popular culture, and gender within the US, Europe, and Japan during the 20th and 21st centuries. I have presented work on the shared corporeal topography of Butoh dance and live zombie performances and the cognitive effects of certain kinds of dramatic language. My publications include works on gender representation in theatre (Into the Woods) and film (Aliens), as well as performance and book reviews.


My first book, based on my dissertation, looks at the often-ignored period of the Living Theatre’s first 13 years. I examine the history of the company’s development as well as deploy Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of capital to interrogate how and why various myths about the company and its history arose—myths that are sometimes in conflict with archival and historical evidence. I then explore what those conflicts reveal about symbolic capital and the production of theatre. I am especially interested in the lessons we can then apply to how current theatre organizations navigate between artistic and financial concerns.


My other major area of research examines how playwright Mac Wellman’s poetics often disrupt certain cognitive processes. Using language processing studies and theories from neuroscience and cognitive linguistics, I demonstrate that such disruptions often give rise to negative feelings because they produce an experience of losing control over one’s cognitive environment. Based on reader-response, I am currently revising an essay on the subject for resubmission to Modern Drama. This essay forms the beginning of a larger research project on reception and the avant-garde theatre of Dada and Futurism, the works of Gertrude Stein, and more contemporary productions by companies such as The Wooster Group.


I have presented research at a number of conferences, including the American Society for Theatre Research Conference, Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference, the American Drama Conference, the Comparative Drama Conference, and the Mid-America Theatre Conference. In 2014 I was one of twenty recipients of the New York Public Library Short Term Fellowship and in 2015 I was awarded a Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship to complete work on my dissertation.


Click on the titles below for brief descriptions and links to my publications.

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Peter C.

Wood, PhD