Emily Pitts Donahoe
Areas of Interest
Early modern literature, Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, classical and early modern rhetoric, media studies, Shakespeare and film
BA, English, Austin Peay State University
MA, English, University of Alabama, Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies
Emily Pitts Donahoe is a Presidential Fellow at Notre Dame, studying rhetoric, education, civics, and mass media in the early modern period, particularly in English Renaissance drama.
Her dissertation is entitled “The Deliberative Moment: Rhetoric and Propaganda on the Early Modern English Stage.” It reexamines the early modern public theater as an emergent form of mass media, explaining how playwrights drew on their rhetorical training to navigate the opportunities and the dangers of the public theater as they grew increasingly conscious of its status as mass entertainment. Combining historical research on early modern rhetoric with a transhistorical focus on mass media forms, Emily considers how dramatists like Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson explore the function of the public theater, thus expanding our own notions of its function. She argues in particular that these dramatists sought to transform the theater into a site of rhetorical and political education, one that would inculcate deliberative habits of mind in its audience members and create a citizenry resistant to indoctrination. Even as they celebrate the value of deliberation and debate, however, early modern dramatists also recognize that their rhetorical methods might be appropriated for political agitprop or otherwise authoritarian forms of political education. These playwrights explore the tensions—present in both the humanist rhetorical tradition and the public theater—between education and indoctrination, persuasion and coercion. Focusing on early modern rhetoric and mass media allow us to see how Shakespeare and his contemporaries wrestled with the function of the public theater, a medium that, like rhetoric itself, could be used to facilitate both collaborative, deliberative inquiry and the dissemination of propaganda.
As a Screen Cultures minor, Emily also studies film and new media adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, with a special interest in live theater broadcasts.
“Reading Shakespeare in a time of plague: Troilus and Cressida – portrait of a diseased body politic.” Public Seminar, May 2020.
“In Utramque Partem: Arguing Both Sides of the Question in Othello.” English Literary Renaissance, vol. 48, no. 3, 2018, pp. 314-338.
“Imitation, Innovation, and Imperium: The Grammar School Education of Lear’s Daughters.” Renaissance Papers 2016, pp. 79-90.
Recent Conference Presentations
“Good Governors: Fashioning the Deliberative Audience in Early Modern Drama.” The Shakespeare Association of America. April 2020.
“Cavendish Considers Shakespeare: Rereading The Convent of Pleasure and Love’s Labor’s Lost.” The Ohio Valley Shakespeare Conference, Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio. October 2018.
"Mediating the Shakespearean Stage: Screens, Space, and Adaptation in Two Theater Broadcasts of Richard II.” The British Graduate Conference, Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. May 2018.