Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Thomas S. Kuhn writes of disciplinary paradigms, presuppositions tactily setting the epistemological boundaries of a particular field or of the vision of a particular epoch. In the past decade, a paradigmatic revolution has deeply altered the western world's sense of reality. A new postmodern paradigm has emerged and evidenced itself in such critical approaches to art as semiotics, phenomenology, poststructuralism, and hermeneutics. The aim of the present study is to identify the central theoretical perspective offered by the new paradigm, to examine and define the central critico-historical principles stemming from such a perspective, and to relate these principles to the work of the theatre historian. In order to do so, the study has limited its focus to a single significant and representative body of work, the first thirteen volumes of the journal, New Literary History (NLH). Chapter I explicates the fundamental epistemological principles of the postmodern paradigm. The chapter has been structured to show the evolution of postmodern epistemology from its inception in Kant to its most contemporary representation in post-Gadamerian hermeneutics. The fundamental epistemological principles of the major modern and postmodern critical schools are examined and the interrelationships between these separate critical philosophies are studied. The chapter discusses the epistemological contributions made by Kant, Saussure, Hegel, Dilthey, Heidegger, Derrida, and Gadamer. The chapter also locates the identity of NLH in terms of the overall postmodern paradigm. Chapter II analyzes the nature of audience response as envisioned in the light of postmodern epistemology. The principles that structure this reception are accounted with special attention being given to contextual linguistics and the postmodern definition of metaphor. Chapter III details the problems that the postmodern historian finds with positivism and examines the alternative approach to historical inquiry suggested by the hermeneuticist. Chapter IV presents a summary of the basic tenets of the NLH approach to the history of the arts and proceeds to an evaluation of the merits and limitations of the NLH format for future theatre history research. The chapter includes an estimation of how the theatre historian may play a unique role in the progress of the NLH program of study.