Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This study contributes to the ongoing exploration of the multiple ways visual and material artifacts perform. I take a look at how typewriters or rather how two representations of typewriters perform. I focus on two different images of working women, each rendered in terms of a popular female stereotype of the period. I selected the images because they bookend a period of time in which typewriters emerged to the fore as an efficient tool of reproduction in the business world. In turn, two different perspectives on the relationship between the typist and her typewriter, woman and machine, are provided. The study demonstrates how visual images, an advertisement from the early 1900s and a photograph from the 1920s, can be perceived and analyzed as performance events that tell us something about the cultures that produced and transmitted them and also about our current culture and how we perceive events we recall. Further, it shows us how practical performance methods contain conceptual-theoretical discourses that help us discuss how and why people perform. I undertake a critical historiography aiming to discover how the images perform certain histories. To do so, I focus on key elements in each image – the typewriting machine in Chapter Two and the woman as typewriter in Chapter Three – tracking and describing histories associated with each. In Chapter Four, I apply the stories and issues I’ve collected to an investigation of each image, adding to the perspective mix the basic “laws of theatricality” as conceptualized by Vsevolod Meyerhold. Although Meyerhold developed and experimented with his laws within the same time period that concerns me, I do not intend to draw direct correspondences between the images and Meyerhold’s application of the laws. Rather, I find the laws helpful to understanding and articulating how the images perform. That is, the laws will determine what makes for “performance” in this case. They offer a vocabulary for analyzing the images as performance events and, especially, for discussing the double-sided complexities that emerge in those events.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Ruth Bowman



Included in

Communication Commons