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2006-07 Graduate Fellows

Jessica Barr's research analyzed the use of divine revelation as an epistemological category in two genres of medieval literature: first, "visionary" texts, which purport to relate factual encounters with God, and, second, self-consciously fictional “dream vision” poems.

The focus of her dissertation, The Limits of Revelation: Visionary Knowing and the Medieval Dream Vision Narrative, was to examine how the processes of knowing depicted in purportedly authentic visionary texts play out in fictional dream vision poems, in which the central protagonist often fails to understand the content of his vision. Considering the ways in which knowledge is communicated (or not communicated) through the vision in these texts, she assessed how visionary encounters with God would have been understood in terms of their ability to convey knowledge. To determine the status of the vision in these genres, she focused in particular upon the visionaries Julian of Norwich, Marguerite d'Oingt, and Gertrude of Helfta, comparing the representation of visionary knowing in these texts with three fourteenth-century English dream visions—"Pearl", "Piers Plowman", and Chaucer’s "House of Fame"—which question the ability of revelatory experience to truly effect a transformation in the dreamer’s spiritual state.

By exploring the question of visionary knowing in both fictional and “authentic” vision literature, Jessica argued that, in contrast to what has often been assumed, receiving a vision is not a passive experience; rather, the volitional and intellectual faculties of the visionary or dreamer must be properly engaged if the vision is to successfully transmit divine knowledge. Because most visionary literature of the Middle Ages was written by women, her dissertation also helps to situate medieval visionary women within the intellectual context of their time, arguing against the polarization of so-called "intellectual" and "affective" forms of mysticism.

Jessica is now an Assistant Professor, specializing in the literature of the Middle Ages, at Eureka College in Eureka, IL.

Christine Evans came from Australia to Brown, where she completed her MFA in Playwriting in 2002 as a Fulbright Scholar in Visual and Performing Arts.  Her plays have been developed and produced in San Francisco, Washington, DC, Seattle, Atlanta, New York City and Providence, as well as in her native Australia.  Honors and awards include a MacDowell Artists Fellowship, the Weston Award in Dramatic Writing, the Rella Lossy Award in Playwriting and Perishable Theatre’s International Women’s Playwriting Competition.  She has published scholarly articles in US and Australian journals, and worked at universities and colleges in the UK, Australia, and the US as dramaturge and lecturer in playwriting and performance.  In 2002 Christine entered the Ph.D. program at Brown in Theatre and Performance Studies, and completed her dissertation, Art, War and Objects: Reality Effects in the Contemporary Theatre, in 2007.  

Christine’s research focused on the contemporary fascination in the theatre with traces of the real: evidence, testimony and proof.  Marianne Moore defined poems as ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’- a phrase that aptly captures the paradox of theatre, where actual bodies performing in real-time, labor to create the illusion of other times, places and persons. Yet in post-modernity, the categories of the ‘real’ and the ‘copy’ have themselves become unstable, as Baudrillard, Debord and others have argued.  This unstable space might be considered the theatre’s ontological premise: theatre takes place as a live event before an audience, yet only on the condition of impersonating other absences. Walter Benjamin writes that interruption - exemplified in the epic theatre by the use of quotation - is "one of the fundamental devices of all structuring."  As theatre and fact-based discourses increasingly cite one another’s techniques, how can we understand the relationship between the increasing theatricalization of ‘reality effects' in public and fact-based discourses, and the importing of evidence, testimony and proof into the theatre?

Christine is an active (produced and producing) playwright.