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Northwestern School of Communication

Tracy C. Davis

Professor, Ethel M. Barber Professor in Performing Arts; Associate Department Chair
Critical media theory encompassing transnational and transregional mobility of performance technologies and themes (pre-modern to present) (In development for performance) The Great Sea Serpent

Area(s) of Expertise

British Theatre History, Cold War Studies, Feminist theory, Gender and Theatre, Museum Studies, Performance Theory, Performing Arts, Research Methodology, Social Activism and Impact, Theatre History
Tracy C. Davis

Tracy C. Davis (Barber Professor of Performing Arts) specializes in the historiography methodologies of theatre and performance research, 19th-century theatre history, economics and business history of theatre, performance theory, gender and theatre, museum studies, and Cold War studies. She has published a dozen books and over 100 articles in journals dedicated to the arts, humanities, and social sciences. She is the Theatre Department’s Mentoring Champion and has provided trainings for faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs to improve mentoring skill, at Northwestern and at universities across the globe. Two books are forthcoming: Liberal Lives and Activist Repertoires: Political Performance and Victorian Social Reform and The Cambridge Guide to Mixed Methods Research for Theatre and Performance Studies (both with Cambridge UP).

She holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Performance Studies.

Mentoring Philosophy


  • PhD, Theatre Studies, University of Warwick
  • BFA, Drama, University of Calgary

Recent Publications

Davis’ most recent books are The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography (Routledge, 2021), co-edited with Peter W. Marx, Uncle Tom’s Cabins: The Transnational Histories of America’s Most Mutable Book (University of Michigan Press, 2018), the six-volume Cultural History of Theatre (Bloomsbury UK, 2017), The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance (Broadview, 2012), The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2008), Stages of Emergency: Cold War Nuclear Civil Defense (Duke), The Performing Society: Nineteenth-Century Theatre’s History (co-edited with Peter Holland, Palgrave), and Considering Calamity: Methods for Performance Research (co-edited with Linda Ben-Zvi, Assaph) all in 2007.

She has also authored Actresses as Working Women: Their Society Identity in Victorian Culture (1991), George Bernard Shaw and the Socialist Theatre (1994), The Economics of the British Stage (2000), and co-edited Women and Playwrighting in Nineteenth-Century Britain (with Ellen Donkin, 1999), and Theatricality (with Thomas Postlewait, 2004). Forthcoming Book: The Broadview Anthology of Nineteenth-Century British Performance (Broadview Press, 2011).

Work in Progress

  • (Author) Studies in Liberal Subjectivity
  • (Co-editor) Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance Historiography
  • (Series editor) Cambridge Studies in Theatre and Performance Theory (Cambridge UP)
  • (Series co-editor) Transnational Theatre Histories (Palgrave)

Awards and Honors

  • 1990-91 Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellowship, Harvard University
  • 1994-95 Kathleen Barker Research Award, Society for Theatre Research
  • 1994-95 American Philosophical Society Research Grant
  • 1995 National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship
  • 1997 Folger Library Short-Term Fellowship
  • 2001 George Freedley Memorial Award (Theatre Library Association)
  • 2003 Eisenhower Presidential Foundation Travel Grant
  • 2004 Clarence Ver Steeg Graduate Faculty Award (Northwestern University)
  • 2004 White House Historical Foundation Grant
  • 2005 Distinguished Scholar’s Prize (American Society for Theatre Research)
  • 2007 Lane Humanities Institute Teaching Professor
  • 2008 Stanley J. Kahrl Fellowship in Theatre History, Houghton Library (Harvard)
  • 2009 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, Huntington Library
  • 2016-18 Alexander von Humboldt Research Award, Köln Univerität

Recent Grants

  • 2008-09 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, Huntington Library
  • 2008-09 Stanley J. Kahrl Fellowship in Theatre History, Houghton Library
  • 2020-21 Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities Faculty Fellow
  • 2020-22 (Co-PI) National Science Foundation (GEOPATHS pilot grant)

Editorial Boards

  • Associate Editor, Theatre Journal
  • Editorial Board, Theatre Research in Canada
  • Editorial Board, Theatre Survey
  • Contributing Editor, TDR: The Drama Review
  • Honorary Advisory Editor, New Theatre Quarterly

Research Boards (selected)

  • Social Science Research Council, University Advisory Committee, Dissertation Proposal Development
  • Advisory Board, Shanghai Theatre Academy
  • Advisory Board, Gate Theatre Research Network


  • 18C Repertoires
  • Performance Activism
  • Comedic Theory
  • Theatre Historiography
  • Historical Ethnography
  • Cultural History of Theatre
  • Victorian Liberalism
  • State of the Nation Plays
  • Strategic Blackface
  • Caryl Churchill
  • Transnational Comparative Literature