Erin Hurley

Erin Hurley, Associate Professor of Drama and Theatre in the Department of English at McGill University in Montreal, holds a PhD in Theatre from the City University of New York -- The Graduate Centre, an MA in Theatre from Brown University and an Honours BA in English from McGill. She teaches courses in dramatic and performance theory, Quebec theatre, 20th century theatre history, and feminist performance.

Her interest in circus stems from coursework in popular entertainments with Don Wilmeth at Brown, where she wrote her Masters Thesis on Punch and Judy shows and East End Melodrama, and with Brooks McNamara at New York University.  Since then, her circus-related scholarship has focussed primarily on the Cirque du Soleil, its aesthetics and politics. Her first scholarly publication, “States of Play: Locating Québec in the Performances of Robert Lepage, Ex Machina, and the Cirque du Soleil,” won her and co-author, Jen Harvie, the Best Essay in Criticism Award for the year 2000 from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. 

Hurley’s interest in circus and other popular entertainments is reflected in her two books: National Performance: Representing Québec from Expo 67 to Céline Dion (University of Toronto Press, 2011) and Theatre & Feeling (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). National Performance -- winner of the 2011 Ann Saddlemyer Award for the best book in Canadian theatre studies as well as the 2009 Northeast Modern Language Association Best Book Prize for best unpublished manuscript -- treats the Cirque du Soleil, as well as the popular forms of world’s fairs and popular music.  Theatre & Feeling draws on the history of “traditional” (that is, travelling, US-style) circus and melodrama in its argument for theatrical feeling.

Currently, Hurley holds a SSHRC Standard Research Grant for research into “Theatre and Feeling”, a critical inquiry into how and why the theatre arts provoke, manipulate, distribute, and manage emotions both on-stage and off-.  Her most recent work under this rubric concerns affect and the automatic in theatrical performance, with particular reference to puppets, performing objects, and postdramatic “figures” (Ryngaert and Simon) on the contemporary Montreal stage. She has presented some of this work in keynote addresses to the 2010 conference of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research and to “The Mirror Crack’d: The Nation-Performance Relation in Quebec and Ireland”, a research workshop sponsored by the Craig Dobbin Chair in Canadian Studies at Trinity College Dublin in spring 2011.


Circus research related publications

  • “Le Cirque: de la différance à la ressemblance.” Spirale. No. 227 (July/August 2009): 24-8.<link>
  • “Les corps multiples du Cirque du Soleil.” Trad. Isabelle Léger. Globe. Revue internationale d’études québécoises 11:2 (Fall 2008): 135-157.
  • (co-authored with Jennifer Harvie) “States of Play: Locating Québec in the Performances of Robert Lepage, Ex Machina and the Cirque du Soleil.” Theatre Journal 51:3 (1999): 299- 315.<link>


Circus research related academic papers

  • “The Cirque du Soleil’s Multiple Bodies,” Canadian Association for Theatre Research, Vancouver, BC, June 2008.
  • “The Cirque du Soleil’s Physical Repertoire,” Colloque international de la Société québécoise d’études théâtrales, May 2008.
  • “Nation without Location: The Trans-nation of Cirque du Soleil,” Modern Language Association (MLA), San Francisco, CA, December 1998.
  • “Cirque du Soleil’s Traveling Culture,” Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), Chicago, IL, August 1997.
  • (with Jennifer Harvie), “States of Play,” Association for Canadian Theatre Research (ACTR), St. John’s, Newfoundland, June 1997.


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cirque circus group


Members of the group are regular collaborators engaged in an ongoing conversation. They regularly attend Working Group meetings in Montreal or elsewhere and are expected to give at least one talk a year or to act as respondents to colleagues' papers.


Graduate Students

Regular participants, working with Working Group members or working on circus-related scholarly topics:

  • Joanna Donehower
    doctoral candidate, PhD in Humanities, Concordia; supervisor: Louis Patrick Leroux
  • Lyn Charland
    doctoral candidate, PhD in Humanities, Concordia; supervisor: Louis Patrick Leroux
  • Sue Proctor
    MA in SIP, Concordia; supervisor: Louis Patrick Leroux
  • Johanna Tzountouris
    MA, Laval University
  • Katie Lavers
    PhD Candidate through WAAPA (Edith Cowan University, Australia)


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