John Muse

Assistant Professor
Department of English Language & Literature and the College

John Muse’s research and teaching focus on modern and contemporary theater and performance. He is interested in work that tests the boundaries of a given medium or the borders between media: plays that approach visual art, poems performed on stage, closet dramas, novels in dramatic form, and digital or otherwise virtual theater.

His current book project, “Short Attention Span Theaters,” unearths the history of the modernist microdrama. Although brief performances have existed since theater’s beginnings, late-19th-century playwrights began to reshape the minimal boundaries of dramatic form in response to outworn conventions and an accelerating culture. Muse argues that short plays warrant at least as much attention as short stories, lyric poems, or short films, in part because the temporal medium of theater allowed artists both to represent and unsettle emergent conceptions of time. Modernist shorts demonstrate that theatrical time is relative in ways Einstein did not imagine and that a drama of impoverishment can enrich our understanding of the possibilities and limits of the theater.

Muse’s work has been published in Modern Drama, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and Theater magazine. He was the recipient of a Whiting Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities in 2008–09. He received a PhD from Yale University in 2010.

Muse joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2010.

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