W. B. Worthen

Alice Brady Pels Professor in the Arts
Chair, Department of Theatre, Barnard College

Co-Chair, Ph.D. Program in Theatre, Columbia University

Professor, Division of Theatre, School of the Arts, Columbia University

Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University


Before joining Barnard's faculty in 2008, W. B. Worthen taught at the University of Michigan, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Davis, Northwestern University, and University of Texas at Austin. He has been a visiting professor at Columbia University, taught at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, and was a founding faculty member of the International Centre for Advanced Theatre Studies, University of Helsinki. He is also appointed in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, and in the Theatre Division, School of the Arts, Columbia University, and serves on the Execituve Committee of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. He is Co-Chair of the Ph.D. Program in Theatre at Columbia. 

Worthen has received numerous awards and grants, including the J.L. Styan Collegiate Professorship, University of Michigan, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship; he has also won teaching awards from the University of Texas, Northwestern University, and University of Michigan. Most recently, he has been a fellow of the "Interweaving Performance Cultures," International Research Center of the Free University, Berlin. He is the past editor of the professional journals Modern Drama and Theatre Journal, and a winner of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Research Award.

At Barnard he teaches a range of courses in drama and performance theory, modern theatre, and Shakespeare and performance, as well as chairing the Department of Theatre; he teaches as well in the doctoral program in Theatre at Columbia. He is the author of several books ranging across drama, theatre, and performance studies, the editor of critical collections, and of The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama and Modern Drama: Plays/Criticism/Theory. Recent articles appear in TDR, Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespearean International Yearbook, Shakespeare Bulletin, Postmedieval, Performance Research, Modern Drama, and elsewhere.

Selected Publications

Shakespeare Performance Studies (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).


Drama: Between Poetry and Performance (Blackwell-Wiley, 2010).


Print and the Poetics of Modern Drama (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006).


Shakespeare and the Force of Modern Performance (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2003).


Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997).


Modern Drama and the Rhetoric of Theater (Univ. of California Press, 1992).


The Idea of the Actor (Princeton Univ. Press, 1984).


Editor, The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama, sixth edition (Wadsworth, 2010).


Editor, Modern Drama: Plays/Criticism/Theory (Harcourt Brace, 1995).

Editor, with Barbara Hodgdon, A Companion to Shakespeare and Performance (Blackwell, 2005).


Editor, with Peter Holland, Theorizing Practice: Redefining Theatre History (Palgrave, 2003).


Editor, with Ric Knowles and Joanne Tompkins, Modern Drama: Defining the Field (University of Toronto Press, 2003).


Editor, with Helka Mäkinen and S. Wilmer, Theatre History and National Identities (Helsinki: University of Helsinki Press, 2001).

Academic Focus: 

Drama and performance studies
Modern drama and performance

Awards & Honors: 
Professional Affiliations: 
Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

"Shax the App," seminar presentation, Shakespeare Association of America, Toronto, March 2013

"Retrotech," seminar presentation, Shakespeare Association of America, Boston, April 2012 

"Bordering Performance: Writing (Post)Dramatic Performance in the Digital Age," GRAE International Conference, Autonomous University of Barcelona, March 2012.

"'My Dull Brain Wrought With Things Forgotten': Cognitive Studies and Performance," American Society for Theatre Research, Montreal, November 2011

"'The Written Troubles of the Brain': Character, Cognition of Performance, and Sleep No More," "Interweaving Performance Cultures International Research Institute, Free University, Berlin, July 2011

"The Play's the Thing: Remembering Theatre," Dahlem Humanities Center, Free University, Berlin, June 2011

"Shakespeare/Performance/Studies," Distinguished Speaker Series, Department of English, Arizona State University March 2011

"'What light from yonder window speaks': Dedramatizing Shakespeare," Shakespeare Association of America April 2011


Recent publications

"'What light through yonder window speaks?' The Nature Theater of Oklahoma Romeo and Juliet and the Cult(ure) of Shakespeare," Shakespeare and the Urgency of Now, ed. Cary Di Pietro and Hugh Grady (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

"Stanislavsky and Cognitive Theatre Studies," ed. Andrew White, Cambridge Companion to Stanislavsky (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

"'The Written Troubles of the Brain': Sleep No More  and the Space of Character," Theatre Journal  64 (2012): 79-97.


"Intoxicating Rhythms; Or, Shakespeare, Literary Drama, and Performance (Studies)," Shakespeare Quarterly 62 (2011): 309-39.


"Shakespeare Performance Studies," Shakespearean International Yearbook 10 (2010): 77-92.


"Shakespeare 3.0," Alternative Shakespeares 3, ed. Diana Henderson (London: Routledge, 2007).






Office Hours: 

Ph.D., English literature, Princeton University

B.A., summa cum laude, English literature, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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In the News

Theatre professor's book focuses on three imaginative performances: the Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s 2009 production of “Romeo and Juliet,” Punchdrunk Theatre’s wordless “Macbeth," Sleep No More,” and Michael Almereyda's 2000 film, “Hamlet.”