1st Edition

The Social, Aesthetic, and Medical Implications of Performing Shame Interdisciplinary Approaches

By Marlene Goldman Copyright 2023
    224 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Performing Shame shows how simulations of shame by North American writers and artists have the power to resist its withering influence.

    Chapter 1 analyses the projects’ key terms: shame, performance, and empathy. Chapter 2 probes the book’s key terms in light of a real-world study of an "empathy device" that aims to teach the public what it feels like to be disabled. Chapter 3 analyses how theatre intervenes in the practice of medicine via standardized patient actors who engage in role play to enhance medical students’ empathy for patients coping with shame. Chapter 4 moves from the clinic to the street to examine how The Raging Grannies’ public performances contest ageist constructions of older women’s bodies and desires. Chapter 5 shifts further from the bedside to the book by exploring Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, which challenges the shame projected onto homosexuals. Bringing the study full circle, the final chapter offers close readings of the stories of Alice Munro; like empathy devices, her texts restage scenes of shame to undo its malevolent spell.

    This book will be of interest to scholars in theatre and performance studies, health humanities, gender studies, queer studies, literary studies, disability studies, and affect studies.

    Table of Contents



    Performing Shame: A Brief Introduction

    Chapter 1 – Keywords: Shame, Performance, and Empathy

    Chapter 2 – Empathy Devices

    Chapter 3 – Medicine’s Hidden Curriculum and the Use of Standardized Patients to Reduce Shame and Foster Empathy

    Chapter 4 – Contesting Sexism and Ageism through Political Activism: The Raging Grannies

    Chapter 5 – Withdrawing Shame: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

    Chapter 6 – Alice Munro’s Performative Fictions: Challenging (Dis)Ability

    Conclusion: "Embrace the Gap"

    Works Cited



    Marlene Goldman is a Professor in the Department of English at the University of Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She specializes in Canadian literature, age studies, and medical humanities. Her book Forgotten: Age-Related Dementia and Alzheimer’s in Canadian Literature (2017) explores narrative and pathological modes of forgetting associated with trauma, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Goldman is also the author of Paths of Desire (1997), Rewriting Apocalypse (2005), and (Dis)Possession (2011). Goldman has also written, directed, and produced three short films. The first, about dementia, is entitled Piano Lessons (2017), and is based on Alice Munro’s short story In Sight of the Lake, from her collection Dear Life (2004). Her second film, Torching the Dusties (2019) adapted from Margaret Atwood’s story of the same name, addresses aging and intergenerational warfare. Her most recent film, Mani Pedi (2021), is based on the eponymous story by Souvankham Thammavongsa.