Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Dorothee Birke


Current position: Visiting professor at the English department of the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

During her AIAS Cofund Junior Fellowship, Dorothee Birke has been working on the project "Situating Homelessness on the Contemporary British Stage".

Contact information on Dorothee Birke

AIAS project

In the context of the so-called “Great Recession” around the end of the twenty-first century’s first decade, discussions and anxieties about homelessness have gained a new momentum in European countries. My project charts the ways in which plays in Britain from the mid-1990s up to the present day have contributed to raising consciousness about the issue of homelessness by examining and subverting the divide between ‘homeless’ and ‘housed’. The medium of the play is especially well-suited for such reflections. Not only has drama as a genre been a prime medium for engaging with social and political issues, but the stage also offers the opportunity to both perform and question the spatial relations that are at the heart of the ‘homeless/housed’ dichotomy itself. Such relations are staged through the mise-en-scène as well as the characterization and interactions of the characters.

The project will furnish the first sustained and systematic discussion of the representation of the central trope of homelessness in British dramatic texts. It considers a corpus of plays from the 1990s to the present day, spanning a range of dramatic traditions, from in-yer-face to verbatim to variants that have been less frequently associated with political themes, such as metadrama. The close study of the plays’ formal strategies is grounded in a theoretical framework which brings together new concepts from the emerging transdisciplinary fields of studies of home and poverty studies.

Short bio

Dorothee Birke was a fellow at AIAS from 2015-2018 and an Associate Professor of English Studies at the University of Freiburg, Germany. She is about to publish her second monograph, Writing the Reader, which examines how the status of novel reading as a cultural practice evolved from the 18th to the 21st century, and how novelists themselves participated in this process.  She has published articles on memory, narrative theory and contemporary popular culture in international peer-reviewed journals such as Narrative, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture and The Journal of Popular Culture.