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Susan Manning

Affiliated Faculty, Associate Professor in English, Theatre, and Performance Studies

Ph.D. Columbia University

Susan Manning (she/her/hers) currently serves as Chair of English and is the Bergen Evans Professor in  the Humanities. Jointly appointed in English, Theatre, and Performance Studies, she teaches the history of theatrical modernism and avant-garde performance, specializing in dance and movement-based performance. She has worked as a curator and dramaturge as well as a scholar, and her writings have been translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Polish.  

She is the author or editor of six books: Ecstasy and the Demon (1993; 2nd ed. 2006) traces the shift from modernist bodies to fascist bodies in the works of Mary Wigman, Germany's leading dancer between the two world wars. Modern Dance, Negro Dance: Race in Motion (2004) explores changing relations between modern dancers and African-American concert dancers in New York City from the Red Decade of the 1930s to the Red Scare of the 1950s. Danses noires/blanche Amérique (2008), the catalogue for an exhibit she curated at the Centre national de la danse in Paris, narrates the history of African-American theatre dance in the U.S. from the era of Plessy v Ferguson to the election of Barack Obama. Her coedited anthologies include New German Dance Studies (2012), a survey of research by scholars inside and outside Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall; the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernist Dance (2020), a radical expansion of the canon and conceptualization of dance modernism, and Futures of Dance Studies (2020), the capstone for a seven-year Mellon grant, highlights how emerging scholars in the field have amplified earlier paradigms for inquiry. The development of dance studies as an interdiscipline within the humanities remains an abiding interest. 

As a dramaturge, she has written extensively about her collaboration with Milwaukee-born and Brooklyn-based choreographer Reggie Wilson on his 2013 work, Moses(es). In 2017 she took an onstage role as professor in South African choreographer Nelisiwe Xaba's solo Fremde Tänze, an experience that prompted her to edit a cluster of essays on the artist. She currently works as a dramaturge for the Berlin-born and Chicago-based choreographer Nejla Yatkin.

At Northwestern she is a long-time member of the executive committees for the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Drama and the Black Arts Initiative. She also has taken on a variety of positions for her home department of English, including serving as Chair.


Courses Taught

  • "Men Dancing"
  • "Feminism and the 20th Century American Stage"
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