Kathleen Schaag

Brittain Fellow

Member Of:
  • School of Literature, Media, and Communication
  • Writing and Communication Program
Office Location:
Skiles 313
Office Hours:
Monday 12:30-2:30, and by appointment
Related Links:

Overview

Personal Pronouns:
she/they

Kathleen Schaag, PhD, is a scholar, artist, writer, curator, and educator. Her first book project, Conceptual Theatre, explores the political potential of thought experiments in minoritarian avant-garde closet drama and feminist performance art. Her second book project, American Plasticity, theorizes synthetic plastic aesthetics in contemporary performance art, visual art, and pop culture. She earned her PhD in English Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a specialization in Performance Studies and Visual Cultures and a minor in Fine Art and Creative Writing. She was the 2017-2018 Mendota Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in the English Department at UW-Madison, and a 2017 Humanities Without Walls National Fellow. As a consultant at UW Design Lab, a transmedia storytelling center dedicated to democratizing digitality, she developed curricular materials for emerging “smart media” genres such as visual essays, sonic essays, and presentations. She has collaborated with museums, libraries, and universities to orchestrate grant-funded public arts and humanities symposia, workshops, talks, and performances. She co-founded the Art + Scholarship Borghesi-Mellon Workshop and the Madison Performance Philosophy Collective, and co-curated a series of Theory-Practice Collaboratories and Mad Theory symposia. As a multimedia artist and writer, she exhibits and performs nationally and internationally, and teaches public workshops on performance, creative writing, and art as activism.

Education:
  • Ph.D. English Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2017
  • Ph.D. Minor, Fine Art and Creative Writing, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2017
  • M.A. Literary Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010
  • B.A. Honors English and Gender Studies, Loyola University Chicago, 2008
Awards and
Distinctions:
  • National Humanities Without Walls Fellowship, Humanities Without Walls Consortium, 2017
  • Mendota Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship, English Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2017-2018
  • Borghesi-Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshop in the Humanities Grant, Center for the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015-2016
  • Mellon-Wisconsin Dissertation Fellowship, Graduate School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015
  • Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru) Graduate Summit Grant, Arts Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015
  • A.W. Mellon Interdisciplinary Workshop in the Humanities Grant, Center for the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013-2014 + 2014-2015
  • ASTR Fellowship, American Society for Theatre Research (professional organization), 2014
  • Interim Event Grant, Performance Philosophy (professional organization), 2014
  • Herlihy-Jones Scholarship, English Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014
  • New Arts Venture Challenge 2nd Place Award, Arts Enterprise (Arts Institute and Bolz Center for Arts Administration), University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014
  • Post-Prelims Fellowship, English Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013
  • Provost Research Fellowship, English Department and Office of the Provost, Loyola University Chicago, 2008-2009
Areas of
Expertise:
  • 20th-21st Century Multi-Ethnic American Literature
  • Creative Writing
  • Critical Theory
  • Cultural Studies
  • Digital Media
  • Drama & Poetry
  • Performance Studies
  • Public Humanities
  • Race, Gender, Feminist, Trans, & Queer Theory
  • Theatre History, Theory, & Criticism
  • Transatlantic Modernisms & Historical Avant-Gardes
  • Transmedia Storytelling & Multimodal Communication
  • UX & Design Thinking
  • Visual Cultures & Popular Cultures

Interests

Research Fields:
  • Communication
  • Digital Media
  • Literary and Cultural Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Science and Technology Studies
Issues:
  • Environment
  • Gender
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Aesthetics
  • Community engagement
  • Digital and Mixed Media
  • Drama and Theater Studies
  • Feminism
  • Internet Studies
  • Language and Popular Culture
  • Literary Theory
  • Literature
  • Media Production
  • Mediatized Culture
  • Neuroplasticity and Memory
  • Performance
  • Philosophy
  • Poetry
  • Post-Modernism
  • Queer Studies
  • Science and Technology
  • Sustainability

Courses

  • ENGL-1102: English Composition II
  • LMC-3234: Creative Writing
  • LMC-3431: Tech Comm Approaches
  • LMC-3432: Tech Comm Strategies

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

  • Plastiglomerates, Microplastics, Nanoplastics: Toward a dark ecology of plastic performativity
    In: Performance Research [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: 2020

    We eat, drink, breathe, touch and absorb plastic polymers. The global proliferation of plastic objects permeates not only the deep sea, but also our kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and bodies. This essay examines a series of case studies crystallizing some thoughts towards a dark ecology of plastic performativity. First, I develop a theoretical framework of plastic ecologies with reference to Kelly Jazvac's (2013-19) sculptural ‘Plastiglomerate readymades', naturally occurring mineral assemblages of melded plastic debris and geological sediment, and Pinar Yoldas's (2014) ‘Organs of the plastisphere', speculative biological adaptions for post-human creatures to sense and digest plastic. Then, I turn to Allison Cobb's (2015) Plastic: an autobiography, a creative non-fiction text based upon a durational, research-based process of uncovering links between the writer's embodied experience and plastic's history and materiality. Acknowledging the presence of microplastic particles within her body, Cobb speaks for plastic because she is plastic: the autobiographical individual subject becomes a plural, porous subject, an assemblage of vital materialities with distributed agency. Next, I discuss Claudia Borgna's (2015) performance art piece When I breathe you breathe, when you breathe I breathe, in which the artist breathes into a plastic bag. Borgna’s work explores ambivalent human affects towards plastic and subverts the common-sense assumption that plastic is toxic to humans by linking plastic with the breath, with what we need to survive. Finally, I theorize plastic subjectivity, suggesting that microplastics and nanoplastics activate a queer form of biological performativity. An ecological awareness of our bodies becoming-plastic may allow us to relinquish our illusions of individual sovereignty, and let ourselves slip into the ebb and flow of the sea of actants within us.

    View All Details about Plastiglomerates, Microplastics, Nanoplastics: Toward a dark ecology of plastic performativity

  • “Will Blackness Please Step Out and Take a Curtain Call?”: Ed Bullins’s Conceptual Theatre
    In: Modern Drama 62.3 (Fall 2019) [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: 2019

    Emphasis on the political activism of the Black Theatre Movement has obfuscated its investment in contemplation and interiority. Ed Bullins’s avant-garde dramatic texts – particularly The Theme Is Blackness (1966) and A Short Play for a Small Theater (1970) – are key to the genre I call the conceptual play and an archive I call conceptual theatre. In dialogue with Amiri Baraka and Jean Genet, Bullins built on experiments with closet drama by Marita Bonner and Jean Toomer, resisting the physical stage and the public sphere in order to reimagine blackness. My reading of Bullins’s work shifts our understanding of the Black Theatre Movement from a theatre of reality to a conceptual theatre that catalyses a politics of the imagination.

    View All Details about “Will Blackness Please Step Out and Take a Curtain Call?”: Ed Bullins’s Conceptual Theatre

Chapters

Internet Publications

  • The Infinite Woman
    Date: 2019

    The Infinite Woman is an interactive poetry platform that computationally performs contemporary poetic techniques of remix and erasure. It’s a cross-platform web app hosted at theinfinitewoman.com, and should be compatible with all devices and all internet browsers (except Safari).

    As a feminist critique and artistic intervention, the project remixes excerpts from Edison Marshall’s The Infinite Woman (1950) and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949). Marshall’s novel is a melodramatic, male-authored, first-person fictional narrative in the voice of Lola, a protagonist who embodies the ideal of natural womanhood. Beauvoir’s existentialist philosophy of gender deconstructs the myth of the eternal feminine. The web app digitally recontextualizes the voice of “the infinite woman” as a machine.

    An n-gram algorithm procedurally generates infinitely scrolling sentences that remix Marshall and Beauvoir. As a conceptual gesture, the algorithm stretches the logic of the infinite woman to the breaking point by infinitely generating language that attempts to describe and critique an eternal feminine essence.

    Users can select sentences from the infinitely scrolling text to send to the canvas workspace, where they can erase words and rearrange sentences to create their own erasure poems.

    Meanwhile, fog slowly erases the screen – materializing “the misty mirror of the eternal feminine” (Marshall + Beauvoir).

    With Katie Schaag’s creative direction, the platform was designed and implemented by Alayna Panlilio, Ryan Power, Josh Terry, Alex Yang, and Jeffrey Zhang at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2019.

    View All Details about The Infinite Woman

  • From Bush to Brontë and Back Again: The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever
    In: Yes Femmes
    Date: 2018

    This creative nonfiction essay theorizes the queer femme affects, aesthetics, and orientations of the Kate Bush-Emily Brontë-TMWHDE lineage. It also features my video edit of the dance performance I co-orchestrated.

    View All Details about From Bush to Brontë and Back Again: The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever

  • The Pleasures of Teaching Plastic
    In: Edge Effects
    Date: 2018

    As a material that compels us to rethink the relationship between nature and artifice, subject and object, and surface and depth, plastic is a natural ally to queer and feminist politics. What happens when we connect environmental critiques of synthetic plastic material with cultural analyses of plastic aesthetics and philosophical studies of biological neuroplasticity? How do plastic subjects and objects negotiate the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and species? What do eco-critics and identity theorists have to say to each other about queer subversions of naturalized nature? And how can we work together to save the planet? This public essay, which also features images of my students' multimedia projects, reflects upon a seminar I developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison called "PLASTIC! Surface, Substance, Selfie" and theorizes plastic identities, environments, bodies, aesthetics, and materials like styrofoam, silicone, and glitter.

    View All Details about The Pleasures of Teaching Plastic

Recent Publications

Journal Articles

  • Plastiglomerates, Microplastics, Nanoplastics: Toward a dark ecology of plastic performativity
    In: Performance Research [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: 2020

    We eat, drink, breathe, touch and absorb plastic polymers. The global proliferation of plastic objects permeates not only the deep sea, but also our kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and bodies. This essay examines a series of case studies crystallizing some thoughts towards a dark ecology of plastic performativity. First, I develop a theoretical framework of plastic ecologies with reference to Kelly Jazvac's (2013-19) sculptural ‘Plastiglomerate readymades', naturally occurring mineral assemblages of melded plastic debris and geological sediment, and Pinar Yoldas's (2014) ‘Organs of the plastisphere', speculative biological adaptions for post-human creatures to sense and digest plastic. Then, I turn to Allison Cobb's (2015) Plastic: an autobiography, a creative non-fiction text based upon a durational, research-based process of uncovering links between the writer's embodied experience and plastic's history and materiality. Acknowledging the presence of microplastic particles within her body, Cobb speaks for plastic because she is plastic: the autobiographical individual subject becomes a plural, porous subject, an assemblage of vital materialities with distributed agency. Next, I discuss Claudia Borgna's (2015) performance art piece When I breathe you breathe, when you breathe I breathe, in which the artist breathes into a plastic bag. Borgna’s work explores ambivalent human affects towards plastic and subverts the common-sense assumption that plastic is toxic to humans by linking plastic with the breath, with what we need to survive. Finally, I theorize plastic subjectivity, suggesting that microplastics and nanoplastics activate a queer form of biological performativity. An ecological awareness of our bodies becoming-plastic may allow us to relinquish our illusions of individual sovereignty, and let ourselves slip into the ebb and flow of the sea of actants within us.

    View All Details about Plastiglomerates, Microplastics, Nanoplastics: Toward a dark ecology of plastic performativity

  • “Will Blackness Please Step Out and Take a Curtain Call?”: Ed Bullins’s Conceptual Theatre
    In: Modern Drama 62.3 (Fall 2019) [Peer Reviewed]
    Date: 2019

    Emphasis on the political activism of the Black Theatre Movement has obfuscated its investment in contemplation and interiority. Ed Bullins’s avant-garde dramatic texts – particularly The Theme Is Blackness (1966) and A Short Play for a Small Theater (1970) – are key to the genre I call the conceptual play and an archive I call conceptual theatre. In dialogue with Amiri Baraka and Jean Genet, Bullins built on experiments with closet drama by Marita Bonner and Jean Toomer, resisting the physical stage and the public sphere in order to reimagine blackness. My reading of Bullins’s work shifts our understanding of the Black Theatre Movement from a theatre of reality to a conceptual theatre that catalyses a politics of the imagination.

    View All Details about “Will Blackness Please Step Out and Take a Curtain Call?”: Ed Bullins’s Conceptual Theatre

Internet Publications

  • The Infinite Woman
    Date: 2019

    The Infinite Woman is an interactive poetry platform that computationally performs contemporary poetic techniques of remix and erasure. It’s a cross-platform web app hosted at theinfinitewoman.com, and should be compatible with all devices and all internet browsers (except Safari).

    As a feminist critique and artistic intervention, the project remixes excerpts from Edison Marshall’s The Infinite Woman (1950) and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949). Marshall’s novel is a melodramatic, male-authored, first-person fictional narrative in the voice of Lola, a protagonist who embodies the ideal of natural womanhood. Beauvoir’s existentialist philosophy of gender deconstructs the myth of the eternal feminine. The web app digitally recontextualizes the voice of “the infinite woman” as a machine.

    An n-gram algorithm procedurally generates infinitely scrolling sentences that remix Marshall and Beauvoir. As a conceptual gesture, the algorithm stretches the logic of the infinite woman to the breaking point by infinitely generating language that attempts to describe and critique an eternal feminine essence.

    Users can select sentences from the infinitely scrolling text to send to the canvas workspace, where they can erase words and rearrange sentences to create their own erasure poems.

    Meanwhile, fog slowly erases the screen – materializing “the misty mirror of the eternal feminine” (Marshall + Beauvoir).

    With Katie Schaag’s creative direction, the platform was designed and implemented by Alayna Panlilio, Ryan Power, Josh Terry, Alex Yang, and Jeffrey Zhang at the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2019.

    View All Details about The Infinite Woman