© 2004

Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Crystal Downing
    Pages 1-13
  3. Crystal Downing
    Pages 35-65
  4. Crystal Downing
    Pages 139-153
  5. Crystal Downing
    Pages 155-159
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 161-199

About this book


After Dorothy L. Sayers became famous for her fictional sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, she began investigating the mysteries of Anglo-Catholic Christianity, writing plays for both stage and radio. However, because her modernist contemporaries disdained both best-sellers and religious fiction, Sayers has been largely overlooked by the academy. Writing Performances is the first work to position Sayers' diverse writings within the critical climate of high modernism. Employing exuberant illustrations from Sayers' detective fiction to make theoretical issues accessible, the book employs insights from performance theory to argue that Sayers, though a popularizer, presciently anticipated the postmodern ironizing of Enlightenment rationality and scientific objectivity.


fiction Modernism stage

About the authors

CRYSTAL DOWNING is Associate Professor of English and Film Studies, Messiah College, Pennsylvania, USA.

Bibliographic information


"Under the trope of 'performance,' Downing deploys a Sayers that is as versatile, elusive, and intriguing as its original must have been. A performing Sayers is an artist, Christian, and thinker who holds together tradition and change, uncertainty and faith, and creativity and discipline. And a performing Sayers is suited for the postmodernist stage where Downing puts her among assorted, current theorists and critics. Both devotees and doubters will find here a Sayers who is a solo performer but also part of an impressive troupe." - Wesley Kort, Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Duke University and author of Place and Space in Modern Fiction (2004)

"Marked by beautiful writing and depth of insight, this book provides an important corrective to previous scholarship on Dorothy L. Sayers. While many students of Sayers have uncritically rendered a flat, one-dimensional version of the writer, Downing presents a beautifully nuanced portrait of the writer, drawn from the many phases and loves of Sayer's life. Downing succeeds since she is so completely attuned to the power of culture and language, not only in Sayers, but in herself as well. The result is a work of art." - Richard T. Hughes, author of Myths America Lives By and How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind