Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Matthew Roudane

Second Advisor

Pearl McHaney

Third Advisor

Chris Kocela


As both a playwright and a university professor, Paula Vogel has enjoyed a major career in postmodern American drama. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (How I Learned to Drive 1998) as well as the Obie Award (The Baltimore Waltz 1992), Vogel at age sixty-five made her Broadway debut with Tony-nominated Indecent, a collaborative work with director Rebecca Taichman, inspired by Sholem Asch’s early twentieth-century drama featuring same sex romance, God of Vengeance. After an early closure announcement, Indecent received an unusual extension when Vogel struck back at critics who had given lukewarm reviews and, consequently, ticket sales improved. The play was eventually recorded and shown on the PBS Great Performances series in November 2017. In addition to her own success as a playwright, Vogel has taught several major playwrights at Brown and Yale. These include MacArthur “Genius Grant” winner Sarah Ruhl, Pulitzer winner Nilo Cruz (Anna in the Tropics 2003), and Pulitzer winner Quiara Alegría Hudes (Water by the Spoonful 2012). Among Vogel’s students also is Lynn Nottage, who has won the MacArthur grant as well as becoming the first -- and so far only -- woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice (Ruined 2009 and Sweat 2017). Vogel’s influence as a teacher extends beyond the university classroom into many settings, including women’s prisons and theatre audiences who have participated in an activity she invented, the drama “bake-off,” a timed writing activity that centers on a given theme and requires certain elements. Vogel has opened some workshops and mini bake-offs to the general public, including a May 2017 event at the Off-Broadway Vineyard Theatre, where both How I Learned to Drive and Indecent had their New York premiers. This dissertation explores Vogel’s oeuvre and her influence, from her hardscrabble upbringing outside Baltimore through her Broadway success and including several of her most accomplished students. It also includes a chapter on the playwrights (John Guare, María Irene Fornes, and Caryl Churchill) Vogel considers her “gods” and, throughout, considers the defamiliarization or ostrananië inspired by the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky.

Available for download on Tuesday, April 14, 2020