Adam Sheaffer

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Communication, Media and Theatre Arts

Committee Member

Lee Stille, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Craig Dionne, PhD


This thesis provides a close reading of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, with particular attention paid to his use of the “principle of individuation.” The major question this thesis confronts is whether Nietzsche’s text might provide illuminative insights for the study of contemporary dramatic literature. Another question addressed by the thesis is whether Nietzsche’s text may offer dramaturgical alternatives to the strictures of naturalism. These questions are considered in relation to the play Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl. In considering how Ruhl’s play might be reflective of Nietzsche’s own ideological and artistic investments, the author found that a deeper philosophical engagement with Nietzsche’s notion of the tragic helped to suggest new avenues for the study and the production of current dramatic literature.