Theatre Ph.D. Dissertations

The Grotesque Cross: The Performative Grotesquerie of the Crucifixion of Jesus

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Theatre and Film

First Advisor

Jonathan Chambers (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Eileen Cherry-Chandler (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Charles Kanwischer (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Marcus Sherrell (Committee Member)


In this study I argue that the crucifixion of Jesus is a performative event and this event is an exemplar of the Grotesque. To this end, I first conduct a dramatistic analysis of the crucifixion of Jesus, working to explicate its performativity. Viewing this performative event through various theories of the Grotesque, I then discuss its many grotesqueries to propose the concept of the Grotesque Cross. As such, the term “Grotesque Cross” functions as shorthand for the performative event of the crucifixion of Jesus, as it is characterized by various aspects of the Grotesque. I develop the concept of the Grotesque Cross thematically through focused studies of representations of the crucifixion: the film, Jesus of Montreal (Arcand, 1989), Philip Turner’s play, Christ in the Concrete City, and an autoethnographic examination of Cross-wearing as performance. I examine each representation through the lens of the Grotesque to define various facets of the Grotesque Cross.