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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This M.F.A. thesis in dramaturgy presents the first-ever stage adaptation of South African writer Marlene van Niekerk’s 2004 novel Agaat. Van Niekerk is an internationally acclaimed novelist, short story writer, poet, and dramatist particularly known for her lengthy novelistic excavations of Afriakner identity, in which sexuality, race, and gender collide in compelling but fraught ways. Covering nearly fifty-years of South African history—from the establishment of apartheid in 1948 through the nation’s transition to democracy in 1994—Agaat investigates everyday cycles of abuse and intimacy through the story of white farmer Milla de Wet and her coloured adopted daughter-cum-maid, Agaat Lourier. This thesis foregrounds the interconnections between theory and practice by presenting both the adaptation itself and a prolonged engagement with theories of adaptation and dramaturgy. It is framed, then, around a simple question: How might dramaturgy and adaptation, as cultural and artistic processes and products, encounter one another? Through analysis of current discussions in the fields of Adaptation Studies and dramaturgy, and reflections on the particular challenges and possibilities of adapting van Niekerk’s novel to the stage, the thesis argues that adaption can be understood as a mode of encounter that opens up spaces for connection between people, texts, and cultures. A dramaturgical method of adaptation is concerned not with hierarchy, authority, and fidelity, but rather with viewing adaptation as a conversation between a network of resonances. The thesis begins with an overview of van Niekerk’s work and context, moves to an examination of current conversations in Adaptation Studies and dramaturgy, and concludes with a prolonged reflection on the process of adapting Agaat to the stage.


First Advisor

Megan Lewis

Second Advisor

Harley Erdman

Third Advisor

Stephen Clingman