Matthew J Roberts, Assistant Professor and Literatures and Languages Librarian

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Personal profile

Personal profile

Matthew Roberts is Assistant Professor and Literatures and Languages Librarian and has faculty appointments in the University Library and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. Prior to his appointment at UIUC, he held a professional position at the University of California, Irvine as the Subject Specialist for the Critical Theory Archive and Research Librarian for Comparative Literature, Critical Theory, English, and European Studies. He belongs to a number of professional organizations, including Modern Language Association and the American Comparative Literature Associaton, regularly presenting research at each organization's annual conference. He is an active member of Association of College and Research Libraries' Literatures in English Section (ACLR LES), serving as co-editor of its  publication, Biblio-Notes, and as an ex officio member of the LES Executive Committee. Finally, along with UIUC colleagues Mara Thacker and Sarah Christensen, he edits the Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement, a scholarly journal that examines public and community engagement initiatives and stimulates a forum to discuss the methodological and epistemological issues that inform, or emerge from, such projects and programs.

Research Interests

Attic Tragedy

Modern Drama 


Performance Studies 



Information Literacy Instruction/Humanities Based Research Methods

Decolonization and Collection Development

My research utilizes modes of textual analysis commonly advanced within the multifarious field of Comparative Literature, which serves as a home for many significant developments in critical and literary theory. In particular, my scholarship draws from the insights of psychoanalysis and deconstruction to analyze trauma as it is represented in twentieth- and twenty-first century dramatic literature and theatrical performance. My work studies trauma's profound effect --personal, historical, and otherwise-- on playwrights who challenged the tenants of pre-existing theatrical genres, most notably classicism, naturalism, and realism, and their respective conventions.

To advance this work, my interpretive practice mimics the very definition of trauma as defined and explored in psychoanalytic and deconstructive theory respectively. I examine how the issue of trauma within modern dramatic literature or its performance destabilizes the piece's ability to maintain a coherent and self-determined meaning. In other words, just as trauma fractures a survivor’s sense of self and becomes perceptible through a series of symptoms that occur after the traumatic event ostensibly occurred, so too do plays that deal with trauma and its related issues yield dramatic forms that challenge chronological plot structure, verisimilitude, or character.

My existing scholarship argues that it precisely because twentieth- and twenty-first century theater often fails to represent trauma through foreclosed dramatic or theatrical conventions that the more modern artistic exploration of it facilitates divergent and subjective responses to traumatic experience and their implications. Theater and performance thus enable individuals and communities to cultivate more properly inclusive and democratic social relations as they give time and space for people to begin collectively to bear what would otherwise be unbearable.

My publications appear in numerous academically prestigious journals, including Modern Drama and New Theatre Quarterly. I am currently serving as guest editor of a special issue of Modern Drama, entitled "New Approaches to Harold Pinter."


Creative/Performing Interests

Postdramatic Theater

Community Based Theater

Art Therapy

Drone Music

Education/Academic qualification

Comparative Literature, PhD, Emory University


Award Date: Jun 13 2020

Philosophy, BA, DePaul University


Award Date: Jun 15 2005


Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the expert's scholarly documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.
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