Dr Erica O'Neill

  • Affiliate (School of Culture & Creative Arts)


I am a lecturer in modern and contemporary performance, specialising in the twentieth-century avant-garde. I gained my PhD in History of Art from the University of Glasgow in 2021. Before being employed full time with Theatre Studies, I taught across a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the History of Art and Theatre Studies subject areas at the University of Glasgow. I lead workshops on Dadaist performance strategies and contribute to the practice of Dada theatre to promote the ongoing relevance of avant-garde approaches to 21st century experience. Additionally, I have managed European Union funded projects and worked with several European and international organisations to promote education for disadvantaged and socially excluded communities.

Research interests

I am interested in the relationship between theatre, performance, and the visual arts. Over time my interests in avant-garde culture have moved from historical studies of the European avant-garde (Dada and Surrealism) and single-author studies (co-founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara) to investigating the application of avant-garde praxis to contemporary social, cultural, and political issues. As an advocate for interdisciplinary research and practice, I am interested in exploring theatre and performance at the intersection of other disciplines including art history, language and cultural studies, and quantum physics: the superposition of quantum mechanics describes something that can exist in multiple states at the same time until measured, and feeds into my efforts to critique neat categories applied to my subject specialism of avant-garde performance.

My current scholarship discusses the theatre and performance practice of the European avant-garde with a focus on Dada and Surrealism. My monograph, First Adventure to Final Flight: The Theatre of Tristan Tzara (Peter Lang’s Art and Thought Series, forthcoming, 2024) will be the first scholarly volume devoted to the complete theatrical works of Tristan Tzara. The book develops a new theoretical lens through which I explore Tzara’s practice. The Performance/Theatre Dialectic problematises theoretical claims about the development of performance art from dadaist onstage experiments and presents a more useful framework for examining historical avant-garde performance activity as theatrical practice. The book presents Tzara’s work as an early example of postdramatic theatre and interrogates the relationship between text and performance in the theatre of the avant-garde. Furthermore, this book examines non-human actants in Tzara’s play texts that demote the centrality of human privilege in theatrical performance. These bodies can become a site for exploring the ecological relevance of non- and more-than-human objects in historical and contemporary practice.

Between February and May 2023, with partners from the universities of Glasgow, Bucharest, Athens, and Aix-Marseille, I contributed to an Erasmus+ mobilities project, Care, Agency, Repair, Engagement (CARE), that shared research into (post)modernist cultural responses to social justice and ecological challenges. For CARE, I delivered workshops on avant-garde strategies applied to global concerns – inequality, social exclusion, and the climate emergency – that explored anger as a response that reinforces self-worth by showing that something we care about is worth getting angry about.

My ongoing interest in the relationship between the avant-garde, political language, and contemporary global challenges is being formulated as a new research project. Avant-Garde Action: Dada, Anger, Care investigates a previously underexplored symbiosis between Dada/Surrealism and contemporary First Nations Australian visual and performing arts. The project shows how avant-garde praxis is being innovated as a mechanism for care and how anger is being articulated positively in response to social and political discourses.

With Stephen Forcer, I am currently co-editing a special issue of Dada/Surrealism. 'Approximate Humanism' (no.25) brings together scholarship on avant-garde artists’ and writers’ contributions to cultural life. It features new work on the non-exclusivity of Dada, and Black Dada – a current intervention in the creative industries by trans-Atlantic avant-gardes. In addition to co-editing this volume, I am preparing the first English language translation of Tristan Tzara’s The Flight (1946), a dramatic poem analogising the humanitarian crisis of WWII. This largely unknown text is here designated as an important work of social and political history. 


List by: Type | Date


  • 2021: Erasmus+, Project Funding. €248,960.00 to support project number 2020-1-UK01-KA226-VET-094440: An innovative approach to reduce the Digital divide in Vocational Education and training (ADVANCE). In collaboration with SWAPWest
  • 2019: Association for Art History, Research Grant. £1,000 to support the ‘Attention! Paris Dada’ symposium, October 2021. In collaboration with Kathryn Brown, University of Loughborough
  • 2019: Society for French Studies, Conference Grant and Workshop Awards Scheme. £1,000 to support the ‘Attention! Paris Dada’ symposium, October 2021. In collaboration with Kathryn Brown, University of Loughborough
  • 2019: Collaborations and Cultural Activities Committee, College of Arts, University of Glasgow. £511 to support the ‘Attention! Paris Dada’ symposium, October 2021
  • 2019: Research Training Support Grant, University of Glasgow. £487 to present at the Association for Art History Annual International Conference, Brighton. 4 – 6 April 2019
  • 2017: Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities. £850 to develop and deliver ‘Tristan Tzara and Dada Performance Practice’ workshops delivered at the University of Glasgow, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the Tron Theatre, Glasgow


I teach across a range of undergraduate and postgraduate taught courses including:

•    Performance Theory Analysis
•    Research Methods
•    Setting the Scene
•    Contemporary Devising Practices
•    Contemporary Dramaturgical Practices
•    Advanced Theatre Making
•    Thinking Though Theatre Histories
•    Thinking Through Theatre Making

Additional information

Selected Conference Papers

  • 2022: ‘An innovative approach to reduce the digital divide in education and training,’ Lifelong Learning for Inclusion and Sustainability Conference, University of Glasgow. June 2022.
  • 2021: ‘Performing the impossible in the theatre of Tristan Tzara,’ Attention! Paris Dada, University of Loughborough. October 2021.
  • 2021: ‘Duchamp’s Quantum Door,’ Rethinking the Histories and Legacies of New York Dada, University of Loughborough. October 2021.
  • 2019: ‘The Body between Text and Performance in the Theatre of Tristan Tzara,’ Association for Art History Annual International Conference, Brighton. April 2019.
  • 2018: ‘Theatrical Surrealisms: Tristan Tzara and Paris Dada performance,’ Realisms of the Avant-Garde, European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies’ 6th International Conference, Münster. September 2018.
  • 2017: ‘Paris Dada: Negligence and the Trial of Maurice Barrès,’ Negligence/Neglection, University of Glasgow College of Arts Multidisciplinary Series, Glasgow. April 2017.
  • 2016: ‘Tristan Tzara and the Manifestations of Paris Dada’ Dada 1916-2016: A Century of Revolt, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. November 2016.