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July 05 , 2010

Dramas of the Past on the Twentieth-Century Stage

In History’s Wings


This book defines and exemplifies a major genre of modern dramatic writing, termed historiographic metatheatre, in which self-reflexive engagements with the traditions and forms of dramatic art illuminate historical themes and aid in the representation of historical events and, in doing so, formulates a genre. Historiographic metatheatre has been, and remains, a seminal mode of political engagement and ideological critique in the contemporary dramatic canon. Locating its key texts within the traditions of historical drama, self-reflexivity in European theatre, debates in the politics and aesthetics of postmodernism, and currents in contemporary historiography, this book provides a new critical idiom for discussing the major works of the genre and others that utilize its techniques. Feldman studies landmarks in the theatre history of postwar Britain by Weiss, Stoppard, Brenton, Wertenbaker and others, focusing on European revolutionary politics, the historiography of the World Wars and the effects of British colonialism. The playwrights under consideration all use the device of the play-within-the-play to explore constructions of nationhood and of Britishness, in particular. Those plays performed within the framing works are produced in places of exile where, Feldman argues, the marginalized negotiate the terms of national identity through performance.

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