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.
'Taking its methodological inspiration from Linda Hutcheon’s concept of historiographical metafiction, Alexander Feldman’s Dramas of the Past helpfully extends this original notion to encompass dramatic representations of history that apply self-reflexive metatheatrical strategies to comment on the constructedness of history through an augmented awareness of the constructedness of theatre.' - JENN STEPHENSON Queen’s University, Theatre Journal
Introduction 1. "We want our revolution now": Weiss, Grass, and the Theatre of Insurrection 2. All Wilde on the Western Front: Stoppard, Bennett, and the Theatre of War 3. "God rot great men": Brenton, Hochhuth, and the Anti-heroic Drama 4. "Better mimics than our London actors": Wertenbaker and the Colonial Theatre Conclusion
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