The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama

The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama


"The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama offers a fresh and innovative reading of the contemporary experimental American theater scene and navigates through the contested and contentious relationship between postmodernism and contemporary drama. This book addresses gender and class as well as racial issues in the context of a theoretical discussion of dramatic texts, textuality, and performance. The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama is written for anyone interested in contemporary American drama and theater as well as in postmodernism and contemporary literary theory. It appeals even more broadly to a readership intrigued by the ubiquitous aspects of popular culture, by feminism and ethnicity and by issues pertaining to the so-called society of spectacle and the study of contemporary media." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Quite remarkably, drama and theater play ancillary roles at best in many of the classic commentaries on postmodernism, as, for instance, in Jean-Francois Lyotard's Postmodern Condition, David Harvey's Condition of Postmodernity, or Jean Baudrillard's Simulations. Ihab Hassan piles up a lengthy roster of artists from various disciplines, whose names epitomize postmodernism for him; there are, however, very few playwrights on this list: Beckett, Ionesco, Pinter, Handke, Bernhardt, and only Shepard and Wilson as American dramatists. French deconstruction and poststructuralism do not yield very different results. Jacques Derrida touches only briefly on the Theater of Cruelty and Antonin Artaud, and Roland Barthes mainly discusses bunraku and Brecht. “On the whole,” as Christopher Bigsby maintains, “theatre has commanded very little interest from the major theorists or those who have taken up their theories.”

In his recent study, Contemporary American Playwrights, Bigsby once more foregrounds the lack of critical attention given not only to drama in general, but to American drama and theater in particular: “There has been a tendency, perhaps now beginning to change, for American drama to find itself marginalised in academe.” But the marginalization of drama, Bigsby claims, is not restricted to the university and the adjunct textbook stores. It has to be conceived in wider cultural terms: “Theatre,” he claims, “seemed not quite at the centre of the culture,” in contrast to “the Great American Novel [which] shared

1 Ihab Hassan, “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism,” The Postmodern Turn
(Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1987), 85.

2 Christopher W. E. Bigsby, Modern American Drama, 1945–2000 (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 2000), 11.

3 Bigsby, Contemporary American Playwrights (Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
1999), vii.

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