Drama + Theory: Critical Approaches to Modern British Drama

By Knowles, Ronald | The Modern Language Review, January 2004 | Go to article overview

Drama + Theory: Critical Approaches to Modern British Drama


Knowles, Ronald, The Modern Language Review


Drama + Theory: Critical Approaches to Modern British Drama. By PETER BUSE. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press. 2001. xi + 204 pp. 40 [pounds sterling] (pbk 11.99 [pounds sterling]). ISBN 0-7190-5721-3 (pbk 0-7190-5722-1).

Peter Buse takes nine plays since 1956 and pairs each with a particular theorist, indeed with a particular essay or work of a theorist. Because of the availability of feminist criticism he desists from that approach, and because of the vast range of theoretical writing on Beckett that dramatist is omitted. Though post-structuralist in emphasis, the book also omits Derrida since he is largely preoccupied with non-dramatic textuality. Buse's aim is to demonstrate how bringing play and critical text into direct dialogue with each other can be mutually illuminating. Buse does not dogmatically impose any theoretical reading but with diagnostic clarity he exploratively applies ideas, often equally critical of both play and text. Osborne's Look Back in Anger faces Lacan's 'The Significance of the Phallus'. Pinter's The Homecoming is linked with Freud's 'The "Uncanny"'. Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is paired with The Postmodern Condition of Lyotard. Homosexual playwright confronts homosexual thinker with Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw seen through the beady eyes of Foucault's The History of Sexuality. Althusser's famous essay 'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses' is used to appraise Trevor Griths's Comedians. Anachronism and anti-historicism link Caryll Churchill's Top Girls and Walter Benjamin's 'Theses on the Philosophy of History'. Mass media bring together Hare and Brenton's Pravda and Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulacrum (with reference to further works). The ambiguous imperialism of Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good is measured against the unambiguous critique of Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism. Finally, fairly recent trauma theories, represented by Shoshana Felman's Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History, cope with Sarah Kane's Blasted. …

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