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Generational shifts



Thirty-five years, the age of TRI, is roughly the length of time I have been involved in our discipline. I completed my Ph.D. in 1974 and entered the profession on the cusp of a generational shift. During my first decade in the academy, a number of new young scholars emerged and began to take the places of an older cohort who were primarily theatre historians and/or drama critics and interpreters. The theory explosion changed the way that both theatre history and dramatic criticism were carried out, and a whole new range of methods and objects of study began to appear in our journals and conferences. Post-structural and postmodernist ideas upset the reigning conventions of scholarship and also influenced creative artists who changed their practice to reflect these new ideas. Feminism transformed our field, as did new research on race, class and sexuality, while competing theories of the subject brought forward psychoanalysis and phenomenology as important tools for performance analysis. Cultural studies and the new historicism challenged positivist historiography and began to change the kind of theatre history (including subjects and documents) scholars researched and wrote about. Political critique was in the ascendency, after a battle to discredit what many of us perceived as a false objectivity in previous scholarship. This became, eventually, the new orthodoxy for many of us, and the senior scholars in our field today (for example Sue-Ellen Case, Elin Diamond, Josette Féral, Erika Fisher-Lichte, Freddie Rokem, Joseph Roach) all participated in making these major changes happen as young scholars – while not necessarily agreeing with each other: the new generation was thoroughly heterodox in its approach to methods and topics.



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1 Read, Alan, Theatre, Intimacy and Engagement: The Last Human Value (London and New York: Palgrave, 2008), p. 27.

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Generational shifts



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