Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-m9kch Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-29T18:36:58.776Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Book Reviews

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 June 2023

Markus Wessendorf
Affiliation:
University of Hawaii, Manoa
Get access

Summary

Anja Hartl. Brecht and Post-1990s British Drama. Dialectical Theatre Today. London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2021. 192 pages.

The title of this book may well remind readers of Janelle Reinelt's landmark study, After Brecht. British Epic Theater (1994). Anja Hartl is, of course, well aware of the burden and the attendant pressure she has put herself under, and indeed situates her study as a successor to Reinelt's in her Introduction. She notes how Reinelt worried about Brecht's applicability to British theater in the wake of the upheavals of Thatcherism. That is, she wondered whether his approaches may no longer be effective or even relevant in the context and implications of the neoliberal politics that were gradually transforming all areas of British society. Hartl, with the benefit of hindsight, addresses Reinelt's concerns by invoking post-Brechtian theater and seeking it out in eight case studies.

Hartl's starting point, as the subtitle to her book makes clear, is the importance of dialectic in Brecht's theater, both theoretically and practically. However, she acknowledges that Brecht's bounding of the dialectic within Marxist categories and notions of mastery over his social objects of enquiry no longer satisfactorily respond to the contemporary world. She goes on to enlist some familiar intellectual figures to expand the scope of Brecht's dialectic: Adorno and Rancière. Adorno's negative dialectics, of course, take pride of place, but the philosopher also offers useful help in the form of his own dialectical investigation of rationality and his more pervading articulation of the negative. Rancière's categories of dissensus, the reorganization of the sensible, and the emancipated spectator help Hartl think through audience dynamics productively. Walter Benjamin also makes occasional but no less valid contributions to the arguments, particularly in his thoughts on shock and his articulation of dialectics at a standstill. Taken together, the thinkers lead Hartl to a nuanced and flexible definition of the post-Brechtian that does not seek to satisfy a rigid set of axioms but prefers to approach Brecht's legacy “as a means of apprehending and analysing the contemporary world … and as an aesthetic strategy” (22).

Hartl focuses her attention on five playwrights and theater-makers: Mark Ravenhill, David Greig, the collaborators Andy Smith and Tim Crouch, and Caryl Churchill. Each of the four chapters (Smith and Crouch feature in one) looks at two key works, and each chapter confronts a different set of theatrical problems.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

  • Book Reviews
  • Edited by Markus Wessendorf, University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • Book: The Brecht Yearbook / Das Brecht-Jahrbuch 47
  • Online publication: 15 June 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781800106680.014
Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

  • Book Reviews
  • Edited by Markus Wessendorf, University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • Book: The Brecht Yearbook / Das Brecht-Jahrbuch 47
  • Online publication: 15 June 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781800106680.014
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Book Reviews
  • Edited by Markus Wessendorf, University of Hawaii, Manoa
  • Book: The Brecht Yearbook / Das Brecht-Jahrbuch 47
  • Online publication: 15 June 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781800106680.014
Available formats
×