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Toward a Historiography of the Popular

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 November 2004

David Savran
Affiliation:
Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Extract

The greatest challenge that theatre scholars face today—as we watch the seemingly inexorable march of U.S. imperialism and capitalist globalization— is to remember, to historicize rigorously and resourcefully, to render events (in Brecht's words) “remarkable,” to “expose the world's mechanism on a grand scale and to copy it in such a way that it would be more easily serviced.” When we practice a mimeticism that keeps “impermanence always before our eyes, . . . our own period can be seen to be impermanent too.” We must remember in order to be able to demystify the pieties disseminated by our politicians, pundits, and journalists who so blithely disregard the brutalities and deceptions that structure the histories they glibly rewrite that one would think they sprinkled water from the River Lethe on their Cheerios every morning. For remembering, as Pierre Bourdieu points out, represents a reconstruction not only of the past but also of the dynamics of disavowal and forgetting. To historicize means to “reconstruct the history of the historical labour of dehistoricization [italics in original quote].” This reconstructive labor seems all the more urgent during a period when theatre scholars (who have long been considered more or less irrelevant within the humanities) must face the increasing corporatization of the universities for which we work, the continuing intellectual paralysis of the Left, the relentless commercialization and retrenchment of American theatre (for better or worse), and the rise of a discipline, performance studies, that is challenging, reinvigorating, and partially displacing theatre studies.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2004 The American Society for Theatre Research, Inc.

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Footnotes

David Savran is a specialist in American theatre, popular culture, gender studies, and social theory. He is the author of seven books, most recently, A Queer Sort of Materialism: Recontextualizing American Theatre (Michigan, 2003). He is the Vera Mowry Roberts Distinguished Professor of American Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the editor of the Journal of American Drama and Theatre.
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