Representing the Past

Essays in Performance Historiography
Charlotte Canning
Thomas Postlewait

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428 pp.,14 photos, 5 drawings, 6 x 9 inches
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Representing the Past is required reading for any serious scholar of theatre and performance historiography: original in its conception, global in its reach, thought-provoking and transformative in its effects.”—Gay Gibson Cima, author, Early American Women Critics: Performance, Religion, Race

“Unusually well conceived, this collection of essays by leading scholars in theatre studies exemplifies a back-to-the-basics approach that is as welcome as it is timely. We are reminded just how difficult it is to capture the most elusive of historical objects—a theatrical performance—but also that we must keep trying.”—Martin Puchner, author, The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

“This collection of essays will change the basic rules of theatre and performance historiography and establish some completely new ones. At the same time as it strengthens the bridges to the disciplines of general history and cultural history, it opens up many new venues and perspectives to the histories of the stage arts. It sets up the basic categories for performance historiography research and shows in depth how these categories can be applied. This book will become a central point of reference for students and teachers in the field for many years to come.”—Freddie Rokem, author, Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre and Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance

How do historians represent the past? How do theatre historians represent performance events? The fifteen challenging essays in Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography focus on the fundamental epistemological conditions and procedures that serve as the foundational ideas that guide all historians in their endeavors. Unified by their investigations into how best to understand and then represent the past, this diverse group of scholars in the field of theatre history and performance studies offers insights into the abiding issues that all historians face in the task of representing human events and actions.

Five primary ideas provide the topics as well as the intellectual parameters for this book: archive, time, space, identity, and narrative. Taking these as the conceptual framework for historical research and analysis, the essayists cover an expansive range of case studies and problems in the historical study of performance from the Americas to Africa and from Europe to India and China. Considering not only how historians think about these concepts in their research and writing but more pointedly—and historiographically—how they think with them, the essayists demonstrate the power and centrality of each of these five ideas in historical scholarship from initial research to the writing of essays and books.

Performance history has a diversity of identities, locations, sources, and narratives. This compelling engagement with the concepts essential to historical understanding is a valuable contribution to the historiography of performance—for students, teachers, and the future of the discipline itself. Expanding upon its classic predecessor, Interpreting the Theatrical Past: Essays in the Historiography of Performance, this exciting new collection illustrates the contemporary richness of historical thinking and writing in the field of performance history.


Christopher B. Balme
Susan Bennett
Charlotte M. Canning
Marvin Carlson
Xiaomei Chen
Catherine M. Cole
Tracy C. Davis
Aparna Dharwadker
Harry J. Elam, Jr.
Susan Leigh Foster
Shannon Jackson
Bruce McConachie
Thomas Postlewait
Willmar Sauter
Brian Singleton
Claire Sponsler
David Wiles