Synopses & Reviews
Citizenship is a contested term which today inspires both policy-makers and radical activists. David Wiles traces this ideal to its classical roots, examining both theatre and citizenship as performative practices. Wiles examines how people function collectively rather than as individuals, for example through choruses or crowd behaviour in the auditorium. He explores historic tensions between the passivity of the spectator and the active engagement of a citizen, paying special attention to dramatists like Aristophanes, Machiavelli and Rousseau who have translated political theory into a theatre of, and for, active citizens. The book is a fresh investigation of familiar and less familiar landmarks of theatre history, revealing how plays function as social and political events. In this original approach to theatre history, Wiles argues that theatre is a powerful medium to build communities, and that attempts to use it as a vehicle for education are very often misplaced.
Shaped by political concerns of today, this is an informed but provocative take on theatre history and theatre's social function.
Wiles presents a re-reading of theatre history from the perspective of 'citizenship'. Using detailed international case studies, the book looks at drama from antiquity onwards, relating political and cultural theory to the historical analysis of performance, and representing an original and cross-disciplinary approach centred on the play in performance.
About the Author
David Wiles is Professor of Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published extensively in the fields of classical and Elizabethan theatre, and his Short History of Western Performance Space was published by Cambridge University Press in 2003. This is his ninth book, and previous books have been shortlisted for the Criticos, Society for Theatre Research and Runciman prizes. He was a contributor to the Oxford Illustrated History of Theatre (1995) and is currently, with Christine Dymkowski, editing The Cambridge Companion to Theatre History. The focus of his teaching and research has always been the relation of theatre to society, particularly in respect of festival, and the present book builds on the breadth of his intellectual interests. Its genesis lies in a keynote lecture which he was invited to give to the International Federation for Theatre Research at the University of Maryland in 2005.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: citizenship and theatre; 2. Athens: democracy and chorality - The Frogs - Plato and Aristotle; 3. Florence, Rome and Machiavelli: Machiavelli's political works - Cicero - Terence's Andria - The Mandrake and the Society of the Trowel - 'The Sunflower' in a politician's garden - coda: Goldoni, Ayckbourn and the comic genre; 4. From Coventry to London: Christian fraternity - the Weavers' Pageant in Coventry - Elizabethan London: Shakespeare and Heywood - John Milton and revolutionary tragedy; 5. Geneva: Rousseau versus Voltaire: Geneva - Rousseau - The Letter to d'Alembert - the battle for a public theatre - conclusion: two ideals; 6. Paris and the French Revolution: Brutus and the active citizen audience - tragedy as a school for citizens: the career of M. J. Chénier - the revolutionary festival - Diderot and bourgeois realism; 7. The people, the folk, and the modern public sphere: collectivism in pre-war Germany - the Indian People's Theatre Association - in search of the public sphere; Epilogue: Washington's monuments to citizenship.