Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography

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Charlotte M. Canning, Thomas Postlewait
University of Iowa Press, Apr 15, 2010 - Performing Arts - 416 pages

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.


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About the author (2010)

Charlotte Canning is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin where she is head of the Performance as Public Practice program. She is the author of Feminist Theaters in the U.S.A.: Staging Women’s Experience and The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance (Iowa, 2005), which won the Barnard Hewitt Award for Excellence in Theatre History. She is the current associate editor of Theatre Research International. Thomas Postlewait has taught in the theatre departments at Cornell University, MIT, the University of Georgia, Indiana University, and Ohio State University; he is currently an affiliate professor of theatre history at the University of Washington. Coeditor of Interpreting the Theatrical Past: Essays in the Historiography of Performance (Iowa, 1989) and Theatricality, most recently he is the author of The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Historiography. Since 1992 he has been the editor of the award-winning series Studies in Theatre History and Culture. In 2007 he won the Association for Theatre in Higher Education Editing Award for his work with this series; in 2009 he was presented with the Distinguished Scholar Award by the American Society for Theatre Research.

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