Profaning Theater: The Drama of Religion on the Modernist Stage
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CitationKastleman, Rebecca. 2017. Profaning Theater: The Drama of Religion on the Modernist Stage. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis project reveals the astonishing afterlife of religion on the modernist stage. Modernism has long been described as a break with tradition, but this research shows that the work of wrestling with the religious past lies at the heart of the modernist theater. Banned from licensed British stages for over three hundred years, religious content was gradually reintroduced to the British theater in the early decades of the twentieth century. I show that what the classical past was for the Renaissance, the religious past was for modernism, in that the reception of religion in the secular theater broadened the modernist repertoire and certified the theater's passage into modernity. Charting the profusion of religion onstage from G. B. Shaw to Samuel Beckett, I find that dramatists such as Gertrude Stein turned to the theater to emancipate religion from its doctrinal origins, while other modernists, such as W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot, were committed to upholding theater's function as sacred ritual. Authors such as these revived an archive of religious texts and practices and "made it new" for the modern stage, harnessing the religious past that modernity had rejected in order to expand the cultural resources of modernism. My research examines the implications of this revival of religious drama for the field of modernist studies and, more broadly, for literary and theater history. Representations of religion, I argue, opened dramatic modernism to the world, such that modernist performance intersected with world theater by staging forms of religious observance.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37364825
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