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Reviewed by:
  • Critical Theory and Performance, Revised and Enlarged Edition
  • Jane Barnette
Critical Theory and Performance, Revised and Enlarged Edition. Edited by Janelle G. Reinelt and Joseph R. Roach. Theater: Theory/Text/Performance series. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007; pp. xii + 596. $85.00 cloth, $32.50 paper.

The publication of Critical Theory and Performance in 1992 triggered a seismic shift in North American performance scholarship, the full effects of which can be felt today in the growing number of departments that embrace the methodologies and content of both theatre and performance studies. A new generation of academics was trained under the assumption that the domain of performance facilitates the exploration and application of critical theory, taking for granted the fertile soil that Janelle Reinelt and Joseph Roach cultivated fifteen years ago. This revised and enlarged edition honors that transformation in both organization and scope with nineteen new essays, ten of which were commissioned from authors who did not appear in the first edition. The section divisions are also updated to reflect the nature of academic pursuits in the US today—although some groupings remain intact ("After Marx," "Theater History and Historiography," and "Psychoanalysis"), others are slightly revised. For instance, "Performance Analysis" becomes an umbrella for both "Semiotics and Deconstruction" and "Hermeneutics and Phenomenology," "Gender and Sexualities" replaces "Feminism(s)," and "Postcolonial Studies" and "Performance Studies" divide the territory originally classified as "Cultural Studies." On the other hand, two sections ("Mediatized Cultures" and "Critical Race Theory") are entirely new to this edition. As before, the editors understand the mercurial qualities of dividing a book of this nature, stating that "we are as convinced as ever of the provisionality of these categories" (xi). Yet, while they recognize categorical vicissitudes, Reinelt and Roach remain steadfast in their commitment to the value of theory to our field. "If there was a 'theory explosion' at the time we were assembling the first edition of this book," they relate, "there are now those who think the 'age of theory' is over. We do not" (xi). Given the fact that the majority of contributors to this volume are full professors, many of whom hold endowed chairs or other administrative posts, it seems evident that the influence of critical theory on theatre and performance studies will continue to grow for at least as long as these influential scholars retain positions of power.

While a review of this size precludes the feasibility of evaluating each of the twenty-nine essays individually, there are larger patterns and contributor highlights that can be examined here. The index to this volume has expanded significantly from the first edition—from five to twenty-seven pages—enabling cross-referencing as well as a birds-eye view of the scope of topics addressed therein. Of these, four outweigh the rest in number of references: audience, body, race, and representation. The quality of contributions underscores this quantitative snapshot, revealing one of the possible through-lines of the book. Whereas explorations of audience and representation seem obligatory to any study of performance, questions about the body and race, while just as crucial, have been all-too-often overlooked or undertheorized within theatre and performance studies. One of the two new sections explicitly addresses all four of these keywords without succumbing to the self-defeating binaries (us/them, body/mind, black/white, real/virtual) that characterized earlier "identity politics" manifestations. In "Critical Race Theory," which features essays by the only two assistant professors in the new edition (the first included contributions from four assistant professors), the category and concept of race are theorized as performance, defined by Roach as "the phenomenon of copies without originals" (458). While Jill Lane investigates the role of performance in "the constitution of Cuban black and blackface publics in the critical years leading up to the final war of Cuban independence" (142), Daphne Lei argues that Bay-area performances of [End Page 315] Cantonese opera enable a hybrid racial identity, "a racial split, between the new Chinese ethnicity and the virtual Chinatown residents, between performers and audiences, between trans-Pacific horizontal connections and vertical Chinese American memories" (156). Harry Elam, the final contributor to this section, queries the generative power...


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