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Theatre Journal 52.2 (2000) iv
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This general issue of Theatre Journal brings together four articles on very different areas of our field but with a connecting thread of interest in the performing body. The May issue also contains, as usual, the annual report on doctoral projects in progress as well as book and performance review sections. The performance review section here is devoted exclusively to theatre festivals and covers events in eight countries outside America.
Opening this new scholarship on "the body" is Timothy Scheie's account of Roland Barthes's writings on theatre. A critical chronology of Barthes's consideration of theatre and performance, this essay looks specifically at what Scheie calls "the perennially thorny question of the body and its unsettling 'presence'" (164). He takes his examination far beyond our general received knowledge of Barthes and theatre (that he was a champion of Brecht's work). Indeed, Scheie gives us a most useful and detailed reading of Barthes's work both in the context of other writers (among them, Saussure, Sartre, Marx and--perhaps most importantly--Artaud) and the diversity of Barthes's own writing.
It is that perennially thorny question of the body that impels Hilary Harris's essay. She turns her attention to the condition and signification of white womanhood and looks at four distinct performances to explore both consequences and possibilities. To imagine "genuinely" antiracist performance, Harris looks to the relation of white woman to "the family." She argues persuasively for the ability (or at least potential ability) of certain kinds of performance to refuse white woman's "respectability and the familial relations sedimented in it" (187).
Mark Hodin's article looks at bodies overdetermined by ethnicity. His fascinating account of the social construction of literary value in the so-called "legitimate theatre" of turn-of-the-century America raises important questions about "'white' authority in an 'ethnic' commercial landscape" (212). His argument is focussed on the theatre criticism of James S. Metcalfe, drama editor at Life magazine, and Metcalfe's attacks there on Jewish theatre owners. Hodin notes, by way of Bourdieu, how professional reviewers functioned as "cultural bankers" (214) with particular effects on theatrical production and reception.
Adding to the growing corpus on Joanna Baillie's "closet" drama, Sean Carney's essay looks at the role of Adam Smith's stoic philosophy in the dramatic structures of Baillie's plays. Carney brings new attention to Henriquez, an otherwise more or less ignored text, and points to the passion and transgression of the eponymous hero. In an interesting application of Lacanian notions of jouissance, Carney suggests that Henriquez enacts both his own and Baillie's martyrdom. The bodies of Baillie's dramas are, then, saturated with a dramatic (and, according to Carney, dangerous) potential that the author wished might have found a way on to the British stage of the time.
I would like to take this opportunity--my first issue in the 2000 year--to welcome David Román as my new co-editor. It is a pleasure to be working with him. I would also like to thank Loren Kruger, whose term as editor finished at the end of 1999, for all her support as I started my term at Theatre Journal.