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586 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997· contemporaryNewWorldinstitutions, utopian/dystopianfictions, psychoanalysis (daughter-father incest for example), the novel's position as the third of a trilogy (Life before Man; Bodily Harm; The Handmaid's Tale), and comparisons between novels and cinematic adaptations (Surfacing; The Handmaid's Tale). The final section, 'Pedagogical Challenges and Opportunities,' seems the least connected, as if all the essays not fitting elsewhere were placed here. Individually, most are useful, though somewhat thematically repetitive. A psychoanalytic approach appears again, as do myth, gender, critical theory, and genre criticism. The two final essays introduce fresh material. Cat's Eye is situated in the tradition of developing artist novels (for instance, those by Joyce, Munro, and Ondaa~e), and Wilderness Tips, its structure cleverly delineated, resounds with information about Canadian artists and geography. The concluding list of works .cited is thorough, and the inclusion of a list of audio-visual aids particularly helpful. In sum, anyone teaching Margaret Atwood's work will want to own this collection. While the essays vary in complexity and originality, every teacher should find some that may revolutionize a class and others that will encourage more informed attention, not just to Atwood's work, but to Canadian literature in general. (LORNA IRVINE) Maria DiCenzo. The Politics ofAlternative Theatre in Britain, 1968-1990: The Case of7:84 (Scotland) Cambridge University Press 1996. xiv, 248. us$57.95 There should be a certain sadness to the subject of this useful book In his typically honest foreword John McGrath writes: 'Everybody knows, of course, that we lost nearly all our struggles.' He is referring to the work of the T84 Theatre Company (Scotland), but hovering in the background is a vast disappointment about the outcomes of the political battles that raged in Scotland during the 1970s and 198os: over national identity, over the control of North Sea oil, over the villainous colonial arrogance of Prime Minister Thatcher's regime. From this perspective Maria DiCenzo's book should read as a study in failure, a nostalgic lament for an approach to making radical theatre that is dead and gone. To her credit, though, the picture which emerges from this careful account of twenty years of dedicated theatrical subversion is ultimately a quietly inspiring mix of admirable political ambition and down-to-earth aesthetic judgment. The book is organized into two main sections, the first on 'Methodology and Context,' the second as 'A Case Study of T84 (Scotland).' DiCenzo is suitably alert to the historiographic problems of writing about the performance-centredpractices ofaltemative theatre through an assessment ofpublished material, but she successfully circumvents most of themby the HUMANITIES 587 thoroughness of her reading and a tactfully sparing use of interviews. She provides a sound acconnt of the main conflicts in play in English cultural politics of the 1970s and 1980s, as reflected in the uneasy exchanges between the different branches of alternative theatre and their dangerous dance with the funding agencies and the mainstream institutions of the theatrical estate. Paradoxically, this produces the main weakness of the book, in a disjuncture between the focus on English issues in part 1 and Scottish practices in part 2: one would have liked the gap to be filled by a fuller treatment of the colonialist aspects of the cultural politics operating in the immediate context of T84's project. However, DiCenzo's detailed analysis of 7:84 (Scotland) generallymakes up for the missed opportunity. Her description of the workings of the company is sympathetically thorough, and she is particularly good on the mostly insidious influence of the Scottish Arts Council. The chapter on McGrath's theory of popular theatre, though, lacks a certain critical edge: given the impact of A Good Night Out, especially on British theatre studies, its ideas deserve fuller discussion, particularly in the light of postmodem re-visionings of the politics of performance, such as Howard Barker's claims for the theatre of catastrophe or Heiner Muller's nee-revolutionary aesthetics. But DiCenzo more than compensates for this in the final chapter of the book, where she essays the first full analysis of McGrath's Scottish plays. The nndoubted strengths of her account stem from the way she sees the audience...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 586-587
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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