- More Books
Disability Theatre and Modern Drama: Recasting Modernism. By Kirsty Johnston. London: Bloomsbury, 2016; 240 pp. $85.20 cloth, $29.95 paper, e-book available.
In this highly readable volume, Kirsty Johnson takes seriously the central place of disability within modern theatre. Johnston draws together important theoretical and theatrical insights into the complex commingling of disability and modern drama, powerfully moving beyond reductive approaches that read disability as a metaphor or evaluate representations of disability within a narrow progressive or regressive framework. This critical project of "recasting modernism" is detailed in an inventive two-part structure. In the first part of the book, Johnston's clear introduction and four chapters provide a synthesis of key terms and debates, a brief history of disability activism and art, and an introduction to disability theatre companies in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia that are taking innovative approaches to modernist plays. The second part includes compelling essays, interviews, and performance texts by theorists and artists who think anew disability and/in modern drama. The result is an excellent, widely applicable work that "recasts" modern drama through creative and contradictory readings of disability history in plays such as Samuel Beckett's Endgame and Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, as well as through analyses of inclusive practices of casting, training, dramaturgy, and design in contemporary theatre productions that engage with accessibility as not only an ethic but as a generative aesthetic.
Performing Neurology: The Dramaturgy of Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot. By Jonathan W. Marshall. New York: Palgrave, 2016; 277 pp.; illustrations. $90.00 paper, e-book available.
In a moment in which theatre scholars are turning to neuroscience as an explanatory model, Jonathan W. Marshall offers a welcome and necessary historiographic intervention through this study of the fraught place of theatre in Jean-Martin Charcot's neurological work. Drawing on a range of textual, artistic, architectural, and photographic materials, Marshall offers a vivid analysis of Charcot's neurological dramaturgy from the laboratory to the lecture hall. In so doing, Marshall demonstrates how Charcot managed theatricality as both a resource and a threat in his diagnostic and pedagogical practices of neuropathology at the Parisian hospital-asylum, the Salpêtrière. He shows, for example, how Charcot's calculated juxtaposition of his own monotonous speech with a patient's performative excesses in the lecture theatre worked to consolidate his expertise and to manifest his nosology. Yet, Marshall demonstrates how Charcot's performative staging of clinical pathology also risked undermining his authority and pathologizing his medical practice. This reversal was most spectacularly realized in the carnivalesque inversions of doctor and patient, normal and monstrous, and expertise and excess in grotesque medical scenarios played out by Charcot's former student Alfred Binet in the horror theatre of Grand Guignol. Marshall's compelling study troubles neat distinctions between theatre and medicine, knower and known, rational and irrational, and pathology and health in and beyond the space of Salpêtrière, as theatricality moves center stage in this rich archaeology of neurological practice. [End Page 195]
Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett. By Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015; 400 pp. $60.00 paper, e-book available.
Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr's most recent work on the relation between science and the stage maps a heterogeneous...