The Cambridge Companion to Theatre History


I am happy to announce that The Cambridge Companion to Theatre History, edited by David Wiles and Christine Dymkovski, has been published. I have contributed to the book with a chapter (9) on traditional theatre, looking at Noh theatre from a historiographical point of view. The premise the book is the awareness of the post-modern fragmentation of ‘History’ in an infinite number of distinct micro-narratives, resulting in the difficulty of understanding history as a flow of interconnected events. As the editors put it, one of the problems encountered when attempting to write a comprehensive history of theatre is that of balance: ‘how to weigh a synchronic (or contemporary) awareness of global diversity and the equal rights of all human beings against a diachronic (or historical) awareness that sets out how our multifarious world came to be as it is and thus how we might change it’.

I was asked by the editors to contribute with a chapter on traditional theatre in Japan, describing not only a cultural, political and economic context that differed from that of the dominant Anglo-American academia, but also a radically diverging way of conceptualising history itself. In order to tackle such a vast topic within the limited word count I was given, I decided to focus on Noh theatre, looking at how notions of ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’, ‘native’ and ‘imported’ have shaped theatre history in Japan. One of the themes I have developed in my chapter is the separation between contemporary, ‘Western-influenced’ theatre and traditional performing arts such as Noh. This distinction, I have argued, is not only evident in theatre practice, but also in scholarship and educational curricula. Looking at the history of Japan since the opening of the country to the West in the late 19th century, I have outlined the cultural and political reasons for this divide, supporting my argument with notable examples and personal experiences.

The Cambridge Companion to Theatre History is available for purchase (or pre-order) on Cambridge’s website as well as Amazon, etc.

Below is the table of contents of the book:

Introduction: why?
1. Why theatre history? David Wiles
Part I. When?:
Indicative Timeline: 2. Modernist theatre Stefan Hulfeld
3. Baroque to romantic theatre Christopher Baugh
4. Medieval, renaissance and early modern theatre David Wiles
5. Classical theatre Erika Fischer-Lichte
Part II. Where?:
6. Liverpool Ros Merkin
7. Finland S. E. Wilmer
8. Egypt Hazem Azmy
9. Traditional theatre: the case of Japanese Noh Diego Pellecchia
10. Reflections on a global theatre history Marvin Carlson
Part III. What?:
11. The audience Willmar Sauter
12. The art of acting Josette Féral
13. Music theatre and musical theatre Zachary Dunbar
14. Circus Marius Kwint
Part IV. How?:
15. The nature of historical evidence: a case study Thomas Postlewait
16. The visual record: the case of Hamlet Barbara Hodgdon
17. Museums, archives and collecting Fiona Macintosh
18. Re:enactment Gilli Bush-Bailey
19. The internet: history 2.0? Jacky Bratton and Grant Tyler Peterson.

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