Stages of mortality
Author: Adrian Curtin

This book provides an ambitious overview of how topics related to death and dying are explored in modern Western theatre, covering a time-span of over a hundred years and engaging multiple cultural contexts. In a series of micronarratives beginning in the late nineteenth century, this book considers how and why death and dying are represented at certain historical moments using dramaturgy and aesthetics that challenge audiences’ conceptions, sensibilities and sense-making faculties. Chapters focus on the ambiguous evocation of death in symbolist theatre; fantastical representations of death in plays about the First World War; satires of death denial in absurdist drama; ‘theatres of catastrophe’ after Auschwitz and Hiroshima; and drama about dying in the early twenty-first century. The book includes a mix of well-known and lesser-known plays and performance pieces from an international range of dramatists and theatre-makers. It offers original interpretations through close reading and performance analysis, informed by scholarship from diverse fields, including history, sociology and philosophy.It investigates the opportunities theatre affords to reflect on the end of life in a compelling and socially meaningful fashion. Written in a lively, accessible style, this book will be of interest to scholars of modern Western theatre and those interested in death studies.

This volume considers transnational and intercultural aspects of early modern theatre, drama and performance. Its twelve chapters, loosely cosmographically grouped into West, North and South, compose a complex image of early modern theatre connections as a socially, economically, politically and culturally realised tissue of links, networks, influences and paths of exchange. With particular attention to itinerant performers, court festival, and the significant black, Muslim and Jewish impact, they combine disciplines and methods to place Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the wider context of early performance culture in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Czech and Italian speaking Europe. Their shared methodological approach examines transnational connections by linking abstract notions of wider theatre historical significance to concrete historical facts: archaeological findings, archival records, visual artefacts, and textual evidence. Crucial to the volume is this systematic yoking of theories with surviving historical evidence for the performative event – whether as material object, text, performative routine, theatregrams, rituals, festivities, genres, archival evidence or visual documentation. This approach enables it to explore the infinite variety of early modern performance culture by expanding the discourse, questioning the received canon, and rethinking the national restrictions of conventional maps to reveal a theatre that truly is without borders.

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Robert Henke

These chapters, which explore early modern theatre and performance transnationally, emerge from the research collective Theater Without Borders (TWB). The group formally established itself in 2005 and 2006 conferences at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, but had had its origins in a series of seminars at American Comparative Literature Association annual

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
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Pavel Drábek and M. A. Katritzky

practice-based collaborations between members of the international research initiative Theater Without Borders (TWB), a global collective exploring transnational and intercultural aspects of early modern theatre, drama and performance. 1 Arranged as a map of sorts, it presents twelve chapters, newly invited, researched and written to create this collection, divided into three sections, loosely cosmographically

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
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Unending
Adrian Curtin

-related diseases’, de Grey maintains; it need not result in death if one course-corrects for it (ibid.: 18). ‘There is no ticking time bomb’, he states, ‘just the accumulation of damage. Aging of the body, just like the aging of a car or a house, is merely a maintenance problem. … [Aging] can be postponed indefinitely by sufficiently thorough and frequent maintenance’ (ibid.: 21). De Grey envisions using gene therapy and other techniques to engineer periodic rejuvenation of the human body, lowering the cumulative amount of 226 Death in modern theatre damage caused by ageing

in Death in modern theatre
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Sensing death in symbolist theatre
Adrian Curtin

symbolists were keen to exploit. Many symbolists sought ‘to catch some far-off glimpse of that spirit which we call Death’, to quote Edward Gordon Craig, who had links with this movement (1911: 74). Disaffected with what they perceived as drab, enervating reality, symbolists sought spiritual rejuvenation in imaginary, mythological realms that could be intuited by artful arrangement (or derangement) of the senses and by veiling the scene of performance. 30 Death in modern theatre It is little wonder that death was a favourite theme of the symbolists, who evoked it in a

in Death in modern theatre
Adrian Curtin

due, and to give a little more prominence to the unconscious attitude towards death which we have hitherto so carefully suppressed?’ (ibid.: 89). Death denial is a psychological impulse and a cultural attitude that banishes thoughts about death and disavows the reality of personal mortality. Despite Freud’s belief that the war would, or should, put an end to death denial, it has seemingly persisted. Scholars have noted the continued existence of death denial, despite world conflicts and repeated 98 Death in modern theatre incidences of mass death. Jonathan

in Death in modern theatre
Adrian Curtin

cities, earlier in the war, though the nature of the destruction wrought upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki was arguably more profound and posited greater world peril. Equally, whilst extermination of ethnic or national groups has occurred throughout history, the industrialised killing conducted in the Nazi death camps was unique, and prompted the coining of the term ‘genocide’ in 1943 (Frey, 2004: xv). 136 Death in modern theatre The Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb are seismic historical events with complex and still-unfolding legacies. Both have given rise

in Death in modern theatre
Adrian Curtin

’ even as it ‘comes back in through the window’, and so forth, in a loop. It is not as though there is a uniform social attitude toward mortality in the West in the early twenty-first century or at any other time. Moreover, even though death and dying appear to be more widely discussed than they were in previous decades, this does not make them less contentious. Euphemistic ways of speaking about death endure. Grappling with mortality remains challenging, and the impulse 182 Death in modern theatre to avoid this subject whenever possible, or at least not to dwell

in Death in modern theatre
Adrian Curtin

did not know what it meant’ (Watts, 1930: 67, my emphasis). Words such as ‘fantastical’, ‘fabulous’, and ‘unreal’ were frequently used in writing about the First World War by combatants and 66 Death in modern theatre non-combatants.1 This is a marker of the startling nature of the events in question. The devastation wrought by the ‘Great War’ of 1914–18, the number of deaths it incurred (approximately sixteen million people), and the scale of the conflict justifies the use of adjectives of this kind. Language of amazement was deployed to describe scenes that

in Death in modern theatre