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In this eclectic collection, leading theater critic and cultural commentator David Savran explores the intersections between art and culture, offering smart, compelling interpretations of the economic and social contexts of theatrical texts and practices. Acknowledging theater's marginal status in U.S. culture, A Queer Sort of Materialism takes on "the troublemakers—the ghost, closeted homosexual, masochist, drag king, Third World laborer, even the white male as victim"—who figure more prominently in theater than in other cultural forms. In impeccably researched and argued essays that range in subject matter and style from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Paula Vogel, from Suddenly Last Summer to Iron John, Savran uncovers the ways that such troublemakers both challenge and reinforce orthodox social practices.
The selections presented here are at turns entertaining, informative, sophisticated, and polemical, reflecting the author's dual citizenship as rigorous scholar and engaging theater critic. A Queer Sort of Materialism also provides a model for a kind of queer historical materialism that will prove useful to a wide range of disciplines, including theater and performance, gender and sexuality, queer/gay/lesbian/transgender studies, American studies, and popular culture.
". . . full of exciting ideas, thoroughly supported by contextual detail and theoretical sophistication. It will transform the terms within which recent American theatre is viewed."
". . . the variety and scope of topics offered for intellectual delectation is impressive. . . . [Savran] deliberately recontextualizes the familiar in such a way that we are forced to slow down, to judiciously lean back (perhaps take out our cigars), and curiously examine what exactly it is that is served up. . . ."
—TDR: The Drama Review
". . . provides an essential reader for the student and scholar of theatre, who would seek to apply the leading critiques of contemporary criticism to the major authors and model plays of our time. Savran's sophistication is matched only by his broad, thorough familiarity with the history of twentieth-century theatre."
—Theatre Research International
"This book presents further demonstration that Savran is, in every best sense, a queer sort of voice in American theatre scholarship, at turns provocatively instructive, perversely unmethodical, sometimes flamboyantly and always oddly entertaining to read."
"This book draws together a delectable assortment of David Savran's scholarly and journalistic writings from the mid-1990s onwards—each revised and extended for the volume—together with a couple of original pieces. One of the many qualities of the book is that, in purposely writing for different groups of readers, the author has been led 'to examine the popular next to the elite, the sacred next to the profane, and the aesthetic next to the economic'...A Queer Sort of Materialism possibly represents an important paradigm shift in the field, constituting what Savran calls 'a historical-materialist project of radically contextualizing different forms of cultural production.'"
—John Deeney, New Theatre Quarterly