A Queer Sort of Materialism

Recontextualizing American Theater
David Savran
An eclectic collection of essays on theater and its decline as highbrow culture, under the influence of theme parks and blockbuster movies


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.

David Savran is Professor of Theater, the Graduate Center, the City University of New York. His other books include Cowboys, Communists, and Queers: The Politics of Masculinity in the Work of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams; Taking It Like a Man: White Masculinity, Masochism, and Contemporary American Culture; and The Masculinity Studies Reader (with Rachel Adams).

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . bracingly smart."
    —Randy Gener, American Theatre, September 2003
  • ". . . full of exciting ideas, thoroughly supported by contextual detail and theoretical sophistication. It will transform the terms within which recent American theatre is viewed."
    Modern Drama

  • ". . . 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."
    Theatre Survey

  • "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

Look Inside

Copyright © 2003, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 246pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2003
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06836-4

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  • $29.95 U.S.



  • theater studies, theater and performance, gender studies, queer studies, popular culture, masochism, drag kings, gender and sexuality, queer/gay/lesbian/transgender studies, American studies, Angels in America, Broadway, Paula Vogel, Sam Shepard, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, sadomasochism, theater history