Reading the Contemporary Stage
Stephen Watt
If such a thing as postmodern drama exists, how should we read it?


The absence of drama in most considerations of the "post-modern condition," Stephen Watt argues, demands a renewed exploration of drama's relationships with late capitalist economy, post-Marxian politics, and commodity culture. But Postmodern/Drama asks a provocative question: Does an entity such as postmodern drama in fact exist?

Scrutinizing the critical tendency to label texts or writers as "postmodern," and delineating what it might mean to "read" drama more "postmodernly," Watt demonstrates that playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Cherrié Moraga, Harold Pinter, David Rabe, Karen Finley, and others should not be labeled "postmodernist," but rather recognized as producers of texts that might be termed "post-modern."

Watt demonstrates that reading contemporary drama in such a fashion means reading culture more broadly, and he charts the kinds of exploratory movements such reading demands. Rigorously interdisciplinary, Postmodern/Drama carefully articulates the margins among genres and media. The book also considers novels by Beckett, Italo Calvino, and Don DeLillo; films by George Huang and Robert Altman; and commentary on postmodernity by Jean Baudrillard and Fredric Jameson. In the end, the postmodernity of contemporary drama is shown as less a question of genre or media than of a certain mode of subjectivity shared and contested by playwrights, producers, and audiences.

Stephen Watt is Professor of English, Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of Joyce, O'Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater, and coeditor of Marketing Modernisms (with Kevin J. H. Detmar), American Drama: Colonial to Contemporary (with Gary L. Richardson), and When They Weren't Doing Shakespeare (with Judith L. Fisher).

Praise / Awards

  • "A very readable and well constructed book. Watt's approach is exploratory and this is particularly impressive. His thesis is all the more convincing for his willingness to consider both sides of any given critical argument or approach."
    —Lois Oppenheim, Montclair State University
  • "Watt comes up with fresh insights into Beckett, Pinter, Rabe, Shepard, Mamet, Kopit, and others. His methodology of 'reading postmodernly' proves its usefulness beyond any doubt."
    Choice, April 1999, Vol. 36, No. 8

Look Inside

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Problematics of a Phase / 1
One: Postmodern/Drama, or the Bankrupt Logic of an Empty Marker / 15
Two: Reading, Articulation, and Postmodernism: Novels, Postcards, and Buildings / 41
Three: A Peristalsis of Dim Light: Joyce, Beckett, and Postmodernism /65
Four: Rereading Harold Pinter / 89
Five: Baudrillard's America (and Ours?): The View from the Stage / 123
Six: In the "Heat of the Image": Consuming Subjects on the Contemporary Stage / 157
Notes  / 189
Index / 213

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
  • 2 drawings, 3 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10872-5

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  • $84.95 U.S.