Antitheatricality and the Body Public
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Antitheatricality and the Body Public

Lisa A. Freeman

376 pages | 6 x 9 | 24 illus.
Cloth 2017 | ISBN 9780812248739 | Add to cart $55.00s | Outside N. America £45.00
Ebook 2016 | ISBN 9780812293555 | Add to cart $55.00s | £36.00 | About
A volume in the Haney Foundation Series

"As Lévi-Strauss said of cats, the theater 'is good to think with,' especially in moments of social stress and trauma, and Lisa A. Freeman demonstrates just how useful it can be in five meticulously researched case studies. Her book represents an impressive labor of research and writing, chock full of new material in every chapter."—Joseph Roach, Yale University

"A work of great erudition and scholarly merit that shows how antitheatrical rhetoric emerges as a way of mediating social, cultural, and governmental crisis. The result is a highly self-aware and remarkably original argument about the function of cultural regulation."—Daniel O'Quinn, University of Guelph

Situating the theater as a site of broad cultural movements and conflicts, Lisa A. Freeman asserts that antitheatrical incidents from the English Renaissance to present-day America provide us with occasions to trace major struggles over the nature and balance of power and political authority. In studies of William Prynne's Histrio-mastix (1633), Jeremy Collier's A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (1698), John Home's Douglas (1757), the burning of the theater at Richmond (1811), and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in National Endowment for the Arts v. Finley (1998) Freeman engages in a careful examination of the political, religious, philosophical, literary, and dramatic contexts in which challenges to theatricality unfold. In so doing, she demonstrates that however differently "the public" might be defined in each epoch, what lies at the heart of antitheatrical disputes is a struggle over the character of the body politic that governs a nation and the bodies public that could be said to represent that nation.

By situating antitheatrical incidents as rich and interpretable cultural performances, Freeman seeks to account fully for the significance of these particular historical conflicts. She delineates when, why, and how anxieties about representation manifest themselves, and traces the actual politics that govern such ostensibly aesthetic and moral debates even today.

Lisa A. Freeman is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is author of Character's Theater: Genre and Identity on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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