What exactly is a tragedy? Can any contemporary play be considered a true tragedy? Or is our era just too spiritually puny, too mired in the trivial, the mundane, and the petty political to aspire to that grandiose dramatic form? In his dazzling and audacious book, Sean Carney explores this longstanding question by examining the work of recent British dramatists such as Edward Bond, David Hare, Howard Barker, Caryl Churchill, Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Kane. The Politics and Poetics of Contemporary English Tragedy cuts to the heart of our anxieties about our capacity for tragic experience and points to answers hiding in plain sight.
OPEN BOOKS: Sean Carney is the second offering in our 2014 Open Books Series, a program of free public talks curated by the Theatre’s Literary Advisor Jonathan Kalb.
ABOUT THE SERIES: As a modern classical theater dedicated to the language and ideas of writers, Theater for a New Audience sees great thinking and writing about our theatrical heritage as essential to its mission. The free Open Books lecture series provides a forum for the authors of some of the best new books on theater to share their wisdom, perceptions and discoveries directly with our audiences. The lecture subjects range over the vast expanse of the theatrical past, drawing connections with the complex present as part of the theater’s ongoing reassessment of the classical.
Sean Carney is an associate professor of Drama and Theatre in the Department of English, McGill University, Montreal. His publications include Brecht and Critical Theory: Dialectics and Contemporary Aesthetics, and essays on English drama in a variety of academic journals. Recent directing work at McGill includes Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.