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A Mad Art, My Masters: Theater and Usable Culture in Late Twentieth-Century Britain

A Mad Art, My Masters: Theater and Usable Culture in Late Twentieth-Century Britain <p>Recently, critics have approached the cultural appropriation of “not-Shakespearean texts, arguing that the Jacobean revivals of the 1980s and 1990s “are as conservative as their Shakespearean counterparts” (Aebischer 282), due to their emphasis on historical continuity and coherence. However, the drama produced in the 1970s and 1980s asserted a new theatrical aesthetic that demands that the audience recognize its own complicity in perpetuating the myth of historical continuum through the stylistic assertion of disunity. Instead of employing a ‘usable history’, the playwrights of this era created a ‘usable culture’ that used literature as historicity in order to highlight the inefficiency of both as a means of mediating the present. Barrie Keeffe’s play, <i>A Mad World My Masters</i>, under the guise of Jacobean nostalgia, confronts the implications of the emergent Conservative cultural dictate that assumes governmental responsibility for defining and maintaining “the good standards and best things” (Thatcher) of postwar England—a missive that repeatedly conflated the form of outrage with the “good” art that should contain such protest. Keeffe challenges the audience’s cultural expectations by putting the worst of Thatcher’s “scroungers” onstage and demands that the audience recognized its complicity in the emergent fraudulent meritocracy that characterized political reform.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Interdisciplinary Literary Studies Penn State University Press

A Mad Art, My Masters: Theater and Usable Culture in Late Twentieth-Century Britain

Interdisciplinary Literary Studies , Volume 17 (2) – Sep 1, 2015

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Publisher
Penn State University Press
Copyright
Copyright © The Pennsylvania State University.
ISSN
2161-427X

Abstract

<p>Recently, critics have approached the cultural appropriation of “not-Shakespearean texts, arguing that the Jacobean revivals of the 1980s and 1990s “are as conservative as their Shakespearean counterparts” (Aebischer 282), due to their emphasis on historical continuity and coherence. However, the drama produced in the 1970s and 1980s asserted a new theatrical aesthetic that demands that the audience recognize its own complicity in perpetuating the myth of historical continuum through the stylistic assertion of disunity. Instead of employing a ‘usable history’, the playwrights of this era created a ‘usable culture’ that used literature as historicity in order to highlight the inefficiency of both as a means of mediating the present. Barrie Keeffe’s play, <i>A Mad World My Masters</i>, under the guise of Jacobean nostalgia, confronts the implications of the emergent Conservative cultural dictate that assumes governmental responsibility for defining and maintaining “the good standards and best things” (Thatcher) of postwar England—a missive that repeatedly conflated the form of outrage with the “good” art that should contain such protest. Keeffe challenges the audience’s cultural expectations by putting the worst of Thatcher’s “scroungers” onstage and demands that the audience recognized its complicity in the emergent fraudulent meritocracy that characterized political reform.</p>

Journal

Interdisciplinary Literary StudiesPenn State University Press

Published: Sep 1, 2015

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