Paul Hernadi

Interpreting Events: Tragicomedies of History on the Modern Stage
Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985 (236 pages)

Publisher's presentation:

"A unique, methodologically innovative, and important contribution to the understanding of modern drama."--Herbert Lindenberger, Avalon Foundation Professor of Humanities in Comparative Literature and English, Stanford University

Since World War I, Paul Hernadi says, a new kind of historical drama has emerged--one in which history is conspicuously fictionalized. In this book Hernadi looks closely at developments in the genre of historical drama since 1920, showing how some of the most successful plays of the twentieth century have underscored the parallels between storytelling and the telling of history.

Hernadi builds his discussion around the close study of one play each by twelve important European and American playwrights: Bernard Shaw, Paul Claudel, T. S. Eliot, Bertolt Brecht, Thornton Wilder, Albert Camus, Max Frisch, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Anouilh, Peter Weiss, and Peter Shaffer. He asserts that in spite of ideological and stylistic differences, the plays share a detached, ironic, often paradoxical, and usually tragicomic attitude toward historical events and figures. In each of his chapters Hernadi examines a contrasting pair of plays, providing an integrated analysis of what they suggest about the re-presentation of past events, tragicomic mood, the relationship between myth and history, dramatic and theatrical enactment, and the constant revision of history by those who recount it.

Rich in theoretical and critical insight, Interpreting Events will be welcomed by students and scholars of literary theory and modern drama.

Hernadi's home page

Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles