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Codifying the National Self

Spectators, Actors and the American Dramatic Text


Edited By Barbara Ozieblo and María Dolores Narbona-Carrión

Theater has always been the site of visionary hopes for a reformed national future and a space for propagating ideas, both cultural and political, and such a conceptualization of the histrionic art is all the more valuable in the post-9/11 era. The essays in this volume address the concept of «Americanness» and the perceptions of the «alien» – as ethnic, class or gendered minorities – as dealt with in the work of American playwrights from Anna Cora Mowatt, through Rachel Crothers or Susan Glaspell, and on to Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Nilo Cruz or Wallace Shawn. The authors of the essays come from a multi-national university background that includes the United States, the United Arab Emirates and various countries of the European Community. In recognition of the multiple components of drama, the essays for the volume were selected in order to exemplify different aspects and theories of theater studies: the playwright, the play, the audience and the actor are all examined as part of the theatrical experience that serves to formulate American national identity.


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E Pluribus, Plurum. From a Unifying National Identity to Plural Identities in Susan Glaspell’s Inheritors 185


E Pluribus, Plurum From a Unifying National Identity to Plural Identities in Susan Glaspell’s Inheritors∗ Noelia HERNANDO-REAL Autónoma University of Madrid The question of a national identity has haunted America from the early days of its colonization. In Theatre, Society, and the Nation: Staging American Identities, S. E. Wilmer affirms that the configuration of a common national identity appears as a problematic enterprise in the United States due to its diversity of ethnicities, religions, languages, and customs (10). Consequently, the configuration of an American identity has always been an artificial construction. Indeed, as Wilmer states, Despite severe social prejudice, a hierarchical social structure and legalized forms of social discrimination, some of the factors that were represented as uniting the country were the English language, the Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture, and the common dream of prosperity founded on notions of liberty, equality and free enterprise. (Theatre 10) That is, the archetype of the successful White Anglo-Saxon and Protes- tant citizen emerged as the champion of the official national identity of America. This emergence relied heavily on the metaphor of the national Melting Pot: E Pluribus Unum. Despite the heterogeneity of its very nature, American nationhood was established as a homogeneous, mono- cultural and united paradigm. Naturally, this assertion has not been left uncontested, and theater has become one of the forums for the discus- sion of the baffling matter of what it means to be an American. From the early days of the colonies to the present, American stages have per-...

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