ACIS Logo Recovery or Reinvasion?: Global Verse Drama on the English Stage

Verse drama‚ at least in English‚ is an anabiotic genre. Since the Romantic period, it has existed seemingly in a state of suspended animation‚ ready to be ‚”revived‚” by writers like W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and, more recently, Mike Bartlett. This myth of recovery allows these writers to position themselves as inheritors of an illustrious tradition without any close models to react against. But this myth of recovery also has a geographical or ethnic inflection. In addition to being recovered from the past, this dormant genre can also be recovered from anachronistic places in the present, usually on the periphery of, or in ghettos within the metropolitan mainstream. This is why verse drama always seems to be on the decline in England and the United States, while enjoying relatively stable success in Ireland throughout the twentieth century. I argue that metropolitan writers think of Ireland and other former colonies as a kind of provincial or subaltern incubator, from which English‚ as well as some American‚ writers‚”recover‚” verse drama and reintroduce it to mainstream audiences at various moments in the twentieth century. I will examine several instances of this “recovery”: from the Irish Literary Revival to the present day, and compare this rhetoric of recovery to a different model (outlined by Derek Walcott), in which Irish verse drama ‚”reinvades‚” the English stage.

Published on: March 23, 2019