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Staging the Savage God

Staging the Savage God

The Grotesque in Performance

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Ralf Remshardt


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
6 x 9, 9 illustrations


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About the Book

In this broadly conceived study, Ralf Remshardt delineates the theatre’s deep connection with the grotesque and traces the historically extensive and theoretically intensive relationship between performance and its “other,” the grotesque. Staging the Savage God: The Grotesque in Performance examines the aesthetic complicity shared by the two in both art and theatre and presents a general theory of the grotesque.

Performing the grotesque is both a challenge to a culture’s order and the affirmation of certain ethical principles that it recognizes as its own. Remshardt investigates the aesthetics and ideology of grotesque theatre from antiquity—in works such as The Bacchae and Thyestes—to modernity—in Ubu Roi and Hamletmachine—and opens up new critical possibilities for the analysis of both classical and avant-gardetheatre.

Divided into three sections, Staging the Savage God first interrogates the grotesque as primarily a visual artistic and theatrical mode and then inventories various critical approaches to the grotesque, establishing the outlines of a theory with regard to drama. In the most extensive part of the study, Remshardt shifts his emphasis to the theatre of the grotesque, from self-consuming tragedies and the modernist trope of the artificial human figure to the characterology of the grotesque. Remshardt’s conclusion takes bold steps toward unraveling the paradox inherent in the grotesque theatre.

Written in an engaging style and aided by nine illustrations, Staging the Savage God is a comprehensive and rigorous study that incorporates critical approaches from disciplines such as philosophy, psychoanalysis, art history, literature, and theatre to fully investigate the historical function of the grotesque in performance. 


Ralf Remshardt is professor of theatre at the University of Florida. 


“Remshardt has written one of the few works on theater’s connection with the grotesque and the actual staging of that literature. . . . Remshardt’s literary analysis of The Bacchae, Ubi Roi, The Tutor, AC/DC, and other plays . . . helps the reader through some of the more difficult aspects of this subject. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

"This detailed and carefully researched study contains an excellent introduction to the very idea of the grotesque in all art and literature . . . Remshardt’s book [is] one that theatre historians, and performance scholars in general, will refer to again and again.”—Baylor Journal of Performance Studies

“The grotesque, according to Remshardt, functions by undermining the symmetrical, binary, and dialectic assumptions of truth production that structure our lives . . . undoubtedly a book that will be of use to all theatre scholars working in the field.”—Modern Drama

“In a closely argued series of excavations, Remshardt suggests how the grotesque might be understood (or misunderstood) in relation to the Dionysiac, carnival, the sublime, the struggle between classical and romantic aesthetics, genre, metaphor, and the unconscious . . . Perhaps the book’s most interesting and challenging proposition is that the grotesque does not simply find the theatre congenial, but that the theatre itself is grotesque.”—Theatre Journal