On playwright canonization: Pinter, Arden, Kane, and McDonagh

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Abstract

This article engages with the issue of the factors determining theatrical prominence, endorsing the “institutional approach.” In discussing the major mediating role played by theater reviewers in the canonization of individual playwrights, the article focuses particularly on two essential factors that contribute to and affect the processes of their canonization: a convergence of the mediating agents concerning the prominent theatrical contribution of the playwright in question; and the formulation of the playwright's critical construct (an aggregation of traits recurring in the works seen as typifying the playwright in terms of influences and innovations). The careers of four British playwrights, Harold Pinter, John Arden, Sarah Kane, and Martin McDonagh, serve as the case studies. Three of these - Pinter, Arden, and Kane - demonstrate three differing trajectories that represent two distinctive possibilities, whereby either both factors are at play and canonization follows, or neither is at play and canonization fails. McDonagh represents an intriguing, different possibility in which one factor is at play while the other is absent. Thus, while the careers of three of the playwrights demonstrate the effectivity and consequent implications of the two factors, McDonagh's trajectory illustrates the consequent effectivity of each factor separately and the relevant implications of such effectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-640
Number of pages22
JournalPoetics Today
Volume41
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Canonization
  • Convergence
  • Playwright construct
  • Reputation

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