Theses Doctoral

The Poetics and Politcs of Translation in Contemporary Drama, 1960s-1990s

Ganguly, Avishek

This dissertation studies a group of twentieth-century plays from India, Ireland, Nigeria and Britain that have rarely been read together. Through close readings of dramatic texts by authors like Utpal Dutt, Brian Friel, David Edgar and Wole Soyinka and, I examine the significant place of translation figured as dramatic technique in contemporary drama and theatre. The dissertation, therefore, adopts a more formal rather than substantive logic of comparison. Translation, in drama and theatre studies, is usually invoked to either describe the transformation of a literary text from page to the stage, or by way of a more general understanding, as the literal transfer of plays from one language into another. I look at translation within rather than of a dramatic text. This approach allows me to address the insufficient attention that figurative uses of translation have received in drama and theatre studies, and make two critical interventions: first, to demonstrate how a dramatic technique figured in translation disrupts the assumptions of what appears to be a constitutive monolingualism in the writing and reception of drama and theatre. Since the ascendancy of performance studies in the nineteen sixties, critical work on drama and theatre has taken an anti-text, and by extension, anti-literary stance. By contrast, my reading is mindful of the performative aspect of these plays without necessarily privileging it at the expense of the literary in so far as such a distinction can be consistently sustained. The second critical intervention is to locate moments in the texts when acts of translation create new social collectivities and hence serve as a point of departure for a political reading. The emergence of social protest movements on the one hand, and the fall of communism at the end of the Cold War on the other frame the different imaginations of collectivity that I trace in these texts. The first and second waves of decolonization in Asia and Africa, and their subsequent postcolonial predicaments productively supplement this framework. My dissertation also relates to the category of translation as it organizes the prevalent concept of `world literature,' which in its focus on the novel has been insufficiently attentive to drama. I trouble as well as extend the logics of classification by recontextualizing the authors beyond their dominant national-literary configurations.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Spivak, Gayatri C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 15, 2014