Critical Discourse within European Plays in the First Half of the Twentieth Century and the Manifestations of a Similar Phenomenon in Modern Egyptian Drama
Dawood, Rasha Ahmed Khairy Hafez
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis closely examines the utilisation of dramatic characters’ comments on matters of literary and theatrical criticism. This phenomenon shaped a trend in European theatre during the first half of the twentieth century, and Egyptian theatre in the second half of the century. My main hypotheses are, firstly, that dramatic characters’ comments on literary and theatrical matters of criticism respond to specific problems that challenge theatre practice. Thus, my reading of literary and theatrical criticism within the dramatic texts studied in my thesis focuses on this criticism’s reformative function to rectify the crisis that faces theatre practice in general, rather than playwrights’ individual motives, such as responding to their critics. Secondly, socio-political, economic, and cultural aspects shape historical circumstances, which influence the current state of the theatre industry. Therefore, although Egyptian plays are noticeably influenced by European metatheatre, Egyptian playwrights utilise these borrowed techniques to highlight specific problems of Egyptian theatre such as the corrupt administration of governmental theatre and censorship. Finally, while Egyptian plays exploit European metatheatrical techniques, Egyptian playwrights claimed their works as a revival of intrinsically anti-illusionist traditional forms of entertainment such as the shadow play and Karagöz. This claim reflected increasing calls for pure Egyptian theatre, as part of the anti-Western jingoistic discourse of the political regime of the 1950s. In order to examine these assumptions, my theoretical approach draws from the fields of metatheatrical studies; literary and performance studies of parody and intertextuality; the history of European and Egyptian theatre; sociological, political and cultural studies; theories of modern criticism, and critical reviews. My contribution to the field of metatheatrical studies is in highlighting the reformative function of literary and theatrical criticism, whether as a discourse or a metatheatrical device, within a group of European plays that belong to different movements of the avant-garde during the first half of the twentieth century. More significantly, my study investigates the same phenomenon in Egyptian plays that, since the 1980s, have gradually been marginalised as fringe theatre and neglected by academic studies.
PhD in Drama