Perhaps the most significant development of the Georgian theater
was its multiplication of ethnic, colonial, and provincial
character types parading across the stage. In Theatrical
Nation, Michael Ragussis opens up an archive of neglected
plays and performances to examine how this flood of domestic and
colonial others showcased England in general and London in
particular as the center of an increasingly complex and culturally
mixed nation and empire, and in this way illuminated the shifting
identity of a newly configured Great Britain.
In asking what kinds of ideological work these ethnic figures
performed and what forms were invented to accomplish this work,
Ragussis concentrates on the most popular of the "outlandish
Englishmen," the stage Jew, Scot, and Irishman. Theatrical
Nation understands these stage figures in the context of the
government's controversial attempts to merge different ethnic and
national groups through the 1707 Act of Union with Scotland, the
Jewish Naturalization Bill of 1753, and the Act of Union with
Ireland of 1800.
Exploring the significant theatrical innovations that illuminate
the central anxieties shared by playhouse and nation, Ragussis
considers how ethnic identity was theatricalized, even as it moved
from stage to print. By the early nineteenth century, Anglo-Irish
and Scottish novelists attempted to deconstruct the theater's
ethnic stereotypes while reimagining the theatricality of
interactions between English and ethnic characters. An important
shift took place as the novel's cross-ethnic love plot replaced the
stage's caricatured male stereotypes with the beautiful ethnic
heroine pursued by an English hero.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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