Symptoms of contemporary performance

By Patrick Duggan



  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8542-0
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: September 2012
  • BIC Category: Theatre Studies, Theatre studies, PERFORMING ARTS / Theater / History & Criticism, The arts / Theatre studies, Acting Techniques


Trauma-tragedy investigates the extent to which performance can represent the 'unrepresentable' of trauma. Throughout, there is a focus on how such representations might be achieved and if they could help us to understand trauma on personal and social levels. In a world increasingly preoccupied with and exposed to traumas, this volume considers what performance offers as a means of commentary that other cultural products do not.

The book's clear and coherent navigation of complex relation between performance and trauma and its analysis of key practitioners and performances (from Sarah Kane to Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, Harold Pinter to Forced Entertainment, and Phillip Pullman to Franco B) make it accessible and useful to students of performance and trauma studies, yet rigorous and incisive for scholars and specialists. Duggan explores ideas around the phenomenological and socio-political efficacy and impact of performance in relation to trauma. Ultimately, the book advances a new performance theory or mode, 'trauma-tragedy', that suggests much contemporary performance can generate the sensation of being present in trauma through its structural embodiment in performance, or 'presence-in-trauma effects'.


His [Duggan] monograph is inspiring, incisive and illustrative of the multiplicities of modes and forms that theatrical and performative engagements with trauma may assume. Last but not least, given that the topic is difficult and even painful to confront with directly, Duggan's book is enjoyable and achieves a certain balance in this troubled territory., Pavel Drábek, Routledge, Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 19 November 2013|Patrick Duggan's Trauma-tragedy: Symptoms of contemporary performance is an insightful and timely intervention in the study of late twentieth-century drama and performance., Kevin Wallace, De Gruyter, Book Reviews, 2014|[...] Trauma-tragedy offers an inspiring new insight into the possibilities of theatre in negotiating different kinds of trauma. The book is surely alluring for scholars of Theatre Studies, Trauma and Memory Studies, and practitioners alike., Lisa Skwirblies, Studies in Theatre and Performance, Book Reviews, 2014


1. Trauma's performative genealogy
2. Trauma-tragedy: a structure of feeling
3. Mimetic shimmering and the performative punctum
4. Performance 'texts' as sites of witness
5. Being there: the 'presence' of trauma
6. Another view
Conclusion: Trauma-tragedy and the contemporary moment


Patrick Duggan is Lecturer in Drama at the University of Exeter.

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