Memory in Play: From Aeschylus to Sam Shepard (Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History) - PDF Free Download (2024)

Memory in Play

PALGRAVE STUDIES IN THEATRE AND PERFORMANCE HISTORY is a series devoted to the best of theatre/performance scholarship currently available, accessible, and free of jargon. It strives to include a wide range of topics, from the more traditional to those performance forms that in recent years have helped broaden the understanding of what theatre as a category might include (from variety forms as diverse as the circus and burlesque to street buskers, stage magic, and musical theatre, among many others). Although historical, critical, or analytical studies are of special interest, more theoretical projects, if not the dominant thrust of a study, but utilized as important underpinning or as a historiographical or analytical method of exploration, are also of interest. Textual studies of drama or other types of less traditional performance texts are also germane to the series if placed in their cultural, historical, social, or political and economic context. There is no geographical focus for this series and works of excellence of a diverse and international nature, including comparative studies, are sought. The editor of the series is Don B. Wilmeth (EMERITUS, Brown University), Ph.D., University of Illinois, who brings to the series over a dozen years as editor of a book series on American theatre and drama, in addition to his own extensive experience as an editor of books and journals. He is the author of several award-winning books and has received numerous career achievement awards, including one for sustained excellence in editing from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Also in the series: Undressed for Success by Brenda Foley Theatre, Performance, and the Historical Avant-garde by Günter Berghaus Theatre, Politics, and Markets in Fin-de-Siècle Paris by Sally Charnow Ghosts of Theatre and Cinema in the Brain by Mark Pizzato Moscow Theatres for Young People by Manon van de Water Absence and Memory in Colonial American Theatre by Odai Johnson Vaudeville Wars: How the Keith-Albee and Orpheum Circuits Controlled the Big-Time and Its Performers by Arthur Frank Wertheim Performance and Femininity in Eighteenth-Century German Women’s Writing by Wendy Arons Operatic China: Staging Chinese Identity across the Pacific by Daphne P. Lei Transatlantic Stage Stars in Vaudeville and Variety: Celebrity Turns by Leigh Woods Interrogating America through Theatre and Performance edited by William W. Demastes and Iris Smith Fischer Plays in American Periodicals, 1890–1918 by Susan Harris Smith Representation and Identity from Versailles to the Present: The Performing Subject by Alan Sikes Directors and the New Musical Drama: British and American Musical Theatre in the 1980s and 90s by Miranda Lundskaer-Nielsen Beyond the Golden Door: Jewish-American Drama and Jewish-American Experience by Julius Novick American Puppet Modernism: Essays on the Material World in Performance by John Bell On the Uses of the Fantastic in Modern Theatre: Cocteau, Oedipus, and the Monster by Irene Eynat-Confino Staging Stigma: A Critical Examination of the American Freak Show by Michael M. Chemers, foreword by Jim Ferris Performing Magic on the Western Stage: From the Eighteenth-Century to the Present edited by Francesca Coppa, Larry Hass, and James Peck, foreword by Eugene Burger Memory in Play: From Aeschylus to Sam Shepard by Attilio Favorini

Memory in Play From Aeschylus to Sam Shepard

Attilio Favorini


Copyright © Attilio Favorini, 2008. All rights reserved. First published in 2008 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN® in the United States—a division of St. Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN-13: 978–0–230–60464–3 ISBN-10: 0–230–60464–1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Favorini, Attilio, 1943– Memory in play : from Aeschylus to Sam Shepard / Attilio Favorini. p. cm.—(Palgrave studies in theatre and performance) ISBN 0–230–60464–1 (alk. paper) 1. Drama—History and criticism. 2. Memory in literature. I. Title. PN1650.M435F38 2008 808.8⬘0353—dc22


A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Newgen Imaging Systems (P) Ltd., Chennai, India. First edition: December 2008 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America.

In Memory of My Mother and Father and My Friend Alfred Donargo

“Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers that would have never bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Contents Acknowledgments





Drama and the History of Memory



Drama and the Memory of History



Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”



The “Memory Play” and After: Narrative Paradigms



Drama of Mnemic Signs



Confrontation or Convergence: Staging the Encounter of History and Memory




Works Cited




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lmost anyone who picks up this book will know more about some aspect of the topic than I do. I can only hope that, like the blind men and the elephant, all its flaws may not be discernible by a single reader. Issues of length have made this study selective and Eurocentric rather than global. There are rich traditions of memory drama in India, Japan (from Noh to documentary dramas of World War II), South Africa (apartheid), and Southeast Asia. The most popular Chinese language play over the past twenty years, Stan Lai’s Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, constructs a utopia based on the absence of historical memory. An ever-growing body of memory-driven drama is being created by indigenous and diasporic populations almost everywhere in the world. Though my editors have been generous with the length of my manuscript, my book will consequently be open to such objections as “What about Chicano/Chicana plays?” or “Favorini forgets Follies.” The appropriate response, I think, is wonderment at the brave new world of memory plays constantly unfolding before us. I claim my book as a work of theatre history. As Martin Puchner recently editorialized in Theatre Survey (November 2007), the examination of dramatic literature apart from any individual realization of a play should be able to coexist as part of theatre history alongside essays on other aspects of performance. In any case, because I have considered memory as a system property of dramatic construction, the realities of the stage have never been far from my mind. I have strived to find a common language to discuss a field far more divided and contested than Lear’s kingdom, while at the same time deploying and explaining specialized terms when they seemed to be particularly illuminating of the material at hand. Neuroscientist readers do not need an explanation of parallel distributed processing any more than students of the drama need as detailed an account of Beckett or Pinter as I have provided. But true dialogue requires the patience to hear each other out. Among those who heard me out was a bastion of graduate students from my memory seminar, some of whom were also my keen research assistants, to all of whom I am grateful. If I mention David Pellegrini at the beginning of my work and Lofty Durham at the end, they stand as memoranda for all the others. My colleague Bruce McConachie encouraged me at a crucial stage, as did Joe Donohue, Micki Chi, and Kurt Van Lchn. Gary Williams read an early draft and offered invaluable suggestions. Don Wilmeth read a later stage of the manuscript with care and wisdom, and speeded it toward publication. Farideh Koohi-Kamali added her support when crucial decisions on length had to be made. Joan Bowman both proofread and corrected the manuscript with a keen eye for detail and clarity. The farther afield I wandered in search of memory, the more I needed guidance. I owe a debt of gratitude to colleagues from many disciplines, at the University of

x Acknowledgments Pittsburgh and elsewhere, but especially those who participated in a series of Memory Colloquia associated with a season of memory plays produced by the Department of Theatre Arts. Peter Machamer, Edouard Machery, Edward Casey, Merlin Donald, Jay McClelland, Mark Wheeler, Suzanne Nalbantian, Janice Haaken, Constance Congdon, and Steven DeKoskey all offered their thoughts and encouragement. The Dean’s office of the School of Arts and Sciences facilitated my work with a sabbatical leave, as well as research and publication support from the Richard D. and Mary Jane Edwards Endowed Publication Fund. Parts of this work have been previously published. Elements of chapters 2 and 6 originally appeared in the introduction to my Voicings: Ten Plays from the Documentary Theatre (Ecco-HarperCollins). The section of chapter 2 devoted to Aeschylus appeared as “History, Collective Memory, and Aeschylus’ The Persians” in Theatre Journal (March 2003). A small part of the Beckett and Pinter sections of chapter 5 appeared as “The Remembered Present in Beckett, Pinter and Gerald Edelman” in Consciousness, Literature and the Arts (April 2006). Parts of chapter 3 appeared as “The History/Memory Discourse in Robert Sherwood’s Reunion in Vienna” in Journal of American Drama and Theatre (Winter 2007). The section on Ibsen and Strindberg in chapter 3 appeared as “Some Memory Plays before the ‘Memory Play’” in Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism (Fall 2007). I am grateful to all of the editors and publishers involved. My wife Lisa and my children, Francis, Marie, Anton, and Francesca, inspired me throughout. Words cannot express my gratitude.

Introduction If we do not simply possess passive memories, but are in part continually formed by them in ongoing contexts of use, then the sciences of memory must inevitably range across mixed natural and social environments as well as brains. John Sutton, Philosophy and Memory Traces: Descartes to Connectionism


his is a book about how dramatic constructions of memory correspond with those of “memographers,” my own coinage for thinkers and writers about memory, irrespective of discipline. It has its origins in a paper I presented at the 1995 conference of the American Society for Theatre Research, wherein I examined ways in which memory suffuses theatre as an artifact and manifestation of culture. The book I planned was more ambitious than the one I wrote. What here occupies me entirely—how playwrights represent memory and how they dramatize the memory/history binary—I had imagined as a chapter or two in a more encyclopedic work on theatre and memory. I also envisioned chapters on theatrical memoirs; on how body memory is created and preserved in acting traditions; on revivals, or how theatre remembers itself; and a chapter on how theatre buildings remember other buildings, such as churches, courts, and sites of commerce, as well as other theatres. Some of these subjects have since been addressed in Marvin Carlson’s wise and authoritative The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine (2001)—if with an understanding and orientation different from mine. The student of memory and theatre will benefit, as I have, from a few other significant works spotlighting this conjunction. Spencer Golub’s The Recurrence of Fate: Theatre and Memory in Twentieth-Century Russia (1994) explores how the drama figured in the retention and invention of historical memory pre- and post-Revolution; Jeanette R. Malkin’s Memory-Theater and Postmodern Drama (1999) offers a reading of some plays by Samuel Beckett, Sam Shepard, Suzan-Lori Parks, Heiner Müller, and Thomas Bernhard thoroughly grounded in a discourse of memory; Garrett Sullivan (2005) does something similar for Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Webster; Joseph Roach (1996) places theatre in a genealogy of performance that includes “shows” of all kinds and examines its role in the production of cultural memory regarding race; and Diana Taylor (2003) looks at how performance figures in the transmission of embodied memory in Latina and Latino American culture. In the end, these approaches all proved excellent roads not taken, as I became almost exclusively engaged with the dramatic construction of memory. Focusing singularly on the drama has the disadvantage of seeming to ignore the many other memory sites within theatre. But such concentration offers a vantage point for recognizing how dramatists have contributed to the conception of memory


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

alongside philosophers and psychologists, as well as social and cognitive scientists. It also offers the salutary challenge to seek a lingua franca for discussing a phenomenon studied from the perspectives of so many disciplines. So wide-ranging is memory as a phenomenon, concept, and term that Graham Richards, half tongue-in-cheek, notes that “it might, perhaps justifiably, be suggested that the category ‘memory’ is simply too sweeping, a folk-psychological term of scant scientific utility” (2002, 129). Endel Tulving (“Concepts of Memory,” 2000), relying on the philosopher of science M. Bunge, observes that “memory” can refer to the category of things or processes, to the realm of concepts and abstract thoughts and the semantic world of terms and linguistic designations. He further notes that as a term memory can mean a neurocognitive capacity, a store of information, the information in the store, a componential process of retrieval of that information or an individual’s phenomenal awareness of remembering. But, as with other conceptually complex, if flawed, markers of self, memory heuristically places us on a grid whose coordinates are both constructed and determined. Like race, which helps locate self in a context both socially constructed and ethnically determined; gender (sociosexual determination); and class (socioeconomic determination), memory helps locate self on a continuum of characteristics socially constructed and both autonomically and autonoetically determined, that is, driven by one’s neurocognitive history and profile. We may “have” memory, but memory also has us: it tells us who we are. As a “time art” (like music, dance, and literature), rather than a “space art” (architecture, painting, sculpture), theatre has a formal affinity for memory. Murphy and Kovach (1972, 399) relate the differences between “space arts,” which render an aspect of the world into permanent form, and time arts, which capture “the flowing character of all temporally ordered experience” to differences in sciences, noting that the life sciences have shifted from the former to the latter. Memory study itself reflects such a transformation. Philosophical arguments over whether human nature is fixed (with, e.g., features such as aggression, familial loyalty) or changing (what new motivating forces, cognitive structures, or values might we develop?); tensions felt in psychology between identifying typologies, drives and instincts versus functional, developmental, and environmental orientations; and the cognitive science debate pitting artificial intelligence models versus evolutionary biological models for the human brain—all these impact on whether memory is considered a more or less static record of impressions and traces of the world or an adaptive and constructive response to it. Adopting a distinction made by Edward Casey (1987, 15), we may identify these positions as the passivist and activist memory traditions, which Casey traces back respectively to Aristotle and Plato. Theatrical renditions of memory, I contend, contribute to these intellectual and cultural formations. In order to grasp how the drama contributes to the construction of memory it is necessary to lay out two contexts: the topography of a field that may be called memory studies and the range of ways in which theatre remembers. The phenomenologies of memory and theatre interpenetrate one another. On the one hand, theatre’s fundamental mode of repetition makes it a child of memory. This by no means renders theatre unique among the arts—all the Muses, not just Thalia, are daughters of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. Yet, theatre seems particularly thick with memory. From rehearsals to memory plays to theatrical memorabilia to theatres



themselves—which constitute the exoskeleton of theatre’s memory—theatre can be fruitfully contextualized as an activity of remembering. On the other hand, theatrical metaphors and vocabulary have historically been useful in modeling not just memory, but all of consciousness—Bernard J. Baars going so far as to assert, in a considerable exaggeration, that theatre metaphors are “essentially all we have” to describe mental functions (1997, 7). If theatrical enactment is seen as suffused with memory, remembering may also be usefully recognized as an exercise of scenic imagination. Or, to adapt the terminology of Aristotle, who wrote authoritatively on both memory and theatre, memory is to the mind as the plot is to tragedy: its “soul” and masterorganizer. The fields of theatre and memory overlap, interweave, and commingle with one another like the planes in a drawing by M. C. Escher. The study of memory has largely “belonged” successively to philosophical, experimental, clinical, and cognitive psychology. The roominess of this disciplinary home has “placed” memory in juxtaposition now with learning or development theory, with notions of perception and imagination, with therapeutics, and/or with theories of consciousness. Thus, memory has historically been a concept that mediates between self and mind, consciousness and the unconscious, between identity as recorded and reminded and identity as constructed. But memory’s reference to the sphere of the already actualized also links it to the life-world and thus to “truth,” history, social formation, evolution, biology, and the neural basis of cognition. In the twentieth century especially, memory quit its already capacious disciplinary home for a nomadic existence. As a concept, memory’s traces may be found in historiography (the memory/history issue emerges in the first quarter of the century), philosophy (history of memory, philosophy of mind), and languages and literatures (memory as “theme,” poetic memory, autobiography). As a category of things or processes, memory suffuses religious studies (ritual reenactment, Holocaust studies), art history (retrospectives, influence, “Neo-” formations, revivals), film studies (documentary, homage, remakes), and Medieval and Renaissance studies (memory arts and systems). As a store of information, memory occupies anthropology (traditional life ways, oral history), sociology (collective memory), and law (precedent). As a neurocognitive capacity, memory permeates a variety of fields in the physical sciences, such as evolutionary biology (memory faculties as naturally selected), physical education (body memory), and cognitive science (research on the neurophysiology of memory traces and networks, sometimes identified respectively as “local” and “global” orientations)—among others. Obviously, then, the matrix for this disciplinary growth is not a phenomenon confined to the individual mind. As Edward Casey eloquently demonstrates in the second half of Remembering (“Pursuing Memory Beyond Mind” and “Remembering Re-membered”), memory is embodied; it is a feature of cultural formation; it inheres in place; and it is frequently undertaken with others in reminiscing and commemorations. Richard Dawkins’ concept of a cultural replicating unit he terms a “meme” (1990, 143, for its suggestion of both gene and memory) is also to the point, as is biochemist Gerald Edelman’s position that the “memory” of DNA replication and the memory of the immune system in recognizing likes constitute “a new principle” ultimately leading to the evolutionary development of the mind (1992, 203). To cite further evidence of the pervasiveness of memory in human development—as well


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

as memory’s archaic connection with enacted representation (prototheatre)—there is Merlin Donald’s (1991) hypothesis that early hominids developed a “mimetic culture” prior to evolving symbolic language. Mimetic culture entails the invention of representational acts with the purpose of social communication; it is a specific form of reproductive memory subject to recall and interpretation and thus crucial to the modeling of social structure. Recent breakthroughs in cognitive science suggest that mimetic culture is supported by “mirror neuron” systems in the brain that fire empathetically in observing others and “that specialize in carrying out and understanding not just the actions of others but their intentions, the social meaning of their behavior, and their emotions” (Blakeslee 2006). Memory may connect us, brain to brain. My theatrical study thus draws on characterizations of memory from several disciplines. Particularly useful in parsing theatrical memory are Casey’s phenomenological study of memory in its act phase and object phase (terms preferable to the more common “encoding” and “retrieval”) and his distinctions among the memory modes of reminding, reminiscing, and recognizing. I also apply to theatre Pierre Nora’s duality of milieu de mémoire as a mnemonic institution “entwined in the intimacy of a collective heritage” and lieu de mémoire, or site to which memory retreats in defense against the onslaught of history. I follow Edelman in conceiving of cerebral memory as essentially the construction of cognitive categories, as I draw on ideas about the socialization of memory derived originally from the Swiss sociologist Maurice Halbwachs (1950, 1992), whose The Social Frameworks of Memory was published in French in 1925. The contributions of psychologists from such different orientations as Freud, Jung, Frederic Bartlett (1932), and Daniel Schacter (1996) are crucial to my understanding of the role of memory in self-formation—increasingly so, as I proceed to consideration of the memory play in later chapters. Chapter 1, “Drama and the History of Memory,” chronologically surveys developing philosophical and protopsychological concepts of memory next to dramatic representations of it up until the dawn of the modernist era. In this chapter, as throughout the book, I will sometimes pause to suspend a generally chronological account for extended “Case Studies” that demonstrate a deepened or innovative development in memory plays—that is, cases where the exploration of memory strikes me as central to the play’s original configuration. Memory is a variable, not a constant, in character construction, and its ebb and flow over time has largely gone unnoticed. It gathers in larger waves only as the nineteenth century ends, at roughly the same time as the rise of memory in clinical psychology and the emergence of memory in historiographical discourse. The work of this chapter, then, is to observe changes in how premodernist playwrights have constructed memory in the context of memory’s intellectual history. For the classical period, mnemic signs in Oedipus Rex and The Bacchae are read against Platonic and Aristotelian conceptions of memory. Tragic recognition is considered as memorative, that is, as a mental reorganization and existential repositioning of an individual vis-à-vis the past. The Bacchae is seen in the context of the Greek twinning of Mnemosyne and Lesmosyne, the goddesses of remembering and forgetting. Memoria was a defining modality of the Middle Ages, almost seeming to absorb learning and even virtue into itself, as moral training was based upon recognizing



repeated situations and experiences. The formulaic nature of saints’ plays, for example, may be seen as a kind of learning by rote, just as the medieval polyscenic stage of juxtaposition may be seen as a form of visual collatio or gathering in one place of the strands of meditational composition. Renaissance thinkers, giving expression to a surging interest in cognition, elaborated on classical and medieval mnemotechnics, developing them into systems of cosmic significance whose range adumbrates the global reach of recent theories constructed by cognitive scientists. One such thinker was Giordano Bruno, who visited Oxford, influenced the Elizabethan playwright Robert Greene, and through him had an impact on Shakespeare. The latter’s preoccupation with memory and forgetting, as exampled in Hamlet and Pericles, shows vestiges both of Brunian concepts and other Renaissance ideas about the tracing of impressions in the brain. After Shakespeare, the memory scene almost empties, until the beginning of the modern era. Plays one would expect to be retrospective by virtue of their subject or situation—such as Dryden’s All for Love, Lillo’s Fatal Curiosity, or Boucicault’s Rip Van Winkle—are remarkably free of remembering. While Goethe’s Faust and the Henry Irving vehicle The Bells give some evidence of memoriousness, the deeper exploration of memory’s role in self-fashioning would await the arrival of the modernist memory play. Chapter 2, “Drama and the Memory of History,” engages, again chronologically, history plays and documentary dramas in which the incitement to remember is a distinct and prominent area of the drama’s attention. While Pierre Nora theorizes a rhetorical model of antagonism between history and memory as alternative ways of describing the relationship of past to present, Patrick Hutton (1993) arrives at a position in which memory and history are seen to be in interplay rather than opposition, and both positions also find expression in dramatic form. Aeschylus’ The Persians (in its own time and in subsequent revivals) offers an early opportunity to examine the difference between collective memory—a set of recollections, repetitions, and recapitulations socially, morally, or politically useful for a group or community—and history, which is a record of significant events affecting a nation or institution that tends to be univocal and responsive to evidentiary protocols. Just as chapter 1 suggests that some medieval plays were meant to serve as reminders of moral imperatives, chapter 2 shows that others may be thought of as artifacts of medieval commemorative culture. Corpus Christi plays, civic pageants, and mystery plays frequently labor to recover for a group some golden age or timeless event in order to emphasize a meaningful connection between “that time” and the present. As the Renaissance developed a sense of the past different from medieval “omnitemporality,” the chronicle play and historical drama redramatize the history/memory binary. Some historical dramatists are drawn to the commemorative mode, though most history plays of the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries are more absorbed with myth construction, philosophizing, and local politics. Historical dramatists sometimes shared with historians a taste for orality and a tendency to choose a remote event to stand in for one of more recent memory. Schiller’s Wallenstein Trilogy may be considered illustrative, haunted as it is by the memory of the French Revolution. Through the end of the nineteenth century, the theatre developed and deployed a dramatic model for recapitulating history from which memory was


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

largely banished—paralleling the emptying of the memory scene in domestic and psychological drama. In twentieth-century historical drama, an ironic stance and tragicomic mood are equally inhospitable to memory. Indeed, the extirpation of “false” memories of the Empire became a concern of British historical dramatists in the second half of the century, as the creation of such false memories had been the concern of Soviet dramatists in its first half. Standing against these trends in historical drama is the documentary playwright, who represents a return of the rhapsode or memorializing spokesperson for an otherwise forgotten past. Chapter 2 concludes with a selective account of the development of the documentary from Piscator through Peter Cheeseman. The onset of modernism brings a surge in interest in memory across disciplines that has not been sufficiently noticed.1 The early modernist period is the focus of chapter 3, “Memory Plays before the ‘Memory Play.’” While one may agree with Michael Roth that Freud deserves chief credit for developing “a hermeneutics of memory” (1995, 13) at the turn of the nineteenth century, he was both preceded and followed by a brace of memographers compelled by questions of how memory characterizes the mind, catalyzes the self, and engages the world. These include Freud’s associate Josef Breuer and rivals Carl Jung and Pierre Janet; psychologists such as William James, Jean Piaget, and Frederic Bartlett; philosopher Henri Bergson; sociologist Halbwachs; and such pillars of modern drama as Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Luigi Pirandello, Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, and Robert Sherwood. The twentieth century marks the return of the active, Platonic memory tradition. The past frequently rushes upon the protagonist of modern drama as it does upon the analysand. While Freud was developing key concepts such as the idea that suppressed memories cause the repetition of neurotic behavior or that neurotics construct false memories to screen a traumatic event, Ibsen in When We Dead Awaken and Strindberg in The Burned House were already dramatizing the action of such behaviors. Somewhat later, in Henry IV, through the character of the “alienist” whose plan to shock the protagonist out of amnesia brings catastrophe, Pirandello scrutinizes the assumptions of psychoanalysis about how to construct a past one can live with. Creating or constructing a useable past is an objective investigated by Freud, Jung, and Halbwachs. Each in his own way was attempting to determine (1) how memory negotiates between the individual and the group; and (2) what factors determine how memories are formed, deformed, and reformed. Where Freud highlighted the impact of fantasies of familial primal scenes on memory formation, and Jung posited that individual memories were joined with archetypes of the collective unconscious— inherited ideas or images derived from experiences held in common—Halbwachs reckoned as crucial the pressures of a group with an interest in self-preservation. Thus, each in his own way was attempting to grapple with the fact that while an individual’s memory is quintessentially her own, indeed crucially formative of the conception of a self, nevertheless that self is a social being whose contours are inescapably shaped by localization in time and place. Eugene O’Neill, in plays such as The Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape, appears to make the Jungian argument that the individual carries within himself a racial memory which he repeats—a version of Haeckel’s (contested) biological principle that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”



Robert Sherwood’s Reunion in Vienna constructs a Halbwachsian argument about the seduction of the past, using a plot staple of romantic comedy (an old lover returns) to suggest the dangers posed to a nation by its falsely remembered or constructed past—a key issue for Europe and the world in 1931. If, for the majority of modern dramatists of the period, the past—whether remembered or forgotten—is fraught with psychological danger, for Thornton Wilder collective memory is a source of comfort, solace, and true knowledge. In explicitly Platonic terms he sets himself the task of forging a dramaturgy that facilitates selfforgetting in the presence of heritage. Our Town and The Long Christmas Dinner construct milieux de mémoire, as Wilder reconceives the theatre as a placeholder for memory. But if the ghostly figures conjured by the Stage Manager are marshaled in the service of memory, the opposite is the case in a handful of contemporary plays in which memory serves as the threshold to the mistier lands of “psychic research” and spiritualism. It proved to some a short step from the idea that remembering repressed scenes could help to work through them, or that we are bound together by our collective memory, to the idea that the living and the dead share a “cosmic consciousness” through which they can communicate. In psychology, William James took this step, on the one hand vigorously analyzing how memory cognitively connects past to present, while at the same time holding (tenuously) to the belief that states of trance, amnesia, or hypnotism might connect one to a spiritual order. The same territory was explored in the drama by such hugely popular plays as Peter Ibbetson and Forever After and, with a different emphasis altogether, by Irwin Shaw’s Bury the Dead. Tennessee Williams’ self-proclaimed “memory play” The Glass Menagerie (1944) inaugurates a prolonged dramatic exploration of what cognitive psychologists variously call “episodic memory”—to emphasize remembered event rather than information—or “autobiographical memory”—to emphasize the personal, individual nature of the remembering. This exploration continues to the present and is the subject of chapter 4, “The ‘Memory Play’ and After: Narrative Paradigms.” Williams’ adoption of the narrator as remembering events in which he was involved, unlike Wilder’s stand-apart manager of the narration, struck some early reviewers of the play as “unusual,” “arty,” “pretentious,” and “unnecessary” (cited in Crandell 1996, 18–28) though the device had already been used in I Remember Mama. Remembering narrators both show and tell, thereby affording the opportunity of examining imagery and narrative style in the representation of memory. Showing and telling devices may throw light on what some cognitive psychologists consider as two distinct memory systems, an older imagistic one and a subsequently developed system through which memories are thought about and represented in words. Useful in describing the tactics of remembering narrators is Edward Casey’s exposition of the eidetic features (search and display, encapsulation and expansion, etc.) of memory, as is Freud’s distinction between observer memories, wherein we see ourselves in the scene, and field memories, wherein we see the scene from the perspective from which we originally saw it. Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller throughout their careers remain interested in how memory interacts with narrative to construct a sense of self. The remembering narrator obviously owes a debt to psychoanalysis, as his or her narration frequently evokes the therapeutic hour. Both Freudian and Jungian


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

memory plays persist through the end of the twentieth century, the former (e.g., Glass Menagerie, Da, Conversations with My Father) frequently displaying a “remembering, repeating and working through” formula, the latter (e.g., Dancing at Lughnasa, Equus) often imputing an archetypal nature to the remembered experience. Whether Freudian or Jungian, psychoanalytical plays represent an archeological or “vertical” model for the psyche in which the remembering subject digs stratigraphically deeper from the conscious down to the unconscious. Other memory plays (Something Cloudy, Something Clear and After the Fall) imply a branching or “horizontal” model of memory more in line with cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychologists, however, trailed playwrights by four decades in identifying narrative as crucial in forging the relationship between memory and self-concept. Drama became the laboratory for examining how personal memory organizes milestones and circ*mscribed moments of self-definition, in the absence of such examination in the laboratories of experimental psychologists, much more interested in semantic memory—Frederic Bartlett being a notable exception. Traditional lab-bound research so dominated memory studies that Ulrich Neisser, himself a highly respected psychologist, charged in 1982: “If X is an interesting or socially significant aspect of memory, then psychologists have hardly ever studied X” (1982, 4). A surge of studies in how memories are organized into narrative followed. Not all narrative remembering results in a working through. Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams seem to disturb and agitate the memory scene each time they return to it. In their later plays, memory may be unsuccessful in bringing order to the past, or the past may not stay where it belongs, or memory lapses become morally suspect. Other playwrights explore how one memory confutes another (Rashom*on, Faith Healer) or the degenerative effects of various forms of amnesia (Traveler without Luggage, Fuddy Meers). Eventually, the theatre took sides in what came to be called the “memory wars” of the 1990s, pitting proponents of recovered memory against psychologists demonstrating that false memories could be implanted in a susceptible subject. Psychologists and playwrights alike noticed that establishing the veridicality of a memory was less important than registering its psychological effect upon the rememberer. Chapter 5, “Drama of Mnemic Signs,” considers plays where the troubled memory scene predominates and where memory narratives become less comprehensible. Drama of the mnemic sign is drama of the engram or memory fragment that comes unbidden—or may beckon us—and remains unwelcomed. Late twentieth-century memory plays often seem riven by contradictory impulses, tracking similarly paradoxical findings in cognitive memory science: that we both control our memories and are controlled by them; that memories are uniquely individualized by virtue of the rememberer’s idiosyncratic experience, yet fully inflected by the subjectivities of others; that memory both marks or scores an encounter with the life-world, yet revises and reconstructs it; and that forgetful, distorting, malfunctioning memory is at the same time normal, efficient, and naturally selected memory. In the last thirty years of the twentieth century, memory came to be considered the nexus for the visceral, the cerebral, and the social. Though memographers approach this point from different directions and disciplines, they frequently converge or concentrate on the body as the seat of memory and memory as the seed of



self. Among dramatists, Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter explored the embodiment of memory in a way that can be usefully compared with the writings of the neuroscientist Gerald Edelman, whose engagement with memory they anticipate. Beckett, like Edelman, developed a theory of consciousness and memory that was uncompromisingly physical, if in Beckett’s case nonetheless haunted by Cartesianism. Like his older contemporary Frederic Bartlett, Beckett understood memory as a strategy for dealing with absence, and this became his great theme. In his early critical study Proust (1931), Beckett virtually set for himself a memory research agenda that he pursued through the end of his writing life. For his characters, memory is almost identifiable with the self, and also tied to sensorimotor feedback and consummatory needs. Before Edelman, Beckett is engaged with distinguishing memory’s role in primary consciousness and higher-order consciousness, as when, for example, Gogo remembers carrots, bones, and Bible pictures while Didi reminisces and recognizes in Waiting for Godot. Pinter’s memory plays, especially Landscape, Silence and Old Times, likewise pursue a theme found in Edelman: how memories are constantly revised by the thinking subject and at the same time reconstitute the thinker. Edelman calls this “reentry” (1989, 109–118), the procedure by which memory processes continually reorganize the remembering subjectivities that “created” them. The title of one of Edelman’s books, The Remembered Present, captures in a phrase the “tense” of Pinter’s characters, whose remembering is a dynamic process striving to establish continuity between past and present selves. These and other plays by Beckett and Pinter are cerebral, as opposed to psychological, in their evident interest in how memory works in the brain to sustain selfimage. They seem to share, both with other late- or postmodern playwrights and with cognitive scientists, a “connectionist” model of memory—the idea that memory bridges categories in changing the instructions for how patterns of brain activity can be constructed from inputs. Pinter more than Beckett registered how social constructions like gender impinge upon how and what we remember. The social dimension of remembering is also explored by Sam Shepard, especially in A Lie of the Mind, where personal and cultural amnesia are seen to impact self-formation; by Adrienne Kennedy, whose plays resist the imposition of white literary strictures and structures on African American memory; by the Hélène Cixous/Simone Benmussa Dora, where memory helps to defy the threat to feminine identity posed by Freudianism; by the influential television dramatist Dennis Potter, who engages memory, imagination, and self-formation simultaneously from autobiographical, social/historical, and neuroanatomical perspectives; and by the Theatre de Complicite’s Mnemonic, which makes all this its subject. These playwrights frequently foreground how the memories of others impact their creative processes, reminding us that, for better or worse, our memories are not exclusively our own. Chapter 6, “Confrontation or Convergence: Staging the Encounter of History and Memory,” explores plays that frame memory in such a way as to place the worldhood and the self-presence of the rememberer in tension. Thus, Conversations with My Father sets the narrator’s psychological development against the fraught circ*mstances of the Jewish diaspora in America, while Good confronts Halder’s self-involved retrospection on his role in the rise of Nazism with the blare of history. Traumatic history as exampled in the Holocaust sets the stage for the sharpest conflict between an


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

awareness of the social construction of memory as tradition versus the conviction that memory stands as a testament of truth, in contradistinction to history, which may be construed as serving the representational priorities of the state and constructed on the effacement or ignorance of group identity. In the Holocaust drama of Charlotte Delbo or Joshua Sobol, recollection is a kind of heroism, making meaning against the onslaught of distortion and forgetfulness. Suppressed or vilified groups—Jews, African Americans, hom*osexuals, Irish, Native Americans—frequently create their own commemorative domains, and Tony Kushner speaks not only for the gay community when he quotes Yerushalmi to the effect that “the antonym of justice is not injustice but forgetting” (quoted in Savran 1999, 111). The commemorative domains may be more or less inclusive and accessible or self-reflexive and privatized, and they deploy different strategies for the construction of memory. August Wilson recuperates conventional dramatic form, though with a distinctly African American character; The Piano Lesson is a memory play in a blues key. Suzan-Lori Parks writes memory riffs, or what Toni Morrison, referring to her own writing, calls memory “pieces” (1996, 217). Embracing fragmentation, Parks practices remembering as a species of dismembering, a strategy she shares with Heiner Müller. The Lear-like protagonist of Sebastian Barry’s The Steward of Christendom inhabits a remembered present that intersects with Irish political turmoil through flashback and reminiscence. While these diverse mnemonics are to be celebrated, Michael Roth worries about a “ghettoization” of our relationship to the past “in which one has no investment in the past that one might share with another” (15). Even documentary drama, formerly conceived as a positivistic and unproblematic form of truth-telling incorporating neglected voices, shows signs of strain. Playwrights struggling to escape the binary of memory/subjective/interior/orality and history/ objective/exterior/literacy develop new forms of history-telling that revise majoritarian versions of the past and try to put a human face on history. Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War, juxtaposes a treacly music hall score with sharpened lyrics and grimly realistic World War I battle scenes to cut through false romanticism and gushing patriotism. Donald Freed’s Inquest replays the events surrounding the Rosenberg espionage trial using one stage to reconstruct the received history of the case from trial transcripts and public accounts, and another to tell the Rosenberg story from letters, notes and recollections. Both Littlewood and Freed intended their truth-telling about more distant historical events to have resonance with the politics of the 1960s and 1970s. In the manner of Inquest, Emily Mann’s Execution of Justice uses “uncalled witnesses” to supplement the transcripts of the trial of the murder of two city officials. Here, as throughout her work, Mann relies heavily on found dialogue consisting of “I was there” recollection to construct veridicality. Anna Deavere Smith, on the other hand, manages to weave oppositional recollections into a polyphony that preserves plural, unstable versions of the truth. Like oral memorialists and rhapsodes, Smith performs feats of memory that are a community resource and contribute to a discourse of cultural identity. Memory may be described using the vocabularies of many diverse disciplines. Douwe Draaisma has shown that while new methodologies and technologies have regularly been brought to bear on the study of memory, ideas about memory



regularly repeat certain metaphorical themes. While the theatrical metaphor has been acknowledged as having a place among those themes, playwrights and their constructions do not figure prominently in how intellectual historians have reckoned the representation of memory. By the same token, historians of drama have not recognized the importance of the memory theme. As well, the divide between the “two cultures” continues to hamper dialogue between science and the arts on the subject of memory, particularly lamentable in light of Freud’s wonderful insight that scientific creativity is born of the interplay between “daringly playful fantasy and relentlessly realistic criticism” (quoted by Draaisma 2000, 8). This book is meant as a contribution toward closing such gaps.

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1. Drama and the History of Memory We have not only forgotten what it is to remember—and what remembering is—we have forgotten our own forgetting. Edward Casey, Remembering


he ways in which memory is normally discussed reflect the common terminology of past millenia. Even today, popular conceptions of memory are frequently couched in a vocabulary that was old in Aristotle’s time. Though the history of memory has been addressed occasionally by historians of psychology and glancingly by philosophers, there has been no comprehensive attempt to correlate developing concepts of memory with dramatic representations of memory. At the same time, memory as a variable in character construction over time has largely gone unnoticed. The work of this chapter, then, is to observe changes in how playwrights have constructed memory in the context of memory’s more distant intellectual history.1 Until the end of the nineteenth century, when remembering characters suddenly begin to crowd the stage like supernumeraries in a Meininger production, the memory scene is only spottily filled. In some eras, memory is like a character whose presence is felt rather than announced. In the tragedy of Ancient Greece, I argue, anagnorisis is a memorious concept that helps to explain how plot construction relates to the Greek notion of self. In medieval drama, characters are rarely retrospective, yet plays serve as a sort of devotional mnemonics, like stained glass windows and book illustrations. Only with Shakespeare, however, does memory take center stage, with Hamlet and Pericles serving as case studies for how remembering and forgetting become character hallmarks. Even so, I am unaware of a play that is centrally “about” memory until The Burned House at the beginning of the twentieth century, though The Bells, Henry Irving’s star vehicle (1871), makes a gesture in that direction. *



MEMORY IN ANCIENT TIMES “Memory” and its cognates derive via Latin memoria from Greek mneme. In Greek mythology, the mother of the Muses is Mnemosyne, so that all of the arts are deemed children of memory. Casey (258) further adduces etymons and cognates

14 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard of memory as mens (mind), Minerva (representing wisdom), minna (love), mania (out of one’s mind), and mantis (seer) to identify memory as simultaneously of the mind and beyond mindfulness. Mnemosyne is paired with an opposing counterpart goddess, Lesmosyne or Lethe, representing “forgetting” and associated with night, as Mnemosyne is with day. Lethe frequently has negative connotations, as in the Republic, when Socrates discusses Lethe as a river that is uncontrollable and washes away determinations and discriminations, according to Charles Scott (1999, 33).2 It does not quench or satisfy; it makes the soul a leaky sieve, and in the Gorgias, Plato associates the leaky jugs of the Danaides with the river of Lethe. Outflowing generally has a negative connotation associated with the loss of life, and “to drink of Lethe” is a metaphor for death, though also for sleep and the calm of self-forgetfulness. But Karl Kerenyi points out that by association the river of Lethe develops an adjunct image, that of its source or spring (1977, 125–126). Classical sources refer to twin springs, of forgetfulness and memory, and they are represented on vases. Kerenyi also draws on Hesiod, who uses the word lesmosyne for lethe, to suggest that memory and forgetfulness are linked by the Greeks in a “union of the opposites under the dominion of the positive” (130, emphasis Kerenyi’s).3 In the course of the development of Greek philosophy, memory descends from her exalted position as the mother of the Muses and rescuer of past experience to the status of a secondary faculty, subsumed under the study of how we possess knowledge. To Plato in the Theaetetus we owe the image of memory as imprinted with our experiences, as a wax block is imprinted by a signet ring (191d). The metaphor is developed in association with another—that likening pieces of knowledge to caged birds that can be taken out and used at will (197d)—and together they help to demonstrate Plato’s ideas on the capacity for knowledge and the active use thereof (Burnyeat 1990, 101–114). Draaisma (27) observes that the memory-as-an-aviary image is the origin of the storage metaphor still in common use. Furthermore, these two images for memory, one passive and one active, survive even today as the distinction psychologists make between implicit and explicit memory. Memory thus functions for Plato in connection with the search for knowledge within the self, which also links the soul to the universe of Forms. In the Meno, Socrates links knowing as recollection to the theory of reincarnation: since knowledge is latent in the mind, its retrieval is, in effect recollection, perhaps from a source other than our current mortal experience.4 While according a place of honor to memory in epistemology, Plato also ties it to an untenable psychology and to the mind/body dualism. This is quite different from a concept of sense impression, an idea that Aristotle develops using Plato’s wax block metaphor (De Anima II 12, 424a). For Aristotle, memory is connected only to a personal, experiential past, of which it makes a more or less iconic copy. He successfully avoids either a gross materialism or a radical Cartesianism by connecting memory to physiology without identifying memory exclusively as a physiological process. Unlike Plato, he discriminates precisely, if not wholly successfully, among remembering, recognizing, reminding, and recollecting.5 Among ideas about memory that remain current, Aristotle is responsible for the origination of associationism, that is, the notion that memory works via linkages of images of one sort or another. Aristotle is also interested in mnemotechnics and the “place” system of assigning bits to remember to locations (from which comes,

Drama and the History of Memory 15 according to Sorabji [1972, 30], such phrases as “in the first place”). Sorabji (28) makes a point regarding Aristotle’s connection of memory to dialectic that has implications for the conception of a “memory play.” Aristotle recommended to students of dialectics that they memorize arguments, premises, definitions and topoi (i.e., general patterns of argument or headings). Such a one-person exercise reappears millenia later in the memory play constructed as a dialectic: one individual recollecting and discovering knowledge via a sort of self-communing. Despite the analytic strength of his conception of memory, Aristotle is limited by his mentalism, that is, failing to take into account the social dimension of remembering, as well as by his referencing memory only to the past (De Memoria et Reminiscentia, 499b), failing to allow for, for example, remembering to, and finally by his reliance on the concept of imagery and of a physical trace. Also, associationism problematically implies an infinite regress with no apparent beginning and also makes it difficult to distinguish memory from other sorts of mental activity—especially perception and imagination. Aristotle is thus responsible for many of the ideas that had to be cleared away by memory researchers of the modern period. Edward Casey interprets the shift in Greek thought on memory as a movement from an activist concept, in which memory is seen as creatively transforming experience, to a passivist one, in which memory is merely “a passive process of registering and storing incoming impressions” (15). But Casey does not adduce the drama to flesh out an understanding of how the Greeks constructed memory. The “history of repression of memory’s potentially transformational role,” which Casey (16) sees continuing virtually into the present, might be rewritten with allusion to theatre, starting with Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Because Aeschylus is more engaged with the interaction of history and collective memory, I shall defer consideration of his work to the next chapter. In Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Euripides’ The Bacchae, however, we have strong cause to reconsider the role of individual memory in the Greek experience. Crucial to such a reconsideration is the Aristotelian notion of recognition (anagnorisis). In the Poetics, recognition by definition plays a transformational role in the protagonist’s self-formation: “A recognition, as the name signifies, is a change from ignorance to knowledge, and so to either friendship or enmity in those determined to good fortune or misfortune” (1452a).6 Moreover, the essence of recognition is familiarity, understood here as referring not just to the group with natural ties (though recognitions are frequently of this sort in Greek drama), but to the general class with common characteristics. That is, recognition is based in cognition, the replacement of ignorance with knowledge previously held (ANA-gnorisis) but currently withheld. In Aristotle’s conception, recognition enforces a mental reorganization and an existential repositioning, and in both of these respects Aristotle forecasts what late twentieth- century neuroscientists have to say about memory’s operations. Aristotle lays out a hierarchy of forms of recognition, from those he disfavors (signs) to those he favors (arising from the incidents of plot) (Poetics, 1454b–1455a), and he also ranks recognitions in terms of their functioning as part of the structure of plot, specifying that “Recognition is most beautiful when it arises at the same time as reversal, as does the recognition in the Oedipus” (1452b). These judgments are not arbitrary matters of taste, but are made on the basis of how recognition functions within


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

the catharsis machine that is plot in Aristotle’s conception. Specifically, recognition governs the catharsis of fear, as reversal governs that of pity (Telford 1961, 107–109). While these may seem like dusty distinctions to some, they can be helpful in understanding the relationship of memory to time and to the life-world, not to mention their indispensability in understanding what Aristotle actually said about tragedy. Tragic plots obviously demonstrate how the past can affect present actions directly, as the incident where three roads meet brought Oedipus to Thebes or the solution to the Sphinx’s riddle brought him the crown. But, as Telford puts it precisely, “the future can effect present action only indirectly through the mediation of thought, and therefore the proper vehicle for the catharsis of fear is recognition. For recognition is a change of thought, as reversal is a change of action” (108). Recognition may, as Casey asserts in a philosophical rather than dramatic context, make the past materially part of the present, “solid” with it (124–125), but it also draws the future into a present apprehension, foreclosing or opening one path or another to the recognizing protagonist. One might even say that the three roads meeting for Oedipus are the past, present, and future. Not only does the man who killed Laius at the crossroads merge, consolidate, with the present king, but with the man who will no longer be king. Recognition is thus an intermediary between the mind and the world that was and the world that will be. If plot is a catharsis machine, recognition is one of its outputs and memory its fuel. In all cases, for Aristotle, what is recognized in tragedy is the friendship or enmity of another character, frequently a family member. But this feature of recognition needs to be understood in the context of Greek culture in which selfhood is profoundly relational: you are whom you love and value; you are who your friends and family (philoi) are.7 Consequently, failure to recognize the friendship or enmity of another is a failure to recognize an aspect of self. The hero’s agnosticism is self-directed and retrospective. The deepest irony for Sophocles’ Oedipus is thus epistemological and cerebral: a man who lives by his mind is afflicted with a lifelong failure to recognize. By contrast, though the irony of Euripides’ The Bacchae is just as deep, the force of recognition is much more materially and corporally situated in that play, which can therefore flesh out still further the Greek concept of memory. In The Bacchae the contention of remembering and forgetting is so prominent as to suggest such an agon as the allegorical foundation of the play. As Charles Segal (2001) points out, the setting is a memorial, the sacred space where lightning struck Semelé’s house, which is referred to as seen still smoldering in the background (ll. 10, 14).8 Yet, soon enough, Teiresias celebrates Dionysus as the god whose gift of sleep brings forgetfulness of the day’s evils (330). Indeed, the action may be described as proceeding from an experience of forgetfulness (of Dionysiac power, of Kadmos forgetting his old age) to Dionysiac release: his epithet, Lysios, means “one who releases,” and he releases his Theban maenads in the play, having already released the Lydian women who form the chorus. The action culminates in a re-membering of the body, her son’s, that Agave has dismembered—the scene known to classicists as the Compositio Membrorum. Along with these features, Segal identifies “a Dionysiac anagnorisis (recognition): wild abandon and exultation followed by a sad reawakening to a painful reality” (29). Segal sees Dionysiac recognition as different from the broad reassessment of the forces operating in human action that Oedipus Rex

Drama and the History of Memory 17 offers. Instead, Euripides’ protagonists “wake-up” to “their utter misery and their helplessness before the divine power that has destroyed them” (30). Perhaps a more telling difference, however, is that while Oedipus’ recognition is cerebral and cognitive, and symbolized by the self-blinding that will lock him into the darkness of his own mind, Agave’s recognition is embodied and communal, as signaled by the Compositio Membrorum. Even so, in re-membering her son, one of the philoi from whom she takes her being, she is tragically remembering herself. It would be much better if she were able to dissociate herself from her crime, to claim that she is not the person who killed her son—in the manner of what is now called identity dissociation disorder (formerly “multiple personalities”). But she cannot. Who she was, who she is, and who she will be are one. She is returned to herself at the very moment of severing herself from loved ones—a movement that links the most ancient drama we have to late-modernist memory plays like Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive and Hélène Cixous’ Dora, wherein the delayed recognition that Freud would later call Nachträglichkeit (referring to the postprocessing of a trauma or memory) figures prominently. Thus, Aristotle’s judgment on the supreme beauty of simultaneous reversal and recognition continues to be tested by playwrights, who overlay with narrative retrospection the gradual revelation of emotional ordeal. *



MEMORY IN THE MIDDLE AGES In the course of the Roman period and the early Middle Ages, memory becomes the preserve of rhetoricians such as Cicero and Quintillian and thence of theologians, who enlist mnemotechnics in the service of devotion and ethics (Yates, 1966). Aquinas suggested that mnemotechnics could be enhanced by composing striking images as memoranda, placing them in order, attaching emotions to them, and repeating them—a regimen frequently followed by subsequent religious teachers such as Ignatius of Loyola. At the same time, classical notions of memory—both Platonic and Aristotelian—survive in the scholasticism of Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, who both wrote commentaries to Aristotle’s De Memoria et Reminiscentia. In addition, monks, theologians, and philosophers such as Anselm, Bede, Bernard, William of Ockham, and many others sustained mnemonic practices and thought about memory in the context of epistemology. These interests persisted into the Renaissance with the memory systems of Neo-Platonists such as Giulio Camillo and Giordano Bruno. In this chronicle, St. Augustine stands out, utterly exceptional in the history of memory.9 A Neo-Platonist, via Plotinus, Augustine also incorporated Cicero and Aristotle into his theories of cognition and memory. Yet, as DeConcini (1990, 180– 181) notes, the emphasis on autobiographical memory in the Confessions sets it apart in the philosophical tradition both preceding and—until Locke—following it. For Augustine, making sense of one’s life requires the active involvement of the rememberer in bringing order to the storehouse of memory. Also without precedent, the writing of the Confessions “as an autobiographical act . . . exhibits memory’s engagement in


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

the narrative articulation of identity” (180). For Augustine, penitent recognition and prayerful retrospection change the significance of the past for the rememberer. Thus “there [in memory] meet I with myself ” (Augustine, 159). So seductive is the idea that a self is its own maker via memory that Augustine apotheosizes remembering as self-recognition into a devotional encounter with his soul as evidence of God: “And where shall I find Thee? If I find Thee without my memory, then do I not retain Thee in my memory. And how shall I find Thee, if I remember Thee not?” (166). Though, as Janet Coleman’s voluminous work makes clear, subsequent medieval thinkers followed Augustine in pursuing memory along with will and understanding as primary cognitive faculties, only Augustine had the literary gift to convey memory’s formative effect on a personal life. Not until Shakespeare will the drama draw upon a concept of autobiographical memory as expansive and active as Augustine’s. It was the devotional, rather than the psychological dimension of memory that shaped the drama of the Middle Ages. In attempting to reconcile Christianity with the classics, medievalists seemed reluctant to give up any wisdom about memory, concluding that “Aristotle confirmed the rules of Tullius [Cicero]” (Yates 1966, 61), while also retaining a Platonic emphasis on memory as a pathway to truth, thereby raising the status of mnemotechnics. Mary Carruthers’ superb study (1991) makes it abundantly clear that memoria was a defining modality of the Middle Ages, almost seeming to absorb learning and even virtue into itself, as moral training was based upon recognizing repeated situations and experiences (66). The persistence of the oral performance of literature and the ubiquity of oral presentations of all sorts—from trials to sermons to scholarly disputations—combined with low literacy rates and the scarcity of written texts to make the art of memory central to medieval civilization. This culture encompassed not only a vast “orature” of epics and ballads but also a tradition of mnemonic devices such as memory palaces and memory theatres—all of which are linked in their performative aspects to theatre. Oratory and acting, regularly conflated by rhetoricians, shared canons of memory and of delivery (codified rules of voice, gesture, and expression) that are still relatively unexploited in understanding drama and theatre. Carruthers’ concept of “memorative composition” goes so far as to suggest that even the categories of orality and literacy are inappropriately dichotomous in describing medieval custom, for which “writing itself is a kind of memory” (31 and also 194)—that is, a secondary record of sense impression or cogitation. Though her book bypasses theatre entirely, Carruthers emphasizes the importance of visualization and the making of “scenes” in the formation of memory, thereby allowing us to identify another reason for the formulaic nature of much medieval drama: morality plays and saints’ plays, for example, may be seen to be teaching by rote. In a similar vein, Frances Yates suggests that the new way in which Giotto’s images stand out from the background might have been influenced by memory treatises urging vividness in the formation of the images that fix memories (1966, 94–95). For the same reason, Dante’s Inferno might be considered a memory system. Likewise, medieval dramaturgy suits the requisite of mnemonic imagery to be striking in order to facilitate retention—extremes of beauty or ugliness, distinctive examples of weeping or laughter and scenes charged with emotion being particularly useful (Enders 1997, 154). (The phrase “memorize by heart” records the association of memory and the seat of emotion, as does the word “record” itself.) It may also

Drama and the History of Memory 19 be that the medieval polyscenic stage of juxtaposition is a form of visual collatio or gathering in one place of the strands of meditational composition. The appropriate imaginative locus for a collatio, according to medieval cultivators of memory arts such as the fourteenth-century scholar Thomas Bradwardine, would be a church or marketplace—not coincidentally, I think, the two most common venues for medieval religious drama (Carruthers, 123–131). Not coincidental either is the shared memorative and dramatic use of the word locus to designate “place” in the medieval mind or on the medieval stage. Ground plans and prints frequently suggest arrangements of mansions in street-like or alley-like fashion, often on a stage within a marketplace itself fed by streets and alleys—exactly the sort of reiterative architectonics favored by mnemonists.10 The requirements of mnemonic technique may thus have catalyzed the shape of medieval theatre and drama, as was the case with the decoration of medieval books (Carruthers, 242). As Lerud (2001) has shown, medieval thinking made a distinction between “deed” (dead) imagery (painted) and “quyk” (living or performed) mental imagery—a distinction that, I notice, oddly prefigures the shift in cognitive memory science from describing memory images to referencing the memory scene. Scene has the advantage over imagery in that it more readily accommodates intensity and energy among its qualia. Lerud notes that Reginald Peaco*ck, the fifteenth-century Bishop of Chicester, ties the familiar belief that man is made in God’s “image,” obviously not meaning just picture, to the action of plays, wherein a “quyk man” may represent the Christ crucified (224). Dead and quick images are grouped by Peaco*ck in the same cognitive category of “rememoratijf or mynding signes” (222). Lerud also adduces the late Classical text, Rhetorica ad Herennium, wherein both backgrounds (loci) and images (insignes) are essentials of an artificial memory system, to reinforce the connections between the theatrical and memorial “scenes.” *



RENAISSANCE REMEMBERING Yates, both in her Giordano Bruno (1964) and Art of Memory, documents how the association of memory systems and theatre endured through the Middle Ages and well into the seventeenth century. Coleman (539) notes a surge of interest in cognition among intellectuals of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, further grounds, if any were needed, for relinquishing the view that Renaissance thinking marked a break with the darkness or barbarity of the Middle Ages. Yates’s Theatre of the World (1969) culminates in the contention that illustrations for Robert Fludd’s memory tract, History of the Two Worlds (1617), throw light upon Shakespeare’s Globe, a matter in considerable dispute. That the theatre was considered an apt metaphor for recording and expressing this order lends Fludd’s system an exuberant theatricality, as Draaisma suggests, irrespective of whether Fludd’s model was the Globe. Also, Fludd’s model of memory-as-theatre helps us to understand the intellectual context, if not the physical theatrical context, in which Shakespeare’s contemporary exploration of memory took place. Medieval and Renaissance theories of memory were


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

“global” in many meanings of the term, and their cosmic complexity anticipates the far-reaching theories of a cognitive scientist like Merlin Donald. For Donald, memory plays a role in the evolutionary development of “mimetic culture,” a description well suited to the Renaissance. In addition to what might be called an Aristotle-driven, Dominican art of memory purveyed by Albertus Magnus and Aquinas, Raymond Lull (1245–1316) cultivated a Franciscan art coming more directly out of Augustinian Platonism and bypassing classical rhetoric, though it also owes something to Aristotle’s emphasis on dialectic in De Memoria et Reminiscentia (Yates 1966, 185). Interestingly, Lull’s image of the tree of memory (186), with roots and branches, is more suggestive of the physiology of dendrites and neuronal networks, as it is understood today, than are the more schematic representations of memory employing imagery of heavenly constellations or earthly theatre. William of Ockham (d. ca. 1349), another Franciscan, follows in this tradition, though his valorizing of individual experience as a reliable foundation for remembering had implications for politics and the interpretation of Scripture “that would both inspire and alarm contemporaries and subsequent thinkers” (Coleman, 501). Ockham theorized “habit” as a disposition or potentiality of mind to bridge the gap between an act of intuitive knowledge and intellection—a concept not dissimilar from the notion of some cognitive scientists that the capacity to categorize predetermines perception. (“Habits of mind” is a still common phrase reflecting Ockham’s idea.) It is out of this Neo-Platonic tradition that more ambitious memory systems arise. The “great mass” of memory treatises come from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and they represent some divergence from medieval models under the influence of “humanism and the development of Renaissance types of memory” (Yates 1966, 105–106). Yates notes two key trends. She judges the overelaborated Renaissance systems as indicating the degeneration of mnemotechnics into a kind of crossword puzzle. This degeneration perhaps shows the impact of printed books, which make memorization, and the memory-friendly schematics of manuscript composition, less important (123–124). On the other hand, the claims of mnemotechnicians become more exalted, as the applicability of memory systems is extended to many professions, including jurists, doctors, and ambassadors (114). According to Yates (145), a “radical change” in the art of memory is marked by the actual construction of Camillo’s small-scale, walk-in theatre (ca. 1530), a memory model painted and compartmentalized to contain stores of knowledge to remember. A written account was published in 1550. Based loosely on Vitruvian theatres and also on the “seven pillars of wisdom” in Proverbs 9, the theatre is not only a mnemotechnic device but “represents the universe expanding from First Causes through the stages of creation” (141). As Yates puts it, “Into the old bottles of the art of memory there has been poured the heady wine of the currents of Renaissance ‘occult philosophy’” (145). Camillo conspires in memory’s theft from devotion, now holding itself up as “‘divine,’ having powers of grasping the highest reality through a magically activated imagination” (157). Likewise, the infusion of astrology into memory systems based on constellations foregrounds the issue of whether memory records an order inherent in the cosmos, or itself orders the world—a version of the realist/representationalist argument over memory traces that continues to occupy cognitive science (Sutton 1998b, 307–308). Coleman frames the issue this way: “What remained central to

Drama and the History of Memory 21 opposing attitudes to the past well into the eighteenth century was the question of whether the world was to be remembered, known and understood as essentially ordered and hence its truth could be logically and formally deduced—as proponents of the via antiqua maintained; or whether it was remembered, known and understood as a consequence of men’s individual experiences and their subsequent representational discourse” (592–593). Camillo’s Neo-Platonist memory theatre clearly falls into the former camp. No Renaissance figure makes greater claims for memory than Giordano Bruno (1548–1600), and it is through Bruno that we can follow the impact of memory systems on drama in the age of Elizabeth I. Bruno went far beyond mnemotechnics in his works, which combine Neo-Platonism, Renaissance magic, Copernican science, and Petrarchan conceits. His first publication was a book on memory, De umbris idearum (1582), and it was Bruno’s reputation as a mnemonist that brought him to France, England, Germany, and ultimately back to Italy—and burning at the stake. Yates documents Bruno’s notoriety in England, where four of his books were published during the time he lived there (1583–1586). Yet, Yates (1964, 210n and 356) only glancingly connects Bruno to the drama, observing in a footnote that Robert Greene may have had Bruno in mind when he wrote Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and repeating the well-accepted identification of Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost with Bruno. But there is much more worth pursuing in the association of Bruno with Greene and Shakespeare, an association in which memory figures prominently. Bruno’s four English publications included two works on memory and The Heroic Frenzies, a series of Petrarchan love poems of considerable beauty. They are associated with Bruno’s visit to Oxford in the spring of 1583, where he disputed with local scholars over heliocentrism, the occult, and humanistic learning and where Robert Greene may conceivably have crossed paths with him. Greene received his MA from Cambridge 7 July 1583, and a second MA from Oxford in 1588 (Crupi, 4). Bruno was in England perhaps as early as March 1583, and certainly at Oxford by June (Yates 1964, 206ff ). While it is not possible to prove that Greene was in Bruno’s presence during the Oxford disputations, it has been observed that the magus Vandermast in Friar Bacon quotes directly from Bruno’s Cena de le ceneri, a memory treatise, making it certain that Greene knew Bruno’s work.11 More basically, the situation of the play, which pits Vandermast against a native magus at Oxford, first Friar Bungay, then Friar Bacon, repeats the situation in which Bruno found himself. The elaborate plot also involves a frustrated romance between King Edward and Margaret, the “fair maid of Fressingfield”; an international betrothal; a disguise plot; and a tragic subplot employing a magic looking glass that enables observers to see far away locations. Reading the text of Friar Bacon against Bruno’s philosophy brings a thematic unity to the play that might otherwise go undiscovered. That is, this sprawling play covers the same territory as Bruno’s sprawling philosophy, with Petrarchan imagery in the love plot (1.56–67), the mix throughout of science and magic, references to the Cabala, Neo-Platonism, Hermes, and a heliocentric system (all gathered together in Vandermast’s speech of 9.29–41), and a Neo-Platonic ladder of love in which romantic love trumps friendship (8.27–35). One might also say that Yates’s summation of the philosophy of Bruno’s Seals, another memory work he published in England, neatly describes the play: “The religion of Love and Magic is based on the Power of


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

the Imagination, and on an Art of Imagery through which the Magus attempts to grasp, and to hold within, the universe in all its ever changing forms” (1966, 260). Greene, however, has Bacon give up his overreaching attempt, expressed in the plot as the ambition to forge a protective ring of brass around England. Greene thereby resolves the conflict of humanism versus Neo-Platonic occultism occasioned by the Bruno visit to Oxford in favor of the former. But nowhere in the play is memory foregrounded. Rather, Greene has detached Bruno’s foundation in memory from his loftier claims for the power of the imagination—though the device of a far-seeing, magic, looking glass may indeed be a metaphor for memory. *



CASE STUDY: HAMLET AND PERICLES AS MEMORY TWINS In Shakespeare, however, the close association of memory and imagination is retained, even if it may not be possible to demonstrate that Bruno was its source: the association was a commonplace of Renaissance philosophy. Moreover, as Garrett Sullivan emphasizes throughout Memory and Forgetting in Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare’s ideas about memory and forgetting are entirely of his time as embodied in humoral theory. It was believed that, while memory can stave off inner disorder among stored mental images, it is also vulnerable to such disorder stemming from humoral imbalance.12 Shakespeare exhibited an almost clinical preoccupation with memory—from childhood amnesia, as instanced in Prospero’s urgent, importunate interrogation of Miranda over what she can call back from the “dark backward and abysm of time” (in a passage where “remember” and its cognates appear four times in fourteen lines—Tempest 1.2.38–52) to a curiosity about what we today know as Alzheimer’s disease and its erosion of memory, as in Jacques’ observation on “second childishness and mere oblivion” (As You Like It 2.7.165). But in two plays not commonly linked, the design of remembrance and its corollary, forgetting, come dramatically to the fore. Hamlet and Pericles do not just recall each other but strike me as antiphonal, one an interlinear to the other, on the subject of memory. They also offer a striking example of how the memory of one play may invade that of another, irrespective of their chronological order. I mean to suggest that Pericles in some sense deconstructs or “un-writes” Hamlet. “In the first place,” let us recap the superficial similarities or parallels. Pericles, Prince of Tyre not only echoes Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in its title, but each marks a chapter in a longer account of a familiar story told and retold in prior narrative and/or dramatic versions. From a biographical perspective, in Hamlet Shakespeare is implicitly remembering the death by drowning of his son Hamnet, just as he is remembering the separation from his daughters—they in Stratford, he in London—in Pericles. Each play is punctuated with a triple father/child relationship. The three father/son pairs framing the action in Hamlet (Hamlet and old Hamlet, Fortinbras and old Fortinbras, Polonius and Laertes) are reinscribed in the three father/daughter relationships of Pericles (Pericles and Marina, Simonides and Thaisa, Antiochus and his unnamed daughter). In keeping with a commonplace of criticism of Shakespeare’s

Drama and the History of Memory 23 late plays, I believe the shift in gender deliberately sets a model of feminine and compliant behavior in Pericles against the model of masculine and aggressive behavior portrayed in Hamlet. Indeed, Renaissance physiology suggested that the lethargy that overtakes Pericles is sourced in an excess of moist and cold, thereby making his body more like a woman’s. In both plays, the hero is shadowed by incest from the first scene in which we meet him—Hamlet referencing the “incestuous sheets” (1.1.163) of Gertrude and Claudius, Pericles the “foul incest” (1.1.127) of Antiochus and his daughter. Though other plays of Shakespeare have silent action, notably Macbeth and Tempest, only in Hamlet and Pericles are these sequences identified as “dumb shows,” and only in these two are the dumb shows used to prefigure action we are about to see. Finally, each play sports the exotic detail of pirate kidnappings of principal characters at roughly the same point in the action (Hamlet 4.6; Pericles 4.1). These surface similarities send down deeper roots into the plays’ meanings, which are pervaded with the rhythms of remembering and forgetting. The memory of Old Hamlet’s death is “green,” as Claudius reminds us in his first sentence (1.2.2). Perhaps directly responsive to Claudius, Hamlet in his first soliloquy asks himself the rhetorical question that impassions him: “Must I remember?” (1.2.149). The context is Hamlet’s memory of the love between his mother and father, particularly its physical expressions (“she would hang on him,” etc.), and it is these vivid recollections that trigger his judgment of incest a few lines later—recollections that are key to his “motive and cue” for subsequent action. With the memory theme thus clearly announced, Shakespeare can indulge its comic variation in Polonius’ reminder to Laertes —“These few precepts in thy memory / Look thou character” (1.3.62–63). This expression shows both a trace of the classical metaphor of inscribing or impressing, as well as the Brunian method of associating bits to remember with alphabetical characters (Yates 1966, 250–251). It also prepares the way for Old Hamlet’s injunctions to his son in the next scene. Classically associating forgetting with dullness, comfort and insensitivity, the Ghost quickly chides Hamlet that if he is not moved by the Ghost’s story “duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed / That rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf ” (1.5.38–39). He then rehearses the entire seduction of his wife and his murder by his brother in details so graphic as to forestall any such dullness—though, indeed, Hamlet’s previous recollections were vivid enough. So confident is the Ghost in the mnemonic power of this rehearsal that he is able to leave Hamlet not with the cry of “Hamlet, revenge,” which Shakespeare’s contemporary Thomas Lodge in Wit’s Misery and the World’s Madness (c. 1596) testified to hearing in an older version of the play, but with the haunting “Remember me” (1.5.91). And it is to this commandment that Hamlet responds with echoing accord: Remember thee? Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat In this distracted globe. Remember thee? Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past That youth and observation copies there, And thy commandment all alone shall live

24 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Within the book and volume of my brain Unmix’d with baser matter. (1.5.103–111)

Surely, Hamlet pronounces a prescription for madness in proposing to wipe his mind clean of all but the memory of his dead father. When we recall that it is to remembrance, not revenge, that Hamlet swears before his friends’ return—“’Adieu! Adieu! Remember me.’ /I have sworn’t” (1.5.119)—and that a commemoratio mortuorum is required to liberate a soul from Purgatory13 —we may recognize the survival of the medieval valuing of memory as devotional. Hamlet is more a memory play than a revenge play. It is noteworthy that Hamlet’s reference points for memory are tables (i.e., writing tablets), books, and volumes. Though “to seek the liberation of memory from the confusing body” (“unmix’d with baser matter”) was a virtuous goal pronounced by some Neo-Platonist thinkers about memory (Sutton 2000, 129), Hamlet’s conception sounds more Aristotelian (“pressures” alluding to impressions), humanist, and “Erasmian,” free of the antique odor of astrology and mnemotechnics. Further references to contemporary memory theory may be evident when the Ghost identifies himself as “thy father’s spirit” (1.5.9) and behaves mischievously in the “old mole”14 (1.5.164) sequence, for it is conceivable the reference is to animal spirits, which in Renaissance physiology connected bodily conditions to psychological turbulence. Animal spirits were thought to occupy the tracks or channels left by sense impressions in the brain, making the tunneling mole a logical association with such animal spirits. These spirits were regularly considered keepers of memory, though able to do mischief with it. Since animal spirits were also thought to affect melancholy by befogging the brains of melancholics, such a reference would be relevant to Hamlet’s character.15 The association of animal spirits and melancholy, commonplace in Renaissance treatises on melancholy, is traceable back to Aristotle’s De Anima, wherein melancholics are taken to be “moved most by images and they find themselves recollecting all the time without being in control” (Coleman, 23, quoting Aristotle, De Anima, II, 453a).16 Hamlet’s purported delay in avenging his father may even be partially explained by recourse to an Aristotelian theory on the memory of melancholics: “They get upset because the fluid around their perceptive regions, once moved, is not easily stopped until what is sought returns and thereafter, the movement takes a straight course, and presumably only then a straight course of successions can be followed” (ibid.). When the Ghost returns with the admonition “Do not forget” (3.4.125) he gets Hamlet back on course in almost a literal sense. Sullivan, however, makes an excellent point about the Ghost’s injunction and Hamlet’s character: “What the Ghost calls forgetfulness limns the boundaries of that constellation of resistances, meditations, machinations and impulsive acts that is Hamlet; forgetfulness both has a content and traces the contours of a subjectivity. In sum, forgetfulness is generative of dramatic character; Hamlet’s character is produced out of the forgetfulness that most of the writers we have surveyed would see as erosive of identity” (43, emphasis Sullivan’s). But I think the nature of such forgetfulness is precisely what Shakespeare explores more expansively in Pericles.

Drama and the History of Memory 25 Barbara Freedman (1991), noting that Hamlet commits himself to erasing all the contents of his memory except that of his father, adduces a similarity between Freud’s image of the erasable “mystic writing pad” and the image of the erasable “table” and asks: “Can we think of the unconscious as a trace, or an inscription that erases? Did Shakespeare?” (169–170). What she means to imply is that the unconscious simultaneously registers an absence or erasure of experiences that nevertheless cannot be completely obscured. Her comment, however, inadvertently illuminates an analogous, but directly contrasting passage in Pericles. When he discovers the incest crime hidden in the riddle of Antiochus, Pericles turns away (“Then, lest my life be cropped to keep you clear / By flight I’ll shun the danger which I fear” [1.1.142–143]) as determinedly as Hamlet faces it (“O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right” [1.5.214–215]). In abjuring his courtship of Antiochus’ daughter, Pericles disingenuously abases himself before the king in terms that invite contrast with Hamlet: “Who has a book of all that monarchs do, / He’s more secure to keep it shut than shown” (1.1.94–95). Where Hamlet scrambles for his tablets to write down the Ghost’s command, Pericles “closes the book” on the incestuous behavior he encounters. Where the ghostly reminder of his father’s death spurs Hamlet to action, Pericles in his first extended speech gives voice to a contrasting Eastern or “Greek” view forecasting his passivity: “For death remember’d should be like a mirror, / Who tells us life’s but breath, to trust it error” (1. 1. 46–47).17 While Hamlet strives throughout the play to be Prince of Denmark, Pericles strives not to be Prince of Tyre. He virtually scuttles his way around the Mediterranean, having fled Antioch, Tyre, and Tharsus by early in the second act. Hamlet is drawn to action by remembrance and moves to a goal; Pericles has pledged that he will forget what he has seen in Antioch, and is driven away from action. Unprincely, Pericles is on neither a quest nor an inquest, like Hamlet’s, but an antiquest. Going backward like a crab (as Hamlet might have commented), he embarks on an anti-Odyssey that brings him home at the beginning of the play and sets him adrift ever thereafter. Pointedly, I think, Shakespeare has Pericles declare in his final speech (5.2.102–107) that his daughter and son-in-law will rule in Tyre; he never returns home, preferring to live out his days in Ephesus. “The ultimate source of Pericles is the [Greek] romance of Apollonius of Tyre, one of the best-known stories of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance” (Hoeniger 1969, xiii), a fact virtually embodied at the outset by the play’s narrator or presenter, the medieval poet Gower. Gower, like Hamlet’s Ghost, drives the action of the play, and also like the Ghost is a visitor returned from the dead (“from ashes”). But while Hamlet’s Ghost, as Greenblatt convincingly shows, problematically comes from Purgatory to demand remembrance of his son, Gower unproblematically and unreligiously returns to sing a restorative song. Gower positions himself in the bardic tradition, as what the Greeks would have called a rhapsode. He is a recollector of tales, and his first ten lines emphasize the antiquity of the story he is about to tell, as well as how frequently it has been repeated: To sing a song that old was sung, From ashes ancient Gower is come, Assuming man’s infirmities, To glad your ear, and please your eyes.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard It hath been sung at festivals, On ember-eves and holy-ales; And lords and ladies in their lives Have read it for restoratives: The purchase is to make men glorious, Et bonum quo antiquius eo melius. (1.1.1–10)

As Welsh indicates, this brings the “external sense of the continuing tradition of the old tale into the play itself,” a quality amplified when later both Pericles and Marina tell their own stories: “Twice the telling of the story is used as an element in the plot, in both cases as a recognition device that brings about a restoration and a triumph over the long years of separation and loss” (Welsh 1974, 93–94). Gower’s second commentary links what we have just seen with what we are about to witness via the first dumb show, which represents pantomimically what Pericles is about to do: flee Tharsus because of his lieutenant Helicanus’ warning letter. In a typical maneuver, Gower manipulates our time sense, creating via the dumb show what may meaningfully be called a memory of the future. The action of the play, which has already felt reenacted by virtue of being an old story told by Gower, now feels twice or thrice so: retold, seen, seen again. It feels remembered, though this feeling is to be put into fugue-like counterpoint with Pericles’ self-forgetfulness, a character trait that threatens to unmoor the story. The first dumb show also alerts us to the importance of visual narrative in the play. Dumb shows are closely related to the emblematic tradition of creating pictures to illustrate abstract ideas and moral precepts—even to the extent that contemporary writers sometimes referred to emblems as dumb shows (Mehl 1966 and Engel 2002). Emblems, in turn, are related as mnemonic devices to the tradition of mnemotechnics and the work of Bruno (Yates 1966, 313). So it would have come as no surprise to the Jacobean audience that direct reference to these traditions would soon follow upon the dumb show in the emblematic passing of the Knights across the stage, as Pericles prepares to contest for Thaisa’s favor in act two, scene three. These pictures function for Pericles as reminders of virtues he has apparently forgotten; that is, they function like the Seals of Bruno’s first work published in England. The second act begins with Pericles declaring to the Fishermen who discover him washed ashore “What I have been I have forgot to know” (2.1.71). He is not, of course, professing amnesia, but spiritual fatigue intermixed with a philosophy of selfforgetting, humility, and readiness for death, as the end of his speech reveals—it being completed with a petition that his hearers bury him, if they fail to save him (l. 77). Both we and Shakespeare’s audience would have recognized this condition as lethargy—though the Jacobeans might more readily have noted the etymology of lethargy in the goddess of forgetting, Lethe. The washing ashore of his armor in the Fishermen’s nets, however, quickly—if only temporarily—brings Pericles back to himself, reminding him of his father, from whom he inherited it (123ff.) This scene functions as a recognition via “inanimate things” (Poetics, 1452a, 35), one of several in the play and familiar to hearers and readers of the Greek romances on which the play is based.

Drama and the History of Memory 27 Pericles’ remembering his father in the armor also shows evidence of a bleedthrough memory of Hamlet’s armored father enjoining him to “Remember me.” In Hamlet, the indelible image continues to haunt the Prince both figuratively and literally. Though one might notice that Hamlet has not exactly cleared his mind of “all trivial fond records,” when a few scenes after that avowal he rattles off from memory a thirteen-line speech from an old play, one may also find the image of the Ghost buried in that speech, which evokes a bloody, armored Pyrrhus (2.2.459–471). The suspicion that Pericles is here and throughout haunted by Hamlet, as Hamlet is haunted by the Ghost, grows stronger, as in the next scene Pericles declares that Simonides is “to me like to my father’s picture” (2.3.37), followed by the extolling of his father, just as Hamlet (3.4.63) compels Gertrude to “Look upon this picture,” followed by an equally extravagant eulogy. And it is immediately after Pericles’ aside that Simonides notes “Yon knight doth sit too melancholy, / As if the entertainment in our court / Had not a show might countervail his worth” (2.2.54–56). He might have added “Hamlet-like.” When Pericles encounters Thaisa and her father Simonides in 2.3 and 5, the memory of Antiochus and his daughter influences his behavior. In contrast to his bravado, volubility, and lack of circ*mspection in Antioch, here his responses are virtually pulled from him by Simonides. Pericles suspects that the king is out to entrap and kill him when he is shown a letter in which Thaisa purportedly declares her love for him (2.5.44–45). Shakespeare is demonstrating what medieval and Renaissance audiences would readily recognize as the practically proverbial association of memory with Prudence: it is prudent for Pericles to remember his previous mistake so as to avoid repeating it. Pericles’ abrupt relinquishment of Thaisa’s supposedly dead body in the next act has caused much consternation for scholars and viewers of the play. The context of remembering and forgetting may afford some clarity. Though Thaisa’s nursemaid Lychorida doesn’t use the exact words “Forget her,” her abrupt advice “Be manly, and take comfort” (3.1.22) prepares Pericles for the Sailor’s subsequent demand to cast his wife’s body overboard, to which he instantly acquiesces with the seeming rationalization: “th’unfriendly elements / Forgot thee utterly; nor have I time / To give thee hallow’d to thy grave” (3.1.58–60). Pericles is ready to relinquish her body and her memory into a sea of forgetting, another moment in the long casting off of this play’s action. In the same vein, the revived Thaisa will later dismiss the memory of Pericles in half a sentence and assert she cannot remember whether she delivered a child or not (3.4.5–7). As with brain-damaged patients who reconstruct the memory needed for daily activities around a loss of brain tissue, Pericles and Thaisa set about reconstructing their lives around emotional loss. That is exactly what Hamlet cannot do. He is obsessed by the memory of his father, and all his relationships are permeated or destroyed by it. It is the memory of his father that Hamlet jokes bitterly about with Ophelia: “O heavens! Die two months ago and not forgotten yet? Then there’s hope a great man’s memory may outlive his life half a year” (3.2.129–131). In a similar vein, he turns Gertrude’s “Have you forgot me?” into a bitter gag: “No, by the rood, not so! / You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife” (3.4.16–17). The exchange prepares us for the Ghost’s first

28 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard words when he intrudes upon the bedroom chamber: “Do not forget” (3.4.125). The words may be designed to whet Hamlet’s blunted purpose, but they also incise again the memory of the father upon the son. In Pericles, Marina would appear to be exampled as the inverse of Hamlet: he struggles to be himself in the thrall of a memory he cannot escape, while she takes comfort and identity from a memory she cannot have had: the detailed memory, complete with dialogue, of her birth (4.1.51–64).18 This account, repeated to Leonine, who is about to murder her, not only spares her long enough to be “rescued” by the kidnapping pirates; it also predicts her internalization of the family memories that sustain her during her sequestration in the brothel in Mytiline. In Marina’s case, as with that of Pericles and Thaisa, we are moved to reflect on the kinship of memory and imagination, and the ability to remake ourselves by transforming who we have been. Hamlet might consider this nostalgia or, more likely, bitter irony. Other than that of his father, the only fond autobiographical memory that animates Hamlet is the memory of Yorick, triggered by the exhumation of his skull. Before the scene is over, however, Hamlet remarks “now how abhorred in my imagination it is!” (5.1.180). That is, the present reality of the decayed Yorick wipes away or changes the pleasant memory. When Pericles hears of Marina’s supposed death, he becomes even more lethargic— that is, forgetful of the world—than he was when washed ashore in Pentapolis: “He swears / Never to wash his face, nor cut his hairs. / He puts on sackcloth, and to sea” (4.4.27–29), in Gower’s report.19 Hamlet embarks for England at a similar point in the action. That Pericles has utterly no destination in mind is as strong a sign as any that the sea on which he embarks is forgetfulness. Indeed, the most jarring paradox of the play is that Pericles’ determination to forget is capped by a sequence of recognitions. The first of these, the recognition of Marina, is relatively private in being held aboard his free-floating ship. His admission, “I am Pericles of Tyre” (5.1.204), in this recognition scene is deliberately, I think, both a strong and faint echo of “This is I, / Hamlet the Dane” (5.1.255–256), hurled as a challenge before Hamlet leaps into Ophelia’s grave with Laertes—strong in that Pericles’ self-identification recalls Hamlet’s at an analogous point in the text, and weak in that Pericles’ is deliberately less assertive (he has been weeping, 5.1.173) than Hamlet’s. The respective settings for these utterances—graveyard and free-floating ship—here as everywhere in the texts register the imagery of the former as earthy and grounded, the latter as of the sea and weightless. Where Hamlet puts us in mind of the cognates, “grave” and “gravity,” Pericles is gravity defying, buoyant. Hamlet is one long exhumation, Pericles is one long immersion. “The undiscovered country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns” (3.1.87–88) of Hamlet is defied by Pericles in which “imagination / [takes us] From bourn to bourn, region to region” (4.4.3–4), as Gower the narrator reinforces. Hamlet is an archeological dig, an excavation of the past; Pericles rides the surface, combing horizons. That Marina’s sustaining memory of her birth is not a true memory, but an imaginative family story, sourced in the report of her nurse Lychorida, lends it a kind of lightness, in contrast to the armor-laden memory that weighs upon Hamlet or the memory of the incest in Antioch that burdens Pericles at the beginning of the play. Indeed, it may be that Pericles’ odd locution to Marina in the recognition scene—“O, come hither, / Thou that did beget’st him that did thee beget” (5.1.194–195)—is

Drama and the History of Memory 29 meant to unravel, undo, and dispel the evil incest riddle of the first scene. Pericles’ allusion to begetting reminds us we use the same idiom, “conception,” for the generation of a thought and a person. Marina’s “most clear remembrance” (5.3.12) not only sustained her through the terrors of the brothel, but brought her father back to a conception of himself: “I am Pericles of Tyre.” But if Mnemosyne finally asserts herself as restorative of the self, it is only with the assistance of Lesmosyne, not in opposition to her. Forgetting is a necessary component of healthy remembering. Here, again, the contrast to Hamlet seems deliberate: Hamlet obsessively remembers and is relentlessly severed from friends and family; Pericles forgets himself, his wife, and his daughter and is miraculously restored to all. As distinct from the kinds of self-forgetting Sullivan discerns in the Christopher Sly plot of The Taming of the Shrew (social), in All’s Well That Ends Well (erotic), or Antony and Cleoptra (heroic), the forgetting in Pericles is liberating and paradoxically revelatory. It is as if Shakespeare had in mind (drawing on the “less Greek” Jonson imputed to him) that the Greek word for “truth,” aletheia, is formed by prefixing the alpha-privative to the root leth, meaning latent or concealed; for here the truth, the unconcealed, is arrived at not through the intercession of memory but through revelation. It is notable that Pericles does not recognize Marina; how could he, when he never saw her alive as other than a newborn? Thus, the scene is deliberately in contrast to Lear’s recognition of Cordelia, a scene that Pericles clearly evokes. Pericles’ discovery of Marina is couched in the language of wonderment. She is a “palace” where truth dwells (5.1.110) or a “rarest dream” (l. 149) and is accompanied by the music of the spheres (l. 215). Pericles must labor to “make my senses credit the relation / To points that seem impossible” (ll. 112–113). As Sutton asserts, in the seventeenth century “wonder theory is more closely tied to memory than other passions are” (1998a, 119). Writing of Descartes, Sutton discusses the need for philosophy “to explain how a surprise results in the tracing of impressions in the brain pores which are, unusually, not already formed by the tracks made by animal spirits over long experience and prejudice. . . . In wonder, the external world is the controller, and the brain submits to the world” (119–120), thereby possibly exempting the brain from body-induced errors that characteristically afflict memory. Seventeenth-century wonder theory, then, may help us to see how memory functions in Hamlet like the grave, marking the limits of the self even as it sets its contours, and how wonderful forgetting, like the sea-borne coffin that brings Thaisa to shore in Pericles, may be the occasion of open engagement with the world. Paradoxically, Pericles’ “forgetting” of Marina “begets” his rebirth. As expansive as it is, Pericles and Marina’s private recognition scene is nonetheless followed by a public act of remembrance, as Pericles is enjoined in a dream by Diana to go “before the people all” in Ephesus (where Thaisa is her devotee) for a commemoration: “To mourn thy crosses, with thy daughter’s, call / And give them repetition to the life” (5.1.241, 243–244). There he recounts his life story, culminating in his memory of Marina coming to him aboard his ship “Where, by her own most clear remembrance, she made known herself my daughter” (5.3.12–13). (His phrasing pointedly makes no claim that he recognized her.) The recollection prompts Thaisa to faint, and the ensuing recognition is not complete until Pericles asks to see the jewels he placed in her coffin, and she recognizes a ring Pericles wears—devices hearkening back to the Greek source of the story.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

That the author(s?) of Pericles followed this with a final recap from Gower, that remarker of the obvious, may grate on the modern ear. But I think Shakespeare’s audience would have recognized that Gower’s capsule comments connecting each episode to exemplars of “monstrous lust” or “Virtue preserv’d” or “learned charity” are a technique for remembering the play’s lessons—like emblem books, or like the Seals of Bruno—sharp, detailed, and complex images enriched with affect to fix knowledge worth remembering. The “restoratives” Gower promised in his first speech have more than been fulfilled. The multiple recollections and recapitulations that bring Pericles to a close may be instructively compared with the end of Hamlet. Unlike his Tyrean counterpart, the Danish prince is not afforded the luxury of a summative accounting of his life and actions. “O, I could tell you—” (5.2.358), he begins, then leaves off, overtaken by mortality. In anxiety that “a wounded name . . . shall live behind me” (ll. 367–368) he implores Horatio to “report me and my cause aright” (l. 360) and “tell my story” (l. 372). He is spared from hearing Fortinbras’ “I have some rights of memory in this kingdom” (5.2.460), spoken after Hamlet’s death. But we are not spared the irony. The healing powers of narrative memory lie beyond Hamlet’s reach—though not, if Shakespeare the father is remembering the death of his son Hamnet, beyond the playwright’s grasp.20 Hamlet does not literally bring back Hamnet, any more than Pericles literally restores Shakespeare to Hamnet’s surviving twin, Judith. But the playwright’s remembering is constitutive or reconstitutive of family, even as Pericles’ “repetition to the life” at Diana’s insistence completes his family’s restoration, or as the anamnesiac ritual of the Eucharist (perhaps alluded to in Hamlet’s macabre jest that Polonius is at supper, “where he is eaten”—4.3.20) is constitutive of the ecclesiastic community in Roman Catholic belief. It might be said that both plays are haunted by Christ’s Last Supper command, the words that inaugurated the Eucharistic ritual—“Do this in memory of me”—a phrase that might aptly characterize Hamlet’s Ghost’s order and Shakespeare’s internalized imperative to remember the family from which he is separated. The vast critical literature on these two plays, though ignoring their correspondence, reminds us that their meanings are promiscuous: they attract multiple interpretations. They are “about” many things in the spheres of domestic relations, Renaissance politics, eschatology, theatricality (as in showing versus telling), gender, individuation, will, sexuality, faith, destiny. My interest is not so much in asserting that they are also “about” memory as to demonstrate that the form and pressure and direction of their characters’ lives are inflected with the rhythms of memory and forgetting, and that these rhythms render the pair of plays, together, remarkably intertextual. The two plays together almost seem like the sort of dialectic exercise on topoi Aristotle urged upon students of memory. As memory-suffused works, Hamlet and Pericles are a Mnemosyne/Lesmosyne pair—one driven by the injunction to remember and the other by the injunction to forget, so long as we recognize and accept the paradox that the members of this binary infuse and are indispensable to each other. Hamlet remembers “by the book,” Pericles by the talismans, emblems, and seals of mnemotechnics; the one is “logicolinguistic” and the other “pictorial-imagistic,” both forms reflected in Renaissance models of memory (Sutton 2000, 121). Hamlet represents the Erasmian world of

Drama and the History of Memory 31 the university, ratiocination, mentation, the brain, the printed book, and it stands in opposition to Pericles’ occult world of orality, spells, magic, resurrection, and rhapsody—even as humanism stood against Bruno and the Neo-Platonists (Yates 1966, 158 and 1964, 168). One might even say that Hamlet constructs a masculine, Christian, guilt culture around remembering, as Pericles constructs a feminine, “Greek,” shame culture around forgetting. In some way, too, they play out on a grand scale the issues of Bruno’s contentious visit to Oxford, which had been through Erasmian reform. (In sending Hamlet to Wittenberg, did Shakespeare know it was there that Bruno lectured after he left Oxford and England?) If Shakespeare were following Robert Greene in dramatizing issues raised in Brunian philosophy, it would be consistent with Shakespeare’s frequent poaching of the work of his fellow playwright. But unlike Greene, who presented an exotic, foreign “juggler” of spells ousted by a contemplative native who abjures his rough magic, Shakespeare holds both idea clusters in glorious equipoise. *



MEMORY FORGOTTEN The attraction of memory systems survives until the end of the seventeenth century, but only barely, with Leibniz, who builds on Aristotle’s associationism with some aspects of Bruno’s occultism. Indeed, the German philosopher is last to be considered in Yates’s Art of Memory because he marks the end of “the influence of the art of memory as a factor in basic European developments” (389). Philosophers occupied with what Graham Richards (21–23) calls “reflexive discourse” and thinkers whom Morton Hunt (1993, 60–93) calls “protopsychologists,” take up issues related to the philosophy of mind, but for a variety of reasons memory does not figure prominently in their considerations. As Richards observes (19), intellectual traditions allocating the study of the mind to theology and rational philosophy, rather than to science (pace Francis Bacon) account for the lack of a scientific psychology. Consequently, memory tends to be treated not sui generis but as a component of different sorts of rational systems. As such, it fares badly. Although Descartes makes passing reference to memory systems, it is in the context of the unreliability of memory as a foundation for methodological doubt: “I convince myself that nothing has ever existed of all that my deceitful memory recalls to me” (Meditations, cited by Casey, 16). John Sutton argues that it was the embedding of memory in doubt that caused a reaction to the dynamic memory model proposed by Descartes, who imagined memory traces as being formed by the motions of animal spirits bridging mind and body. For the next century or so, issues of doubt, reliability, and clarity drove the memory discourse. In commenting on Descartes, Malebranche worried that the likelihood of the blending of traces might undermine clarity of thought, while Joseph Glanville insisted that our memories were more orderly (Sutton 1998b, 44–63 and 110–141). Spinoza, like almost every other philosopher who thought about memory until the mid-nineteenth century, virtually equated memory with the association of ideas

32 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard and left it at that. Hobbes follows Aristotle in his associationism and in considering memory a species of “decaying sense.” Locke, Berkeley and Hume all linked sensation to ideas via laws of association, but only Locke had much new to say about memory. According to Sue Campbell, “connections among self, memory, and person enter our tradition in their most influential formulation in John Locke’s discussion of personal identity in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)” (36). Though Locke clings to an idea of memory as recording and repeating a mental action of the past, he also posits that memory is the foundation for moral responsibility in that it enables us to account for our actions over time. With the rise of an interest in mental faculties, such as reason and will, one might have expected a more intense scrutiny of memory, but Kant looms largest in this development, to memory’s detriment. Kant’s faculties are identified as knowing, feeling, and willing, and Casey points out that memory does not even appear under “its own name” (17, emphasis Casey’s) in The Critique of Pure Reason. Perhaps, for the great transcendentalist, the study of memory was tainted with empiricism. In any case, memory is step by step displaced from the center of character-formation. It is out of Scottish “common sense” realism—Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart, Adam Ferguson, Henry Home, Adam Smith—that modern memory studies proceed.21 In the enduring tension between mind/body dualists, such as Plato and Descartes, and the monists or naturalists following the path of Aristotle, the Scottish school mediates by applying empirical investigation to human powers or faculties such as memory. David Hartley also followed this trail in the mid-eighteenth century, tying his protopsychology to clusters and sequences of sense impressions, which he took to be the atoms out of which all mental life is constructed. The French school of Condillac, followed by Cabanis and Bichat, developed these ideas further into a physiological psychology based in neural functioning (Murphy and Kovach, 35–40). The nineteenth century brings new ideas and, for the first time, a rigorous experimental protocol, the effect of which is to draw memory studies into the developing science of psychology. As Richards (18) indicates, it was Coleridge who imported the term psychology from Germany; it had not been commonly used in English prior to the early 1800s. A little later J. F. Herbart’s Textbook in Psychology (1816) took the associationist thesis a step further into questioning how ideas come and go, thereby leading to a theory of the unconscious (as the place where ideas “went”). Contemporary with Herbart was another Scot, Thomas Brown, who thought systematically about the factors influencing what we would today call memory encoding. Brown articulated these factors in terms psychologists still use, such as duration and liveliness of sensations, frequency and recency and even “diversities of state” (e.g., intoxication or illness) and “habits of life” (e.g., intellectual bent, athleticism). Rudimentary notions of memory frame also surface. Brown observes we do not just remember what but also, where, how, when (Murphy and Kovach, 49–58.) While both strict associationism and the “faculty psychology” derived from Kant continued to have nineteenth-century adherents, the future lay with measurement, experimentation, and physiology. Though one path of research led to phrenology and, ultimately, to its shameful association with racism (see 550–556,

Drama and the History of Memory 33 90, 155, 422), a more fruitful approach was that of F. E. Benecke (A Textbook of Psychology as a Natural Science [1832]), to whom we owe the concept of memory “traces,” which he posited without stating them in physiological terms (92). Sir William Hamilton in the latter half of the nineteenth century wrote against the associationists, who stressed serial order as a feature of memory, by shifting attention to the retention of pattern rather than series (96–97). His term “redintegration” [sic], which suggests that an impression can bring back a whole situation of which it was a part, it seems to me, bears a relation both to Aristotle’s ancient idea of analogy and Gerald Edelman’s (1989, 65–89) very contemporary idea of reentry. Murphy and Kovach (117ff.) cite as key developments in physiological psychology Carl Wernicke’s and Paul Broca’s research establishing cognitive functions as localized to regions of the brain, as well as the beginnings of neuron theory in the century’s last decade. Some of Herbart’s ideas on the factors determining the processes of memory— how ideas pass into and out of consciousness—are subsequently confirmed experimentally by Hermann Ebbinghaus in the 1880s. With his Über das Gedächtnis (1885), memory study becomes firmly attached to learning theory, as his experiments impact issues of attention and assimilation of new ideas. His experiments focused on forgetting—when things disappeared from memory—and he described the learning curve that has become known as “memory span” (Murphy and Kovach devote an entire chapter [12] to Ebbinghaus.) On the one hand, the connection between memory and learning initiates the grand tradition of experimentation that continues to the present. On the other hand, it was another reason for psychologists to relegate memory to a specialized area of human development. Darwin’s ideas on heredity and environment impacted all areas of late nineteenthcentury thought, and memory studies were no exception. Though, arguably, the full implications of evolutionary theory upon brain development, and hence cognition and memory, were not realized scientifically until Edelman’s “neural Darwinism,” the immediate result was to turn thinkers about memory toward the issue of function: what did memory do that other brain functions did not? John Dewey subsequently attempted to answer the question in one way, by considering a psychological act as a response to an environmental situation (1896), and Pavlov in another by using animal experiments to throw light on human function—conditioned reflexes being construed as a species of associative memory (Murphy and Kovach, 240ff.). Evolution is an idea about the relationship of individual to outer world, and also about heterogeneity and differentiation; consequently, perception, and therefore memory, started to be thought of as a response or reaction to the outside world, rather than as a state or a faculty. As well, evolution effected a change in the idea of Time in creation, which was now reconceived not as deterioration from a perfect world but as a process of progressive improvement (127). This, in turn, opens the door for memory to be thought of not as “decaying sense,” but as positively formative in the development of the organism. We are on the verge of the modern condition, in which the entire context of life had to be taken into consideration when understanding individual psychology and therefore memory. *




Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

EXIT MEMORY While the impact of new conceptions of memory on dramatic character construction begins to be felt before the end of the nineteenth century, this is appropriately the matter for a subsequent chapter. In the theatre of the two-hundred year period commencing with the Restoration, playwrights generally abandon memory and forgetting as modes of character development. This very abandonment, however unnoticed, can tell us much about character construction from the Restoration through Romanticism. The absence of a memorative dimension might seem unexpected in view of the fact that the theatrical institution itself becomes increasingly memorialized, as evident in two factors associated with the nature of the theatrical repertory. First, an inherited repertory—not only constantly performed in revival but remembered in contemporary texts (as All for Love is “written in imitation of Shakespeare’s style”)—makes the past seem to perdure in the theatrical present. Second, a rotating repertory encourages actors to remind audiences via their physical performances of correspondences among characters and situations. Instead of playwrights constructing character with memory, actors construct character with a repertoire of familiar gestures that inscribe lines of business. On the other hand, playwrights’ neglect of the memory scene is congruent with the disinclination of other memographers to engage the deeper implications of memory as formative of the self. The neoclassical characters created by Corneille, Racine, or Lessing may have greater interiority than their English counterparts, but even their introspection is not retrospection. Leaving aside cause and effect, I suggest that features of the heroic drama and comedy of manners, and their sentimental successors—the genres that are to dominate European drama from the end of the Caroline period until the rise of melodrama—are likely to have discouraged playwrights from considering memory as structurally useful or as appropriate subject matter. As Laura Brown has observed, character development in English heroic drama is minimal and “depth or interiority are rare” (1981, 4). Heroic drama formulaically applies aristocratic social dicta, especially the love/honor code, to situations of national interest. Its practitioners and consumers are more interested in the “judgmental hierarchy” (9) that emerges, than in the effect of action on characters. Also, “Fate” typically affords an “external means of motivating [the hero’s] action” (17), thus relieving the playwright of the need for introspection and its first cousin retrospection. Moreover, as Joseph Donohue convincingly demonstrated, the persistent influence of Fletcherian “core-less” dramatic character and the “disjunction . . . of character and event” prevailing in serious drama well into the Romantic period likewise displace memory from character formation (1970, 24, 42). In what follows I will consider plays where one might expect memory to be themed and the memory scene peopled by virtue of the presence of characters ripe for remembering, but where the memory scene is instead largely empty. Nathaniel Lee’s The Rival Queens (1677), John Dryden’s All for Love (1677), and George Lillo’s Fatal Curiosity (1736) were remarkably popular in their own time and well into the nineteenth century and so typify dramatic qualities valued by audiences and readers. Rip Van Winkle and The Bells are nineteenth-century star vehicles that come to life only on the stage and feature characters caught at a crucial instance of remembering.

Drama and the History of Memory 35 Yet, in all of them, memory is experienced almost as a palpable absence, in the sense that their situations readily offer opportunity for recollection, reminding, and recognition—the very characteristics egregiously missing from the texts. Although only ten performances of Rival Queens in the seventeenth century are documented, eight quartos had been published by 1704, and Colley Cibber testifies to its extraordinary popularity.22 Another two dozen separate editions, almost two hundred eighteenth-century performances, numerous burlesques and frequent anthologizing certify its popularity through the Romantic Age. Charles Hart, who originated Alexander in Rival Queens later played Antony in All for Love, and Elizabeth Boutell (Statira) later played Cleopatra, thereby stimulating memories of Lee’s play in the audiences watching Dryden’s. The sustained popularity of Rival Queens was ensured when Thomas Betterton (Alexander), Anne Bracegirdle (Statira), and Elizabeth Barry (Roxana) took over the leads. The play is rich in intrigue, though its structural awkwardness is betrayed by its full title: The Rival Queens, or the Death of Alexander the Great. To the declining arc of Alexander’s career and the fiery contest for his affections waged by his wife Statira and former wife Roxana, Lee adds a conspiracy to assassinate Alexander and a subplot of rival lovers that seems pulled from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There are dumb show-like visions, violent action, and the appearance of Statira’s father as a ghost. The “memorable day” (1.1.39) on which the play begins is an anniversary of a great victory of Alexander’s, but other than his brief reminiscence of old glories (“remember, then thou dids’t give me service,” he acknowledges to his old aide Clytus [2.1.149]), the first two acts are given over to the conspiracy, the establishment of Alexander’s alienation from Statira, and the love subplot. In passing, the mother of Statira, Sysigambis, says she will evoke the “remembrance / Of dread Darius (2.1.369–370), her husband, to convince Statira to return to Alexander. The third act is devoted almost entirely to the confrontation of the rival queens, into which Alexander intrudes to reject Roxana and reclaim Statira, while fourth act develops further grounds for the assassination. The fifth act brings on the ghost of Darius (as in Aeschylus’ The Persians) not to evoke the past but to prophesy that “My daughter must bleed” (5.1.14), followed immediately by the fulfillment of the prophecy and Alexander’s death by Roxana’s poisoning. Resisting a reading that would make the contradictions of Lee’s text intentionally or deliciously ambiguous, Brown argues it “presents two parallel and absolutely irreconcilable accounts of Alexander’s story. Alexander is either the pathetic victim of an inevitable and disastrous choice of love over honor, whose fate we anticipate and understand in terms of the pity evoked by his distressing situation—or else he is the rash, hasty, violent tyrant who sends the innocent and loyal to their deaths and thus brings about his own destruction” (75). I accept this reading, and merely add that memories of Alexander’s former state might have readily mediated between the apparently contradictory presentations of his character. But Alexander, like the other principal characters, none of whom has soliloquies, is not given to summative reflection or self-reexamination. Giving further evidence of what is substantively missing in the text, only twice in the play do we glimpse the potential dramatic force memory might have exerted: Roxana flashes a titillating memory of her first love-making with Alexander (“And molding with his hand my throbbing breast, / He swore the globes

36 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard of heaven and earth were vile / To those rich worlds”—3.1.110–112) and later fixes him with a basilisk stare, declaring as she grasps his hand, that she wills “the memory of Roxana’s wrongs / May be forever printed in your mind” (4.1.101–102)—a remarkable example of vivid encoding. These glimpses are like “flashbulb” memories, illuminating the psychological scene sharply, but briefly. Like Rival Queens, Dryden’s All for Love catches its main characters on the last day of their lives, and also like its predecessor barely dramatizes the way memory negotiates the path between past and present.23 This is all the more odd in that the playwright, as Brown has pointed out, regularly indulges in “evocations of loss and nostalgia at the passing of an age” (81). “‘Tis past recovery” (1.50); “But now ‘tis past” (2.28); “Now ‘tis past forever” (2.217); “‘Tis past” (3.373); “Egypt has been. . . . Time has unrolled her glories to the last” (5.71–4); “What ages have we lived!” (5.393). Without exception, the context for these exhalations might be summed up in the contemporary cliché “That was then; this is now.” That is, an unaddressed and apparently unbridgeable gulf divides the characters’ past and present. For our purposes, it is unnecessary to recount the details of Dryden’s plot beyond noticing that its emotional dynamics spring from the intermittent rekindling of the passion between Antony and Cleopatra, and on the rivalry of her and Antony’s wife Octavia. A “rival queens” redux scene dominates the third act. The emphasis in these relationships, here as in Rival Queens, is the give and take of argument and on the potency of personal choice in the moment. Like the Racinian tragedies with which it is directly contemporary—plays that Suzanne Langer (1953) called heroic comedies because they lack the consolidation of past and present frequently (but imprecisely) conceived of as “inevitability”—All for Love offers its audience characters serially dominated by passion, dignity, pride, duty, but unanchored in the perduring self that memory preserves through time. The sighing evocations of the past, then, function superficially as “reminder[s]” (Brown, 82) or memoranda of what the characters have been, causing a disjunction between the characters we hear about and the characters we see, though their deaths reclaim for them a sort of grandeur we have never seen substantiated. Brown tellingly represents Dryden as settling for “a residual heroic dimension, superimposed upon the ‘real’ pathetic definition of the protagonists’ character and plight” (85). As if seized by a spurious “recovered” memory, the Restoration’s Antony and Cleopatra are shadowed by a past to which we can give no credibility. By contrast, the source play, as Sullivan and many others have contended, displays retrospective characterization and equates self-forgetting with loss of identity, a strategy that indirectly “underwrites [the] operations of memory” (Sullivan, 108). In the “movement toward subjectivity” (Donohue, 4) leading from heroic drama through affective tragedy, “she-tragedy,” bourgeois drama, and gothicism to psychological melodrama—the line leading to Henry Irving and The Bells—memory continues to play the role of unnoticed supernumerary. The circ*mstances may be well illustrated by contrasting two dramatic versions of the same purportedly true story. Looking at Lillo’s 1736 Fatal Curiosity retrospectively from the vantage point of Camus’ The Misunderstanding (1944) reinforces the impression that Lillo has conspicuously left memory out of the situation a later playwright would deem suffused by it.

Drama and the History of Memory 37 Though a failure upon its initial production, Lillo’s play enjoyed success in the closet with at least ten separate editions published through the early nineteenth century.24 Set in Jacobean Cornwall, Fatal Curiosity introduces us to Old Wilmot and his wife Agnes, formerly well-off but now embittered and impoverished, and to Charlot, the beloved of Young Wilmot, who left fifteen years earlier to seek his fortune in India. Though Charlot pines for Young Wilmot, she entertains no memories of him, but instead holds in her mind a frightening image of him in the present—drowned, buried, or wandering (1.2.57–62). She has predictive nightmares, not memories (ll. 172ff.), and although one might expect her dream, its details recited for Agnes, to provoke reminiscence on both their parts, it does not. When we meet Young Wilmot in the next scene, he, too, has anxieties and premonitions about Charlot’s faithfulness and his parentshealth, but no memories (1.3.69ff.). Wilmot is so changed by age and the darkening of his skin from the sun, with his clothing reflecting his worldly success, that Charlot fails to recognize him. Though he does question if “thy frailer memory / Retain no image, no idea of thy lover” (2.1.87–88), his comment rhetorically invites no reply (and receives none) and merely serves the plot: he hearkens back to this forgetting before indulging his curiosity about whether his parents would not similarly fail to recognize him (2.2.46–54). Though Young Wilmot finally identifies himself to Charlot, he resolves to go in disguise to his parents to enhance their surprise. Tantalizing them by giving them his rich casket to guard, he goes off to sleep. Urged on by Agnes, who tells Old Wilmot that it is better for the two of them to live than the young man alone, the father kills the son. It is notable that the murder scene, which so closely imitates the killing of Duncan, has no equivalent to Lady Macbeth’s line (2.2.12–13) that she would have killed Duncan had he not reminded her of her father as he slept. Fatal Curiosity reads like a tragic sampler, images of Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, Sophoclean choral odes and Senecan sententiae hovering in the air before us, like Macbeth’s dagger. Indeed, eighteenth-century readers savored it for the amount of pity and terror it generated. In the calculus of affective tragedy, which mediates between heroic drama of the early Restoration and eighteenth-century bourgeois drama, “the more we feel the pathos of the tragedy, the less important matters of characterization and motivation become,” Brown asserts (92). What Brown observes (162) of London Merchant is also true of Fatal Curiosity, which manages to ignore its own characterological inconsistencies, maintaining simultaneously the inherent sinfulness and natural virtue of human nature. Our pity for the misfortune of Wilmot’s family as undeserved is evidently assumed by the playwright as compatible with his careful allocation of moral flaws to all of the Wilmots, thereby rendering their fate deserved. This contradiction has been previously noted by Donohue, who attributes it to Lillo’s adoption of the “Fletcherian structure” preserving a “radical disjunction of character and action” (56–57). Donohue also helps us understand why memory is so absent from this dramaturgical mix. First, since the aesthetic allows and even encourages a disconnection of a character’s inner state from the outside world, memory’s power to connect the individual to the already actualized is unnecessary. Second, the aesthetic concentrates sensation and affect in “the moment” and “in this aesthetic the moment of response is presented as disjunct from the past” (184). Though “the past, in the guise of ‘fate,’


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

impinges on the present” (184), memory is not required to negotiate between the two, which simply coexist. Despite its evocation of Macbeth, Fatal Curiosity focuses “on Wilmot’s, horrible end and not the developing criminal psychologies” of his parents (Brown, 163). The latter turns out to be exactly what engages Camus. Written and produced during World War II and set at an isolated hostel in an unnamed Central European country, The Misunderstanding is as much a product of its intellectual era as is Fatal Curiosity, and the cultural differences between them are vast. Considering Camus’ play in the immediate context of Lillo’s, however, sharply highlights the difference between an empty and a full memory scene. Camus replaces the victim’s (Jan) father with his sister (Martha) as the accomplice of his mother, but otherwise retains the situation, three-act structure and character array of Lillo.25 The Misunderstanding is as didactically amoral as Lillo’s play is didactically moralizing. In Camus, however, appeals to remembering and forgetting are so thick as to constitute a memory frame, situating and supporting the existential themes. The exposition revealing that mother and daughter are serial killers is couched in memorative terms: “memory helps to build up habits” (80); their home/inn is “stocked with memories” (81); and the mother wishes “I could have sleep and forgetfulness together” (81–82). When in the next scene the son Jan enters with his wife Maria, the talk between them is instantly of the remarkable fact that his mother didn’t recognize him and of his memory of the room being inaccurate—Jan connecting these observations to the existential theme: “it takes time to change a stranger into a son” (82–83). That is, the homecoming is meant by Jan to reverse estrangement, and he consequently sends Maria away so that he may on his own refamiliarize himself. Like Young Wilmot, Jan decides to masquerade in order to observe his family “from the outside” (83). The set-up is remarkably alike in the two plays, wherein the return of each young man is motivated by a moral duty toward kin. But Camus introduces the memory theme almost immediately. Jan’s mother responds to Jan’s disingenuous question of how long she has lived in the hotel: “So many years that I have quite forgotten when it began and the woman I was then” (95). She adds that had not her daughter kept beside her over the years, “I might have forgotten her, too.” Of her husband: “I believe I had forgotten him even before he died” (95). “Forgetting” is here standing in quite obviously for estrangement, rather than loss of identity, and it is opposed to the familiarity Jan wishes to reestablish. Where Lillo in the urgency of his moralizing attempted to establish a family resemblance by giving father, mother, and son the flaw of “fatal curiosity,” Camus directs our attention to the basis of family relations, which he posits as meaningful only in action. That the estranged Jan has been what we would commonly call “no son” to his mother is taken literally: his absence disqualifies him from filial affection, paving the way for his murder. Indeed, in the chilling dialogue that follows, Camus associates a forgotten son with the serial crimes the women have committed, and we suspect that the crimes are a repetition compulsion stemming from the original loss. The technique here is creaky enough, with soliloquies and vaguely foreboding indirection. That memory and forgetting are the frame for Camus’ theme of estrangement is reinforced by Martha’s declaration that her deepest motivation for crime is oblivion: “Not for money, but for a home beside the sea, and forgetfulness. . . . I can still feel in my heart

Drama and the History of Memory 39 some of the absurd desires I had when I was twenty, and I want to act in such a way as to have done with them forever” (99). When the mother says to her daughter that it might have been better for her to be forgotten, Martha consoles her with “I, anyhow, could never, never forget you,” though we infer that, like Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, the strongest bond between them is their crime. The first act ends with the mother’s indecision and Martha’s determination to murder. In the second act, a breach in the distance Martha must keep with her victim—and all humanity—paradoxically reinforces her intent: the resurgence of feeling (voiced as a “longing for the sea and sunshine” [106]) only makes her losses sharper. In one of several awkward soliloquies, Jan ends up deciding to leave, but only after he has taken the drugged tea his mother and sister offer. He says to his mother he “shall not forget this house” and that he “won’t leave this house feeling like a stranger”—with pathetic irony that would not sound out of place in Lillo (112). The Mother reflects, as Jan lies drugged before her, that “he will lie in an unremembered grave for ever” (115). Martha rehearses the details of their labor to come, as they plan to drown Jan in the river: “we shall have to efface the marks on the river bank, blur our footsteps on the path, destroy his clothes and baggage—make him vanish from the face of the earth, in fact” (116). On this accumulating erasure, absence, oblivion, and nothingness, the act ends. In the third act, the deed has been done. When mother and daughter discover from Jan’s passport his identity, the mother is moved to deny her previous amorality and recognize love of her son as an enduring value. Martha derides her by reminding her she had forgotten that love for twenty years and demanding of her mother that she love her daughter by sticking by her. The existential issue is coalescing as one of Heideggerian “being and time.” Martha’s view is that “We can forget my brother and your son,” that the two women can start a new life together, and that had Martha recognized her brother, “it would have made no difference” (123). Family relations are a question of doing; being is not preserved in time or in memory, we infer from Martha’s argument, but must be forged in the moment. Resisting this hard moral, the Mother exits to drown herself in the river where they have discarded her son’s body. Camus shares a lot of turgidity and not a little philosophy with Lillo: the eighteenth-century aesthetic constructing character from present moments disjunctive from the past and the existential idea of creating the authentic self in time and in the face of nothingness bear some resemblance to each other. Exploring fully why this is so would take us far afield. The crucial difference, however, is that RomanticAge playwrights base character on motive and inner state (Donohue, 184–185), thereby preserving a disconnection from external conditions and allowing audiences to indulge the cognitive dissonance of maintaining contradictory ideas about human nature. But for Camus, character is forged in action, and the unexamined (by Lillo) issue of how the self perdures in time becomes the problem. Thus, memory and forgetting logically become the psychological counterparts of Camus’ existential understanding of being and time, though in his stern view the latter in each case inexorably eats away at the former. Memory is no true home or refuge for the self, but a perilous and temporary hostel where things are not what they seem. Memory does not just fade, it decays, it sinks to the bottom of the river, taking with it the illusion of a self based in antiquated notions of kinship, hospitality, or universal values. Thus, while

40 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard memory barely figures in Fatal Curiosity, in The Misunderstanding Camus deliberately undercuts memory as the foundation of self-formation of his characters, even as he offers it to them, plunging them into the complete oblivion that here stands in for nothingness, while also withholding even the cold comfort of self-forgetting. An empty memory scene, such as we have in Fatal Curiosity, is to be distinguished from a scene in which forgetting is a palpable and powerful force in character construction, as in Goethe’s Faust. Like its Marlovian source play, Faust takes its title character on a journey of spiritual self-forgetting. Harald Weinrich, in calling Faust “to the end, a drama of memory and forgetting” (2004, 124), perhaps overstates the case; forgetting will seem to most observers secondary to the drama of faith and forbidden knowledge, of damnation and salvation. The play surely foregrounds Faust’s intellectual restlessness, his emergence from his study as a fully fleshed human, his striving (Streben and its cognates frequently appearing in the German text), his blasphemous flirtation with God-like power, and his mind-body division, Yet, like no play since the English Renaissance, Faust resumes the neglected discourse of the remembered and the forgotten. The play is born from an extraordinary act of retention: Goethe published Faust: A Fragment in 1790, Part 1 in 1808, and completed Part 2 for posthumous publication just before he died in 1832. The Dedication alludes implicitly to the fact that Goethe first undertook to write Faust at the age of twenty and completed it at eightytwo, a situation he commented on in a letter the year before he died.26 “Wavering shapes” return out of the “mist around me,” he writes in the Dedication (l. 1), alluding to the spirits of former friends, admirers of his poetry, who are no longer alive. The Dedication ends in a rueful couplet addressing the poignant situation of an old man remembering: “What I possess seems far away to me, / And what is gone becomes reality” (ll. 31–32). Like his main character, Goethe experiences memory and loss simultaneously. Weinrich begins his case for Faust as a drama of remembering and forgetting by noting that Faust is early on saved from suicide by the sound of church bells ringing on Easter morn—not because he has retained faith, but because the bells remind him of happier childhood days: “Now memory entices me with childlike feeling / Back from the last, most solemn deed” (ll. 781–782). He sees as Mephistopheles’ goal the winning of Faust’s soul by causing the scholar to forget himself (118–119), noting that Mephistopheles seals the bargain with Faust with the warning “we shall not forget it” (l. 1707). Thus, Mephistopheles takes Faust to Auerbach’s Tavern, hoping he will forget himself in wine.27 In another tactic, he makes Faust thirty years younger, causing him to forget those years and also his former circ*mstances. In the Gretchen (Margaret) plot, Faust forgets everything else in pursuit of his love of Gretchen, and then forgets his love of her (Weinrich, 121). At the beginning of Part 2, Weinrich asserts, the Chorus appears to sing of forgetting: “What occurred is dead and ended, / Pain and joy have passed away; / You are healed—oh, apprehend it. / Trust the newborn light of day!” (4650–4653). Weinrich infers from this that the river flowing through the charming landscape is Lethe and assumes that “Mephistopheles no longer needs to act as the personal agent of forgetting” (122).28 In essence, then, Faust’s wager—“If ever flattering you should wile me / That in myself I find delight. . . . Then break on me, eternal night! / This bet I

Drama and the History of Memory 41 offer” (ll. 1694–1698)—has launched him on a journey of self-forgetting, according to Weinrich: “Forgetting . . . clears the way for the new. . . . Providing constant novelties . . . seems to the devil the most effective way to lure Dr. Faust into forgetting” (123). The argument that Weinrich makes for Goethe’s Faust is the same Sullivan makes for its source play, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, namely that Mephistopheles’ temptation is for Faust to forget himself. But Marlowe brings his play to a conclusion more directly in line with such an interpretation: Faustus forgets God by forgetting himself and is duly punished, and his punishment serves as an almost medieval reminder to its audience—though Sullivan (85–87) suggests that the allure of the theatre implicates the audience in the spectacle of Faustus’ self-fashioning, thereby undercutting the moral lesson of selfforgetting. Goethe not only turns the story in a different direction with the 8,000 or so lines of Part 2, but Faustus’ desires are less complex from the beginning than Faust’s Streben, which is ambition, egoism, intellectual restlessness, as well as accomplishment, love of knowledge, and a dedication to higher values, all in one. Faust’s desire to be “Cured from the craving to know all” (l. 1768) is intermixed with a yearning to banish isolation and embrace humanity: “And thus let my own self grow into theirs, unfettered, / Till as they are, at last I, too, am shattered” (ll. 1774–1775). That is, Faust’s journey is an escape to the world, as much as an escape from self, and the binary of remembering and forgetting Weinrich imposes on the play captures only the latter. Even so, Faust reintroduces the memory discourse to the drama, if less prominently than has been claimed. *



MEMORY (ALMOST) TAKES A STAR TURN The German mountain gorges, encamped with Holy Anchorites, in which Faust ends his earthly days are a long way from the soft mists of Washington Irving’s Catskills, and when the latter clear, they reveal a memory scene more resembling Lillo’s in its vacancy than Goethe’s. The eighteenth-century domestic tragedy Fatal Curiosity and the nineteenth-century domestic comedy Rip Van Winkle each feature a central figure returning home after a long interval, but each deflects audience interest away from the workings of memory. Irving’s story of Rip Van Winkle was dramatized shortly after its publication in 1819, perennially holding the nineteenthcentury American stage in many adaptations until (and after) Joseph Jefferson first played the title role in his own adaptation in 1859. It became Jefferson’s signature piece, particularly after he commissioned Dion Boucicault to create a new adaptation in 1865. Produced at the Adelphi in London on September 4, it initially ran for 170 nights. The star continued to tinker with the adaptation, which was finally published as Jefferson’s acting edition in 1895.29 Purging the original of much of its domestic tartness and all of its mild political commentary, Boucicault provides a conventional intrigue, no shred of which is to be found in Irving’s story. In the play, drunken, penniless, good-humored Rip has won the heart of Gretchen over his rival Derrick Beekman, to whom he has


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

irresponsibly lost all his land. Derrick mistakenly thought he had purchased Rip’s land and houses—Rip had owned almost all the village—but instead only holds the mortgage, and the improvements he has made would enrich Rip if the land is sold. Derrick conspires to have Rip sign the deeds over to him, and Rip accepts £16 in compensation, but delays signing. Illiterate, he has a child read the document and perceives Derrick’s deception. It is, of course, after Rip’s legendary sleep of twenty years that one anticipates the influx of revelations, recollections, or reminiscences, but the memory scene of the play proves thinner than the mountain air and thinner than the original story, wherein Rip inquires more extensively about his old haunts and acquaintances. There is almost no reminiscence in the play, despite occasional details like Rip remembering the town being half its size (298) or the exploitation for pathos of the play’s most famous line: “RIP. (With simple pathos.) Are we so soon forgot when we are gone? No one remembers Rip Van Winkle” (307). The strongest tinge of memory in the text comes not from reflections on differences between then and now, but from the evocation of the Lear-Cordelia recognition scene in Rip’s encounter with his grown daughter (312–313). No discrepancy between the recision of one’s personal past and the passing of time, between psychological reality and factual reality, is explored. (The sign on Vedder’s inn has been changed from “George III” to “Washington,” but this is not commented upon.) Here and there in stage directions and in the comings and goings of crowds one can glean details of a memory scene not captured in the words of the text. One stage direction informs us that as Rip catches sight of the village: “his memory seem[s] to act automatically” (298) and stage directions in the recognition scene give him time “to reassemble his ideas and memories more accurately” (313). As one would expect of nineteenth-century performance with its ample opportunity for byplay, Jefferson may have silently rendered memory more eloquently than the text has. Likewise the ebb and flow of the crowd around him, particularly in act 4, scene 3, line 5, may suggest the re-membering of the village around the returned Rip. It is almost as if we are in the preliterate world of expressive, collective memory rather than the literate world of personal retrospection—a faint vestige of Irving’s literary conceit of presenting his “true history” as having been collected by Diedrich Knickerbocker from the old burgers of the Kaatskills and their wives. Remembering how Gower reinforced the memoriousness of his old tale, Pericles, only highlights the vacancy of the memory scene here. Surely, the lack of retrospection in nineteenthcentury characterization contributes to the thinness of the drama. Like Rip Van Winkle, Leopold Lewis’ The Bells was primarily a star vehicle. But while the former largely fell from popularity after Jefferson last performed it in 1904, nine “replica” productions and a BBC television revival as late as 1950 followed upon Henry Irving’s last performance in 1905. Based on Le Juif Polonais of Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian (1869), Lewis’ adaptation was first performed by Irving in 1871. David Mayer’s annotated edition (1980) is itself a memory site of some considerable density, including as it does Irving’s acting text; extensive quotes from the memoirs of actors playing the role and observers of Irving’s performances; reviews; photographs; playbills; programs; and contemporary engravings. All this is supplemented with the “memories and assertions” (8) of Eric Jones-Evans, who as a seven-year-old theatre-goer saw Irving perform.

Drama and the History of Memory 43 The story of the play is quickly told. In a remote Alsatian inn on Christmas Eve, a tale of the mysterious murder fifteen years previously of a Polish Jew is recounted by village gossip Father Walter and forest-keeper Hans. The account triggers a vision, and then a dream, in the paterfamilias Mathias, who has thrived and successfully concealed the murder all these years. He falls dead at the final curtain. The play likely would have been completely forgotten had it not been for Irving’s stirring performance (John Martin-Harvey and Coquelin also played the role). While Irving was undoubtedly “visceral” in the role—his dream-sequence howl was memorable (Mayer, 93, n. 20)—the portrayal was also “psychological” and cerebral. Indeed, it was the interiority conveyed by Irving that makes the performance an interesting episode in the history of memory on stage—even if the vocabulary surrounding the imagined incidents makes it problematic to claim The Bells as a “memory play”: the first act closes on what is consistently called in stage directions, reviews and recollections a “vision,” and the third act is dominated by what is just as consistently termed a “dream.” That what the audience sees is meant to be going on in Mathias’ head is registered by the fact that the vision itself is accompanied by bells and music, and is triggered, Christmas Carol-like, by the tolling of the hour. Clement Scott noted that the original Erckmann-Chatrian close of first act has, instead of the vision in which Mathias sees again in his mind the crime he has committed, an actual man in a Polish costume coincidentally knocking on the door. Scott preferred this less psychological curtain because it preserved the ambiguity of the story (quoted in Mayer, 101). Scott refers to the vision scene in Irving’s version as “a picture of the actual murder supposed to be seen by Mathias during his delirium” (ibid.). John Oxenford of The Times refers to it as “a sort of vision” and “the creation of conscience” (104). Mayer (48–49) reprints two representations of the vision scene, both made within days of the opening. They bear many points in common. But one key difference lies in how Mathias is represented in the vision. In The Illustrated London News the Mathias stalking his victim with an axe is dressed for the cold, in a cloth parka of knee-length and a cowl. In Alfred Concanen’s illustration in The Stage the Mathias in the vision appears to be dressed identically to the Mathias observing the vision, in waistcoat and stockings. (The costume plot, given in Mayer, does not resolve the issue.) Thus, in one illustration Mathias sees himself then, making the representation less ambiguously a memory; in the other he sees himself now, making the representation a vision in which he imagines himself back in the situation. While this may seem like too fine a distinction, a character who implicitly commits himself to his own past as a part of himself is very different from a character subject to imaginings, fits, or bouts of conscience that imply a less stringent connection with the life-world as already actualized. The second act is given over to establishing the domesticity under which Mathias has concealed his secret crime. He is eager to see his daughter Annette married off to Christian, a gendarme. Oxenford’s review notes that the crime is committed by a man “not of a naturally malignant disposition” (quoted in Mayer, 103), suggesting that late nineteenth-century audiences, like their eighteenth-century predecessors clung to their cognitive dissonance: though Mathias is an axe-murderer, the sign of his “true” disposition must be his domestic caring. As The Times had it: “He is

44 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard at once in two worlds, between which there is no link—an outer world that is ever smiling, an inner world which is purgatory” (105). The tenuous or potential link between these worlds is only uncertainly memory; it might be delirium, imagination, conscience, or mesmerism. Mathias himself, at the top of the second act, says “It was as if I had seen the ghost of the Jew” (52) and in a soliloquy, he reflects it was the “Parisian who was the real cause of my attack” (54). That is, he saw a mesmerist perform hypnotic entertainments on his recent trip, and feared (here addressing himself in the second person) “you might relate certain incidents in your past life.” Even to himself, Mathias does not admit that what occupies his mind is simply a memory of the crime. Is the playwright pointing up Mathias’ denial when, in a subtle touch, Mathias tells Christian that counting out his daughter’s dowry “recalled to one’s memory the honest labour of days gone by” (56)? In any case, his attempt at manufacturing a memory puts us in mind of the “recovered memory” debates of the 1990s. But when Christian reveals he has been reading old depositions and theorizes that the Jew’s body was burned in a lime kiln, the acting edition reveals how quickly the text and performance eschew a modernist interest in the workings of memory for the conventionalities of depicting a man “haunted” by his guilty past: MATH: (Springing at CHRISTIAN, seizing him by the throat with a cry of rage and forcing him into the chair he (CHRIS) has been sitting in, then turning it off with a laugh of hysteria—slapping him on shoulders, face and arms.) Take care, take care, why I—I—ha, ha, I myself, I had a limekiln burning at the time the crime was committed. CHRIS: You—you Burgomaster, ha ha. (Both go up C. laughing in crescendo.) (58)

Mathias hears the bells again when the wedding contract is signed and when the assembled villagers break into a celebration, and the second-act curtain bangs down with Mathias waltzing madly and shouting “The Bells! The Bells! . . . Ring on! Ring on—to Hell!” (61 and 90, n. 21)—claptrap of the very best sort! In the third act, it is midnight, and revelers are leaving. Mathias will sleep alone in his bedroom, slightly intoxicated. Even though he has drunkenly told himself “No more folly, no more dreams, no more Bells!” (67), he dreams that he is hypnotized into reliving his crime before a court. A key exchange with the President of the court focuses directly on the difference between memories and dreams. Mathias admits to hearing bells, but only in a dream. The President rejoins: PRES: Gentlemen, the Jew’s horse carried bells, and this sound arises in the prisoner’s mind from a remembrance— MATH: It’s false! PRES: . . . the remembrance of what is past—the memory of what he would conceal from us. MATH: It is false! I have no memories! (69)

The reenactment of the crime under the influence of the hypnotist is gratifyingly lurid, punctuated with sleigh bells and tolling and capped by the Death Knell at the end of the sequence segueing nicely into marriage bells (75). In an abrupt coda,

Drama and the History of Memory 45 Mathias dies, begging the onlookers to take an imaginary rope from around his neck (76). In contrast to the remarkably trite dramatization of Rip Van Winkle, there is “psychological” interest in The Bells and in Irving’s characterization, in that Mathias leads a double life he must conceal and in that the portrayal represents the workings of a guilty conscience. Though Mathias’ insistence on extirpating his memory of the crime sounds like repression, the play is not psychological in the Freudian, Ibsenian, or Strindbergian sense of analyzing an individual in organic relationship to his environment, a relationship in which memory plays a transforming role. As might be expected, Irving’s representation of dramatic character here shows vestiges of an older Romantic concept, as well as harbingers of a coming revolution. On the one hand, Mathias lives in two worlds, an inner and an outer, between which there is “no link,” according to the Times review. On the other hand, playwright and producer both show an incipient, if melodramatic engagement with how memory and forgetting impact character. Both production and reception of The Bells bear out a blurring of distinctions between remembering and other mental states such as imagination, conscience or “delirium,” along with an inclination to distinguish among them. In the production, the same technique of an upstage “gauze cloth,” behind which the action is conducted, is used for both the “vision” at the end of the first act and the “dream” of the third (Mayer, 34 and 62). This blurring is reflective of the philosophical tradition that had not clearly discriminated between imagination and memory (DeConcini, 195–199). But, the incorporation of memory into character construction in the play reflects early nineteenth-century memory research such as Benecke’s concept of a memory “trace,” J. F. Herbart’s investigation of how ideas come and go leading to a theory of the unconscious, and Thomas Brown’s exploration of factors, such as intoxication, affecting memory encoding. It might even be said that the “vision” scene anticipates Freud’s distinction (“Screen Memories” 1899) between “field” memory and “observer” memory: as is typically the case with older memories, Mathias observes himself “in” the memory, rather than seeing the scene from the field of vision he would have had when it occurred. Finally, Mathias’ insistence, within his dream, that the bells he hears are a dream and not a memory brings us to the threshold of more nuanced works such as A Dream Play. But only to the threshold. For Leopold Lewis and Irving, memory remains a faculty, and the personal past is a remenance, Casey’s (265–266) coinage for the residue of the past circulating in the present. Undreamed of in The Bells, one might say, is what engages modern practitioners of the psychological memory play: how memory figures in self-fashioning, articulates via narrative discourse a temporal identity, and serves human development. In the year Darwin published The Descent of Man, the creators of The Bells had no interest in heredity and environment as factors in the formation of the psychological individual.

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2. Drama and the Memory of History Raising memory in the midst of history created another set of problems. Patrick Hutton, History as an Art of Memory

CASE STUDY: THE PERSIANS Aeschylus’ fact-driven The Persians can be identified as the first surviving example of the documentary impulse in Western theatre. It thus initiates an argument of how theatre remembers history that persists to the present, in such instances as the documentary theatre pieces of Moisés Kaufman or our contemporary classicist Anna Deavere Smith. At the same time, Aeschylus’ play can serve as a locus classicus for a broader discourse on memory and history. Within academe, the memory/history dyad increasingly thematizes studies in many fields from psychology to literature, and especially historiography, with the 1980s initiating a “scholarly boom” (Klein 2000, 127) in such studies. In the American public forum, this discourse has frequently fueled debate on such issues as the Vietnamese War Memorial, Smithsonian exhibits on World War II and the dropping of the atom bomb, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and 9/11 commemorations. In the debate, groups such as veterans or survivors with an interest in preserving memory find themselves at odds with academics and/or artists (re)constructing history. Indeed, Aeschylus’ play itself entered this discourse with the Peter Sellars/Robert Auletta adaptation of The Persians produced in response to the First Gulf War (1993). Here, I want to suggest that the discourse offers not only a useful vocabulary for considering the very earliest reality-driven representations of Western theatre but can also guide us to useful distinctions between theatrically remembered history and other ways of representing history on stage. Since I will be employing “history” and “memory” in discussing Greek experience initially, let me offer some justification for such distinctions in Greek etymology and mythology. Mneme and its cognates are associated with the faculty of memory and memorial objects, while historia is sometimes used as a synonym with logos or narrative, and a historian is called a suggrapheus (one who writes down facts), a logographos, or a logopoios, as well as a historikos. Mnemosyne or memory, as previously noted, is the mother of the Muses because before the invention of writing memory was the poet’s chief gift. That Clio the Muse of history is one of memory’s offspring offers a mythological foundation for the generation of history out of memory, as well as a

48 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard reminder that for the Greeks both history and memory were associated with art and imagination. The foregoing is not meant to elide the substantive differences between the Greek historical discourse and modern historiography, irrespective of the endurance of certain terms originating in Greek. Two characteristic features of the Greek discourse render it heterodox from the perspective of the present. First, the Greek discourse needs to be thought of performatively. Whether in the form of historical drama, in the presentations of oral memorialists, or in recited histories such as that of Herodotus, Greek historical discourse was spoken rather than written, and the borders among its historical performance genres were essentially porous. Second, at the time Aeschylus was writing The Persians no clear line divided the realm of history from that of memory. Thus, adducing the terms memory and history from the discourse of contemporary historiography may connote an antinomy foreign to the Greeks that the reader should resist. I am not attempting to call forth an “Aeschylus Our Contemporary,” but, on the contrary, to register his otherness. In History as an Art of Memory, Patrick Hutton theorizes the emergence of history from memory, and I am indebted to his analysis in what follows. Hutton’s account of how memory and history parted and rejoined company is wide-ranging, with Vico, Wordsworth, Freud, Foucault, Pierre Nora, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Halbwachs, Walter Ong, S. J., and Philippe Ariès all playing significant roles in the development of his argument. Hutton observes that history began as tradition repeated—what Maurice Halbwachs in 1925 termed collective memory—and only gradually developed into a social science using the past. Hutton is sophisticated in his use of the contested terms that comprise the title of his book, which is organized by a “mnemonic scheme” (xvii), allowing him to respond to diverse thinkers on history and memory. Relying on Hutton, Nora, and Halbwachs, I use “history” here to mean the written chronological record of significant events affecting a nation or institution. I take collective memory to be a set of recollections, repetitions, and recapitulations socially, morally or politically useful for a group or community. History tends to be individually generated, univocal, and responsive to evidentiary protocols. Collective memory tends to be group-generated, multivocal, and responsive to a social framework (Halbwachs 1992). History is reinforced by rewriting; collective memory is reinforced by social occasions such as rites and commemorations (including theatrical performance), as well as by body practices such as gestural behavior and proprieties (Connerton 1989). Collective memory is virtually indistinguishable from Nora’s crucial concept of a milieu de mémoire: as previously noted, a memory environment “entwined in the intimacy of a collective heritage . . . ceaselessly reinvent[ing] tradition [and] linking the history of its ancestors to the undifferentiated time of heroes, origins and myth” (8). Hutton distills from key figures in twentieth-century historiography certain “themes” relating to the interaction of memory and history. According to Hutton, the rediscovery of Halbwachs’ seminal work is part of postmodernism’s recasting of the memory/history relation into an antinomy. Halbwachs insisted that the past is continually reinvented in living memories, continually revised to suit the present. Not unaware of the potential for those in power to construct commemorations congruent with their political ends, Halbwachs’ work therefore alerted postmodern

Drama and the Memory of History


historians to the possible contention of memory and history. Working independently of Halbwachs, Phillipe Ariès brought a historical perspective to the “layered substrata of collective memory” (Hutton, 93) that compose the traditions associated with familial and social life. As a historian of “mentalities,” Ariès documented how traditions preserve and create not just individual but social and political values. In a more skeptical vein, Eric Hobsbawm in The Invention of Tradition (1983) collects essays analyzing “mass-produced traditions” and their role in the emergence of nationstates. In terms of the memory/history binary, Foucault’s (1977) foregrounding of rhetoric and discourse may be seen to be calling attention to history’s construction of “counter-memories: the discursive practices through which memories are perpetually revised” (Hutton, 113). For Foucault, modern historiography has effectively banished memory from its discourse. Likewise, Nora maintains that “history is perpetually suspicious of memory, and its true mission is to suppress and destroy it” (9). Hutton, too, accepts that history’s work of imagining and recollecting the past would ultimately interfere with memory’s work of holding the past close and repeating it. Following Nora, he identifies the crucial rift as occurring in the nineteenth century: after successfully keeping history and memory in equipoise, nineteenth-century historiography undertook a sort of occupation of memory’s territory by attempting to reclaim a useable past with the intent of forging a national consciousness. In Nora’s melodramatic personification of this struggle, memory has retreated to designated lieux—examples of which range from funeral eulogies to battlefield monuments, from classroom manuals to museums, from high school reunions to the French Revolutionary calendar. While Nora chooses a rhetorical model of antagonism, Hutton arrives at a position in which memory and history are seen to be in interplay rather than opposition. Two of the historiographical “themes” he derives (xx–xxii) are particularly useful in understanding how The Persians stages a convergence of history and memory, how it participates in the emerging historical discourse of Ancient Greece, and how contemporary productions of the play encounter or ignore its historicity. These themes are (1) the interplay of repetition (associated with memory) and recollection (associated with history) as foundation of the history/memory problem and (2) the impact of the shift from orality to literacy, and subsequent technologies, on changing conceptions of memory. But irrespective of whether one accepts Hutton’s model of interplay or Nora’s model of opposition, the pairing of memory and history invites us to consider The Persians both as a theatrical example of the politics of commemoration and also as a case study in the origins of historiography. The Persians (472 BCE) was one of a trio of Persian War plays engaging events within the vividly living memory of its hearers. Preceding Aeschylus’ play by twenty years was Phrynichus’ The Capture of Miletus, produced scarcely more than half a century after the putative invention of the drama by Thespis. Almost all of what we know of this lost play derives from Herodotus, who was writing sixty to seventy years after the play’s likely date of production. In Book VI, chapter 21 of what different translators term “The History,” “Histories,” or “Researches,” Herodotus preserves an anecdote of the succès de scandale surrounding what may have been the first factual drama of the Western tradition, wrought from the too-fresh horrors of the Persian War. Herodotus reports (in the Grene translation 1987, 416–417): “When

50 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Phrynichus produced his play, The Capture of Miletus, the whole audience at the theatre burst into tears and fined Phrynichus a thousand drachmas for reminding them of a calamity that was their very own; they also forbade any future production of the play.” To Herodotus’ report we can add relatively little, as neither this nor any other play of Phrynichus has survived whole. But we have enough background information1 to speculate on how Phrynichus’ play figured in the history-telling of the Persian War. It seems likely that The Capture of Miletus was produced in 492 BCE, only two years after the Ionian city fell. In that year Themistocles served as archon and oversaw play selection at the City Dionysia. We know that in the 490s BCE Themistocles, later to be the hero of the Battle of Salamis, had been unsuccessful in persuading his fellow Athenians to support the Ionian revolt, of which the fall of Miletus to the Persians was a notorious episode. That is, Themistocles was an interventionist who warned his countrymen about falling dominoes to the East, and went unheeded. Although details are murky, it is reasonable to speculate that The Capture of Miletus offended the Athenian audience because it served as an inopportune or even vindictive political reminder. If Themistocles was using Phrynichus and his own position as archon to assign guilt, his action may have problematized notions of hamartia, responsibility and recognition in the incipient form of tragedy. In my reading, subsequent fifth-century Greek tragedy is less about the assignment of guilt than about the burden of responsibility or the stigma of shame. The Capture of Miletus was followed, at some distance, by two other Persian War plays of which we have knowledge. Phrynichus himself fared better with The Phoenician Women, which won first prize in 476 BCE with Themistocles now serving as choregos (producer). We can glean from fragments that it treated aspects of the military campaign of 480 BCE. For the Athenians this was a happier episode in the war, highlighted by Themistocles’ own triumph at the Battle of Salamis. It is tempting, but ultimately fruitless to speculate on Phrynichus’ political intentions, for we can only backform our opinions from subsequent dramatic practice. The history of the theatre is strewn with examples of plays manipulating factual material out of political expediency, from Gringoire’s Vie de Saint Louis, to pièces de circonstance churned out by French playwrights of the revolutionary period, to the scores of Crimean War plays written before the ink was dry on dispatches from the front, to Vietnam War plays and films, to the Sellars/Auletta Gulf War Persians. Was Phrynichus riding Themistocles’ political coattails and thus the originator of partisan political drama? Or did Themistocles’ exploits find a worthy, probing, nonpartisan chronicler in Phrynichus, as Wallenstein’s did in Schiller or Bolingbroke’s in Shakespeare? We do not know. Perhaps encouraged by Phrynichus’ latter treatment or perhaps in political response to it, Aeschylus freely, imaginatively, and somewhat inaccurately2 brought to the stage in 472 BCE the story of the Battle of Salamis, leaving us The Persians. It, too, won first prize. Aeschylus’ first line in the play famously paraphrases the first line of Phrynichus’ Phoenician Women, thereby evoking a memory of that play whose significance we cannot fully comprehend.3 The politics surrounding “the most overtly political of all extant Athenian tragedies” (Hall 1996, 11) are difficult to reconstruct. In the period

Drama and the Memory of History


between Phrynichus’ first historical drama and the latter two there was a struggle between Themistocles and his political enemy Cimon “expressed in a propaganda battle” (Hall 1989, 66), in which the latter had an interest in celebrating the battle of Marathon. (Cimon was the son of Marathon’s hero Miltiades.) The trio of historical dramas evidently were skirmishes in the propaganda battle, but which side was Aeschylus on? From one perspective, celebrating the victory at Salamis (if that, indeed, is what The Persians does) might appear to bolster Themistocles’ cause at a time he was facing ostracism. If so, Aeschylus failed, for Themistocles was driven from Athens in 471 BCE. On the other hand, Aeschylus’ play is told from the Persians’ perspective, and Themistocles is not mentioned in the text. Furthermore, the choregos of The Persians was Pericles, who may have supported Cimon’s policies. Was Aeschylus driven at all by such political concerns? In the case of Aeschylus, we can go beyond—if not far beyond—the skeptical agnosticism dictated by the factual void surrounding Phrynichus. Thomas Harrison (2000, 34) has resifted the relevant information on the issue classicists call the “battle of the battles”: why Aeschylus selected Salamis rather than Marathon as the representative struggle of the Persian War. Very tentatively, Harrison grants the appearance of a pro-Themistocles stance on the part of Aeschylus. The evidence he reassembles is based partly on the assumption that Phrynichus and Aeschylus chose similar plots and that their choregoi (respectively, Themistocles and Pericles) displayed similar political leanings, and partly on reading Aeschylus’ politics in The Persians backward from the politics of his later works. Harrison is the first to admit the instability of this evidentiary structure, whose weakness he further reveals by recounting how the emerging Athens-Sparta rivalry inflected Persian War history-telling. His conclusion (39, 115), which I accept, is that Aeschylus’ partisanship is not clearly discernible and that, if it were, it would render The Persians a lesser work both aesthetically and politically. Nevertheless, the text of The Persians has regularly been considered a mine of historical information about Athenian politics, military details of the battle itself, and about Persian antiquity. That is, the text has been approached as what Nora (19) calls a lieu d’histoire: a site of facts and “direct source” for historians, an archive of representations, distant, discrete from the present and accessible to objectification. H. D. F. Kitto, Hall, Harrison, and many others have attached stringent qualifiers to Aeschylus’ putative historical accuracy, balancing any truth claims made for the play with an awareness of its aesthetic and ideological tendencies.4 I want to suggest here that the notion of collective memory may help to reveal how a testament of the immediate Athenian past (480 BCE) is constructed according to the social and emotional needs of the Athenian present (472 BCE).5 Looking at how history and memory are interposed in The Persians may at the very least illuminate how the play means, whether or not it clarifies the more vexed issue of what the play means. Unique among extant Greek drama in that all its characters are foreign, The Persians is set in Susa immediately before and after the word of the defeat at Salamis is carried to the ruling family. Its main characters are the ruling King Xerxes, his mother Atossa, and the ghost of his father Darius. There is also a Chorus of old men and a Messenger. Aeschylus has Atossa invoke the Ghost of Darius in order for Darius, with extra-dramatic hindsight, to forecast calamity and to stand counterfactually in


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

contrast to his erring son as one who prudently abjured invasion of Greece. Critical debate over the play has traditionally focused on whether the play is truly a tragedy, whether pride or Fate determines the action and whether the play is “sympathetic” to the Persians or self-congratulatory to the Athenians. Though the critical canon associated with The Persians is large and growing, two ingenious and diametrically opposed views can serve to frame the debate over the play as either commemorating victory—or, on the contrary, mediating loss.6 John Snyder (1991) makes sweeping connections among the political context of Athenian tragedy, the ontology of the tragic contest and its emphasis on winning, and the association of exultation with a tragic sense of self to conclude that the work of tragedy is to “signify the historical power differential” (25). Perhaps overschematically, Snyder identifies Aeschylus with victory, Euripides with loss and Sophocles with stalemate. For Snyder, these are the only three tragic outcomes, and he characterizes The Persians as “the deliberate, public, open-air celebration of winning in a violent martial contest” (35). Though he does not adduce the reprimand of Phrynichus’ The Capture of Miletus as reported by Herodotus, Snyder could have cited the incident in support of his argument, for it might be inferred that Phrynichus was punished for reminding the Athenians of defeat and Aeschylus rewarded for reminding them of victory. In stark contrast, Richard Kuhns (1991) sees The Persians as “politically empathetic, even inexplicably generous” (11). For Kuhns the play functions not as a token of victory but as a totem establishing kinship between the lost youth of Susa mentioned in the play and the Athenian youth whose names the Greek audience would supply. While Snyder (28) denies Athenian tragedy any authentic ritualistic value, Kuhns (18) locates the play among other memorial rites mediating loss and mourning. If, in emphasizing the Athenian Realpolitik Snyder misses the subtlety of the familial relations represented in the play, Kuhns overpsychoanalyzes the characters to the point where we lose sight of the festive context of the dramatic presentation at the Great Dionysia. While both their rhetoric and methodologies appear to make the positions of Snyder and Kuhns mutually exclusive, more than one commentator struggles mightily to avoid the horns of the dilemma offered by The Persians. Edith Hall (1996, 13) finds the play celebrating not so much Athenian militarism as democracy, in contrast with the effeminate and tyrannical Persian empire, though I agree with Thomas Harrison (21) that despite the considerable erudition brought to bear in her argument, Hall does not arrive at a position on the play very far from judging it as xenophobic self-congratulation.7 In rejecting an interpretation of the play as simply patriotic celebration, Broadhead (1960, xvi, xix, xxxii) notes that Darius attributes the Persian defeat to Fate rather than Greek superiority—evidence that Aeschylus passed up an opportunity for gloating. In my reading, exultation and mourning, victory and loss simultaneously accrue, the former borne by the play’s magniloquence, the latter by the spectacle of its ghostly and tearful figures. In blending factual material and tragic form, Persian and Greek and, I suggest, memory and history, Aeschylus studiously avoids easy dualisms. Much criticism of this play, and of Greek tragedy in general, is marred by an inclination both to elide its cultivated ambivalence and implicitly to render it according

Drama and the Memory of History


to the supposedly ideal template of Oedipus Rex. Against such orderliness, I agree with Harrison (115) that The Persians “is not a work which we can, or should, identify too readily.” Relinquishing question-begging dichotomies such as hubris and Fate, politics and religion, family and State, and laying aside the multiplied misunderstandings effectively obscuring how and why Aristotle used Sophocles’ play as a model in The Poetics are essential first steps in recognizing the features of The Persians likely to have registered with its audience. Its center-stage is occupied successively by three characters, any one of which can be and has been identified as its key tragic figure. It appears to modulate among what Aristotle in chapter 18 (1455b, 33 through 1456a, 3) of The Poetics recognizes as the four forms of tragedy, with now character, now suffering, and now spectacle coming to the fore, and the complexities of plot held comparatively in the background.8 It is also the sort of play that can accommodate a lot of recent, familiar facts—and a ghost. There is utterly no justification in describing the marvelous miscellany of Aeschylus’ canvas as simple or primitive; it could just as easily be bold experiment. As Oliver Taplin points out, by 472 BCE Aeschylus had been active in the theatre for twenty-five years and may have produced as much as half of his life’s work (1977, 61). Indeed, I cannot help but think that Aeschylus’ combined celebrity as a man of the theatre and a war veteran contributed substantially to the “buzz” generated by his Persian War play and its reception: how might the old soldier turn his experiences into drama? Whether or not one accepts the ancient report that Aeschylus was there at Salamis as does Harrison (51), his audience certainly knew and admired him as a combatant against the Persians at Marathon. When the long-awaited Messenger asserts “I was there. I can tell you, no hearsay” (l. 438),9 the line must have hit a particular note of authority that continued to resonate in the performance. Acknowledging the metatheatrical presence of Aeschylus also helps us to contextualize the appearance of the other combatant in the play, Xerxes. Like the Messenger, Xerxes’ entrance is longdelayed and much-anticipated. But unlike the Messenger, whose vivid account is of strategy, trickery, and butchery, Xerxes joins the Chorus in a dirge for his lost comrades. According to Rush Rehm, “initially, Xerxes’ lyric expression is overwhelmingly self-involved, filled with first-person singular verbs and pronouns” (2002, 250). But he moves, I would add, through shame and beyond despair (ll. 1660–1670) close to understanding his responsibility. In the strictest Aristotelian terms, he takes account of his hamartia in realizing that he has harmed what he values most, the young men of Persia, for whom the last scene of the play is one long lament. Because he has the fewest lines and stage time, Xerxes has often been considered peripheral to the dramaturgy of The Persians, a judgment Rehm (249) justifiably questions. Particularly if the actor playing Xerxes also played the Messenger and Darius, thereby bearing associations of those roles with his appearance, the importance of the character vis-à-vis his mother and father needs to be reevaluated. This would be all the more so if the actor were Aeschylus himself, as Taplin (117, 120–121) suggests. In terms of the discourse I have introduced here, it is tempting to see the severe Darius standing in for history and the sympathetic Atossa representing memory in The Persians. Focusing on Darius makes the play a tragedy of power successfully asserted in military victory: a historical lesson for victor and defeated alike (Snyder, 25ff ). Focusing on Atossa makes the play a tragedy of loss and mourning, with the

54 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard naming and commemoration of the Persian dead standing in for the memory of the Athenians who perished in the battle but are unmentioned in the play (Kuhns, 17). But admitting both of these interpretations has the benefit of making sense of the play’s emotional progression: “The development of the two parental figures, with the exaggeration of their maternal and paternal traits, sets up the mother and father of Xerxes as the balanced poles of sympathy and judgment between which historical vision must situate itself ” (Michelini 1982, 153). Thus, Xerxes, particularly if played by Aeschylus, represents a meeting point for the severity of the historian and the empathy of the memorializing eye-witness, the qualities represented respectively by his father and mother. I suggest, then, that the field of this play is as much a conjunction of history and memory as of Greek and Persian experience. On the one hand, Aeschylus clearly engaged in some orientalizing of the Persians to the end of constructing a historical narrative useful in combating Persian aggression (Hall 1996, 5–7). The history of the Persian War was his subject. On the other hand, Aeschylus brings the urgency of the eye- and ear-witness to convey the vividness of his own memory. It is worth noting that key, though not all, aspects of Aeschylus’ account are corroborated by Persian sources and that in laboring to create a Persian soundscape Aeschylus did everything he could to make his audience forget they were hearing Greek. Hall identifies among his devices the use of proper names, cacophonous catalogues, imitation of foreign vocabulary, cries, interjections, repetition, and anaphora designed to suggest barbarian diction, Ionicisms lending an eastern feel to the language, and epic terms (Hall 1989, 76–79). As a historian, then, Aeschylus wanted to objectify the experience and draw lessons from it. But as a memorialist, Aeschylus wanted to hold the experience close and repeat it. Thus, history is the play’s object, as well as its subject, the end product of a memorializing process everywhere evident in Greek society. The Persians can here serve as part of the evidence that memory and history for the Greeks formed less a polarity than an imbrication, for collective memory and history had not yet retreated to their respective lieux—one occupied by treasurers responsible for safeguarding a living and valued past into the present, the other the preserve of professional historians with an interest in cordoning off the past from the present (Nora, 8–10). To Athenians, history and collective memory were virtually indistinguishable and simultaneously borne forward by the triple messengers of oral memorialist or logios, historian, and historical dramatist. The borders among the reality-driven representations crafted by these fifth-century knowledge workers were highly porous, and examining this extended context of historical discourse is essential to understanding Phrynichus, Aeschylus, and their Persian War plays. The logios or oral memorialist was a rhapsode “whose forte was the remembrance of things past professed to impart traditions” (Evans 1991, 97). We know their poetry and prose more by reputation than by text, for most of their works, which cover the gap between Homer and the start of the fifth century, are lost. As J. A. S. Evans indicates, “Logioi could serve as spokesmen and defenders of the particular traditional and historical perspectives of various groups . . . and may well have acted as champions of various epichoric versions of common traditions” (98). So, when Aeschylus imaginatively put his version of the Battle of Salamis entirely in the mouths of Persians,

Drama and the Memory of History


allowing his countrymen to grasp the events from a totally Other point of view, he was working in an oral memorialist vein of ancient origin. The logioi exerted a similar influence on Herodotus, the “father of History” and reporter of Phrynichus’ contretemps. Herodotus most often refers to himself as “speaking” rather than “writing” his history, which itself was surely intended to be read aloud, performed. And like Aeschylus and Phrynichus, he was a poet who nonetheless engaged in a historical discourse. Following Aeschylus’ Persians by more than a generation, Herodotus’ account of Salamis was nevertheless influenced by it (Hall 1996, 1–2 and n. 5). Herodotus may also have been inspired by Aeschylus’ empathy in envisioning, as Evans suggests, “Persian logioi setting forth the aitia [cause] of the enmity between Greece and Persia as the Persians saw it” (98). The key transition in Herodotus was not from oral to written production but from memorized recitals to readings aloud. Indeed, the evidence is compelling that “the whole of the Histories is a ring composition” (Evans, 89) characteristic of oral epics—a nested structure of typical events or encounters, characterized by repeated themes, “runs” or formulaic descriptions, and other sorts of ritual and mnemonic repetitions.10 Herodotus’ text, however, bears the marks of a certain tension between words heard and words seen, between the traditional choric form, and written matter subject to reflective scrutiny, and also between the dynamism of his oral traditional sources for the matter and the constraints, challenges and choices in formally writing it “down.” When Herodotus “wrote” his history “attitudes towards the past still belonged to the oral tradition, and were shaped by the orators and the theatre” (Evans, ix); “memory-history” and “critical history” (to adopt Nora’s terms, once again) had not yet established their autonomy, much less their opposition, though tendencies and tensions were evident. In Herodotus and in Aeschylus may be seen the beginnings of how the shift from orality to literacy affects cognition. As Hutton, following Walter Ong, puts it, “The expressive, collective memory of oral tradition gives way to the introspective, personal memory of literate culture. Memory, first conceived as a repetition, is eventually reconceived as a recollection” (16). The tension between words heard and words seen likewise shapes the Greek theatre in a particularly incisive manner. Charles Segal observes that theatre is an oral performance controlled by a written text, thus opening a division between composition and performance (1984, 41–67). In Greek tragedy the echoes of older, oral performance traditions are to be heard in the chorus and in copious messenger speeches, while the new, clear-cut values of writing are evident in spectacle and stichomythia. Segal cites the meeting of Io and Prometheus in Prometheus Bound and the Messenger’s account of Oedipus’ blinding immediately juxtaposed with Oedipus’ appearance blind as sites for the confrontation of oral and written cultures.11 Although Segal does not frame these tensions in terms of a memory/history opposition, his observations invite us to see the development of fifth-century tragedy as marked by the deployment of myths and stories into the present (the work of memory) and their simultaneous criticism and distancing through writing them down (the work of history). These distinctions illuminate how Aeschylus’ dramaturgy in The Persians may display his sophisticated politics. Aeschylus’ debt to epic archaicisms, serially interlocking ring compositions and Homeric diction12 has caused The Persians to be considered a static play. But such traditional elements are played off against a richly


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

significant spectacle: royal arrivals in gorgeous regalia (Atossa) or rags (Xerxes) or from Hades (Darius); elaborate libation rituals; a distraught Messenger and Chorus engaging in striking stage business such as tearing of clothes and hair, and a quasifuneral procession with a deliberately foreign flavor. “Not bad for an hour’s entertainment,” as Hall (1996, 24) puts it. Emphasizing the play’s diction points to a metonymic dimension of its original reception, for the archaic orality of the play implies and attracts to itself the tradition of epic exultation and military victory.13 By contrast, calling attention to the spectacle of a defeated and disheveled Xerxes, a tearful Atossa and a stately funeral procession brings a metaphorical interpretation to the fore: the Persian family is like us; the love and mourning they express is ours. The memory of other victories and their earned glory and joy is balanced by the historical lesson of loss. *



A POSTSCRIPT ON MODERN PRODUCTIONS OF THE PERSIANS Unfortunately, the modern stage history of The Persians has tended to dissolve Aeschylus’ exquisite and deliberate ambiguity. Clustered during the second half of a century of international strife, modern productions, like the original, have frequently been produced during or near a time of war, but have rarely abjured the partisanship avoided, skirted, or suppressed by Aeschylus. A British radio broadcast in 1939 implied the equation of Nazi and Persian imperialism, while a German revival in 1942 emphasized struggle and the grief of women left waiting at home. A Greek production in London in 1965 sparked philhellene sympathies during the era of Greek dictatorship. But most postwar productions have made the Persians stand in simplistically for Western militarism, particularly in the post–Vietnamese War period. Karelisa Hartigan’s (1995) account of productions post-1970, the year of the first professional production of The Persians in America, is marred by her unquestioned assumption that the original is an antiwar play. But her account is nonetheless useful for articulating the context out of which the controversial Peter Sellars production emerged. Hartigan notes that the contemporary relevance of the play has been characteristically “loudly announced by its directors and producers” (102) beginning with John Lewin’s 1970 adaptation. This production at the St. George’s Church attracted both Clive Barnes and Walter Kerr of the New York Times who politely received the play for its historical value. Four years later, with the edge taken off the novelty of presenting the play and U.S. troops out of Vietnam, the Circle Repertory Theatre Company production won scant praise. Aware of the danger of losing currency, Sellars expeditiously brought his production to the stage in July 1993, when the television images, at least, of the Gulf War were relatively unfaded.

Drama and the Memory of History


Sellars used his production to critique American involvement in the war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, though identifying the victorious Athenians with the victorious Americans wrenchingly inverts the David-and-Goliath relationship of the original. The vigor and severity of critical reaction14 to Sellars’ production is instructive of how the interplay of history and memory continue to inflect contemporary performance. Like Aeschylus, Sellars and his translator/adaptor Robert Auletta (1993) attempted to create an Eastern soundscape, in this case supplied by the oud player Hamza el Din, an Egyptian. Similarly, it might be argued that Sellars’ moral courage was no less than that of Aeschylus in bringing the unseen victims before an audience of victors. It may even be that if Sellars’ intention was to disturb and distort the unmindful, American collective memory accruing to the Gulf War,15 here too a case might be made that his aim was analogous to that of Aeschylus. Most critics, however, resented the imposition of a simplistic anti-Americanism onto a classic. Many lamented the coarse and clunky colloquialism of the adaptation in contrast to the swift and sententious poetry of the original—a particularly significant loss if, as I have suggested, the playwright’s patriotic sentiments are borne on the wings of the verse. In regard to Sellars’ use of spectacle, the Messenger “speech” delivered by a Javanese mime met with general approval, though the furious signing by the deaf actor playing Darius was more controversial. Could there be a starker example of the displacement of words heard by words seen, or a starker contrast to the Aeschylean original, where orality continued to cling to literacy, unashamedly allowing democracy to have its “say”? Virtually all critics resisted Sellars’ equation of the United States with fifth-century Athens desperately trying to escape the vise of the vast Persian empire, extending from Macedon in the north to Egypt in the south. In terms of geopolitics, it would have made more sense for Sellars to have allowed tiny Kuwait to stand in for invaded Athens. It might even be argued that had Sellars attempted to present his production in Aeschylus’ homeland he might have been greeted as the equivalent of a Holocaust denier. Though no critic of the production mentioned it, to my knowledge, it is worth remembering that Aeschylus’ epitaph celebrated his soldiering, not his playwriting. Or, as Snyder militantly puts it, “Aeschylus the tragedian is Aeschylus the soldier” (33, emphasis Snyder’s). Even if only a half-truth, such an identification would presumably be repellent to Sellars, thus rendering sharply ironic his enlistment of Aeschylus in his cause. Sellars’ production of The Persians at least partly represents an attempt to overwrite a version of history on the American collective memory of the Gulf War hegemonically installed by media images. It may also represent a deliberate transgressing of the classical tradition misappropriated by neoconservatives from Alan Bloom to Lynne Cheney.16 The tension thereby evinced between dismembering and remembering history invites, in the responsive spectator, the sort of introspection on citizenship, otherness and nationhood Aeschylus might have wished to encourage. Between Aeschylus and Sellars, the implied injunction to “remember Persia” can evidently take on many meanings.17 *



58 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Even acknowledging The Persians as the first “file in the archive of Orientalism” (Hall 1986, 99) —that is, the exoticizing and intellectual colonization of Asia18 —cannot gainsay the powerful array of research machinery and stage technique marshaled by Aeschylus to approach and understand the historically other. Evidently, few Greek playwrights followed his example. Though there are very occasional references to other plays of a historical nature down to the third century BCE and speculations as to a tradition of dramatic commemorations of the Persian War, historical dramas were apparently the exception rather than the rule in Ancient Greece. Why this was so is a complicated issue.19 Perhaps, since Phrynichus and Aeschylus wrote long before Aristotle taxonomized the differences between tragedy and epic, tragedy was simply flexible enough in its early stages to admit historical material. Perhaps historical dramas disappeared in the course of the fifth century because a “new ethnocentric ideology” was better served by “the old and familiar mythical conflict” (Hall 1986, 68). Or perhaps the “pervasiveness of performance” (Rehm 1992, 4) in Athenian public life made it less urgent for the theatre to be pressed into service as still another forum to debate contemporary history without the obliqueness and resonance afforded by myth. While the swift disappearance of historical drama represented a weakening of the documentary impulse in the theatre, it did not circ*mscribe theatre’s commemorative function for the Greeks. It seems likely that the theatre consistently served as a sort of mnemonic scheme for community recall, like other social rituals memorializing ideology, ethnicity, and values. But, no longer directly concerned with historical memory, theatre commenced to memorialize its own history. For example, the perdurance of choral odes recalled the theatre’s own origins in dithyramb, an animated choric performance in honor of Dionysos. Tragic playwrights not only created a rich world of allusiveness to their epic and lyric forbears, but Sophocles and Euripides also sustained the poetic memory of their art form by often evoking Aeschylus (Garner, 22). What Conte asserts in his study of Latin poets also applies to Greece: “By a continual searching of the past in retrospective explorations, and through associative and directed recuperation of this past, memory will strive energetically to uncover material that can be used for its purpose” (1986, 49). Then, too, by the fourth century BCE, old tragedies were regularly being performed at the City Dionysia; such “revivals” had been virtually unknown in the fifth century. A repertory theatrical culture has finally been created.20 Evidence of professional continuity surfaces in the form of theatrical dynasties; of Aeschylus’ two sons one became a playwright, the other an actor. In addition to Aeschylus, according to Sutton (1987), Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Diphilus, Philemon, and perhaps Menander belonged to theatrical families. As in seventeenthcentury England, when old acting families and an old repertory resurfaced after the Interregnum, fourth-century Greek theatre memorialized fifth-century tradition. Ancient Greek theatre was therefore almost by definition part of “the old oral mnemonic world of imitation, aggregative, redundant, copious, traditionalist, warmly human, participatory—a world antipathetic to the analytic, sparse, exact, abstract, visualist, immobile world of ‘ideas’ which Plato was touting” (Ong 1982, 167).21 *



Drama and the Memory of History


A FOOTNOTE ON ROME Roman theatre remembers Greek theatre the way sediment remembers climactic change or fossils remember living bones. Roman plays are less revivals of Greek ones than reminders of them. No negative value judgment of “ossification” is intended; rather, from the point of view of memory, Roman drama preserves much of Greek practice that otherwise would have been forgotten forever. What is involved here is neither recollection nor reminiscence but remenance. In the case of Roman historical drama and its role in maintaining collective memory, this residue is vestigial indeed. Bruno Gentili finds a thin thread connecting Greek and Roman historical drama through Hellenistic era practice (1974, 48). The Roman version, called fabula praetexta, was invented by Gnaeus Naevius (ca. 270–ca. 206 BCE>), who is generally acknowledged to have been the first native Roman dramatist. None of his plays survive. Interestingly, however, among the titles of Naevius we have a Clastidium, undoubtedly commemorating the victory of 222 BCE and a Romulus, undoubtedly celebrating one of Rome’s mythical founders—indicating a Greek-like interest in both recent and ancient history and setting an example for subsequent practitioners of the praetexta—Ennius, Accius, and Pacuvius (Beare 1968, 39). There is some evidence to suggest that the Clastidium, in praising one powerful ruling faction may have alienated another, ultimately leading to Naevius’ imprisonment and exile—a more severe repetition of Phrynichus’ thousand-drachma fine! (Beacham 1992, 25 Naevius’ plight became a Plautine joke in Miles Gloriosus.) Indeed, as the origins of the fabula praetexta are Carthaginian-War era, it is tempting to impute to the Roman genre a nation-building function similar to Greek historical drama. That it endured as a genre, while Greek historical drama was so short-lived, may provide some evidence for the contention that “the Romans did have the sense of historical perspective that the Greeks lacked” (Burke 1970, 141). Yet, though the Seneca-era Octavia is a fabula praetexta in the technical sense of being about Roman history, Beare (236) says it has no connection to the earlier Republican tradition and is “a purely literary and artificial treatment of recent history on the lines of Greek tragedy.” The past, even the recent past, can simply be another metaphorical landscape for imaginative production and have little to do with either memory or history. *



MEDIEVAL THEATRE AND COMMEMORATIVE CULTURE Roman spectacula, including the remnants of Greek drama and theatre it retained as a residue, did not gradually fade from memory in the course of the early Middle Ages. Rather, classical dramatic and theatrical practice was extirpated through a combination of religious censure and tribal invasion (Wickham 1987, 21). I cannot hazard whether this erasure was part of the cause or part of the effect of a medieval mentality disposed to what we would call anachronism and inured, if not antagonistic, to both historicity and historicism. Peasant and intellectual alike dwelt in a sort


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

of “omnitemporality” by which represented events of the past were routinely transferred into a contemporary setting.22 As Mary Carruthers puts it, “Few features of medieval scholarship are so distinctive as an utter indifference to the pastness of the past, to its uniqueness and its integrity ‘on its own terms,’ as we would say” (193). That Carruthers’ observation comes in the course of a learned study documenting the crucial importance of memory to medieval culture should alert us to the paradoxes of how medieval theatre told history. We can identify relatively few plays between Aeschylus and the Elizabethans that directly and factually engage contemporary history or which appear to be realitydriven in their consideration of the historical past. While this condition suggests a weakening of the documentary impulse in the theatre, the omnipresence of a “commemorative culture”23 continuous from classical times through the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, together with a prevalent mode of “memorative composition” (Carruthers 194), offers a context in which the dramatic historical representations of the Middle Ages stand out in greater clarity. What did the medieval theatre remember? First, almost despite itself, it remembered Roman theatre. One might say that ancient theatre was forgotten but not gone in the Middle Ages. Glynne Wickham (2–3) recognizes the Roman legacy of medieval performance in the use of Latin, inevitably “preserv[ing] memories of Roman life and manners”; in the availability of surviving Roman theatres and amphitheatres for staging; 24 and in the word ludus itself, retaining ideas of both recreation and play, and implying imitation. Similarly, the adaptations of Hrosvitha preserve Terence, as Roman playwrights did their Greek models. Emphasizing the strong continuity of rhetorical traditions from classical times, Jody Enders shows that the forms of rhetorical turns and declamatory practices (such as the quodlibet or procès de paradis) are continually recalled in the dramatic form of the dramas of Arnoul Greban, the Mystère du Viel Testament or the Arras Passion, so that it is not only the source of a religious tradition that is remembered in mystery plays, it is likewise the ancient and pre-Christian source of a legal tradition. Characters in the plays also employ classical mnemonic devices in the service of persuasively enacting arguments. Legal protodramas are parodistically reenacted in secular plays such as the Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin and the uproarious Farce du pect, which legislates between husband and wife the matter of who farted (Enders 1992, 162–204). From the ridiculous to the sublime, the revival of drama in the Middle Ages is absorbed with commemoration. Regarding the earliest reappearance of drama within the medieval Church, Wickham (36) puts the case succinctly: “We can therefore establish with certainty that the platea of tenth-century basilicas contained on major festive occasions special rituals that involved brief and simple re-enactment of historical events of critical importance to the Christian faith.” So, too, the mystery plays. Shorn of the evolutionary paradigm that had them “growing out” of liturgical drama, the mystery cycles nevertheless remain among the most prominent artifacts of medieval commemorative culture. Representational and yet at the same time real in their enactment of religious and community ritual, fusing “historical time” with “actual time” (i.e., contemporaneity) into “ritual time” (Wickham 39), medieveal religious plays in the course of the thirteenth century become associated with the Feast of Corpus Christi. They thus dramatize a religious belief system whose key concept was the Real

Drama and the Memory of History


Presence of Christ evoked by the Consecration in the Mass—itself a commemorative re/presentation of Christ’s Last Supper actions: “Do this in memory of me.”25 Among the variety of medieval theatrical forms, two genres draw us closer, but still not close, to the historical enactments of previous and subsequent eras. Civic pageantry, though predominately allegorical and mythologically based, sometimes had a historical dimension, as when placed in the service of constructing collective memory such as (to cite an English example) the “Tudor myth.” Ronald W. Vince concisely examines pageant theatre commemorating royal weddings, military victories, coronations, installations of Lord Mayors, and so on, noting that “such events were not only cause for celebration, they were cause for the celebrations to be recorded for posterity” (1984, 117–118). Their memorializing thus consists less in remembering or reconstructing the past than in constructing future memories. Saints’ plays range from eleventh-century liturgical dramas through sixteenth-century mystères, and from hagiographies to postbiographical plays about miracles in the name of the saint (Grantley 1984, 265–289). Some English examples have long been recognized as having “much in common with the chronicle plays of the Elizabethan era” (Wickham 98). There are Italian (the St. Ursula plays) and French models (the Mistère du Siège d’Orléans and Gringoire’s Vie de St. Louis) demonstrating historical and realistic tendencies. But Wickham (102) is surely right to remind us that the principals “were far less distinctly defined as historical characters” than in history plays of today. The memory here is less of historical figures than devotional figures already familiar from oral recitation (sermon and story), stained-glass, fresco, statuary, emblematica, tapestry, and festivals of the Church Calendar. With such qualifications in mind, we can better understand how saints’ plays were contemporarily classified,26 along with profane historical dramas (e.g., La Destruction de Troye) and mystery plays, as historical representations, squarely within the commemorative culture comprised of works “whose end is to recover, in the name of a collectivity, some being or event either anterior in time or outside of time in order to fecundate, animate, or make meaningful a moment in the present” (Vance 1978, 374). Like the architectonics of contemporary memory arts, medieval theatre was loca-lized and more involved with constructing a remembering-where than a remembering-when. *



HISTORIAN OR PLAYWRIGHT? HISTORICAL DRAMA AND THE DIVORCE FROM MEMORY In History as an Art of Memory, in addition to the two themes I have previously alluded to (the interplay of repetition and recollection and the impact of technology), Patrick Hutton elucidates two other themes relating to the history/memory binary: (1) The historicizing of collective memory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and (2) The fading of collective memory—as an impetus to rethink the history/memory problem (xx–xxiii). These latter two themes are useful as a guide in considering how theatre of the modern era remembers history.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Extending the work of Walter Ong, Hutton suggests how technology impacts upon the phased dissociation of history from memory: orality correlates with repetition and living memory; manuscript culture is concerned with resurrecting the past; print culture facilitates the reconstruction of a distant past; and electronic culture effects the deconstruction “of the forms with which images of the past are composed” (16). The crucial rift between history and memory occurred in the nineteenth century. After successfully keeping history (the emerging science relying on scholarship) and memory (relying on tradition) in equipoise, nineteenth-century historiographers understood that urbanization, industrialization, and the rising bourgeoisie also required the construction of “new” pasts, potentially putting history and memory in conflict. Much earlier, the increasing availability of printed texts for research into the past had virtually initiated the history/memory problem at the end of the Middle Ages by allowing fact to be more easily distinguished from legend and lore. Humanists became engaged philosophically and aesthetically with what William Nelson (1973) calls “the dilemma of the Renaissance storyteller,” namely how to discriminate between, and manage the construction of, two kinds of stories: factual and fictional. These two kinds of stories were long in disconnecting from each another, though by the end of the Renaissance a “sense of the past” far different from medieval omnitemporality had emerged. Peter Burke identifies the steps in the development of Renaissance historicity as antiquarianism; a notion of progress; an interest in documentation; the criticism of myths (especially as regards lives of the saints)—along with an abiding concern for formal expression, sometimes over content (as in the continued use of invented set speeches put in the mouths of historical personages). In the outcome, the writing of fiction was established as imaginative production and therefore something other than counterfeit history, and the writing of history was founded on the truth of experience or the already actualized, to the extent that this could be determined by evidence. We need to be careful, however, not to overdichotomize either the fact/fiction or the memory/history binaries. Concerning the former, Hayden White has been persuasive in holding that “prior to the French Revolution, historiography was conventionally regarded as a literary art. More specifically, it was regarded as a branch of rhetoric and its ‘fictive’ nature generally recognized” (1978, 123). From the other side, a strain of imaginative writing continued to draw (sometimes parodistically) on the conventions of the “true history” (think of Don Quixote) and culminated in the efflorescence of the historical novel and the historical drama in the nineteenth century. This last development depended upon a heightened sense of anachronism (Burke, 143) by which modern psychology and conditions, retroactively applied to the past, were purged from the historical field. Paradoxically enough, the historical and the fictive could only be recombined after each had established its own domain. Indeed, so intertwined with each other’s protocols are factual and fictional writing that it might be useful to conceive of a genre of “history-telling,” tendentious toward but not fixed in either fact or fiction, literacy or orality.27 The history/memory problem as exhibited in historical drama likewise needs to be thought of in terms of tendencies. Some historical dramatists are drawn to the commemorative, and some to the antiquarian, but the vast majority of historical plays of the sixteenth through the nineteenth century are more absorbed with

Drama and the Memory of History


myth-construction, philosophizing, and local politics. Historical dramatists generally practiced history neither as an art of memory nor as a research protocol but as a discourse strongly inflected by the dramatic conventions of their times. In the Elizabethan era history is remembered chiefly in chronicle plays whose episodic form itself recalls the medieval mysteries, thereby exemplifying Herbert Lindenberger’s suggestion that the “sources” of a historical drama include the conventions it obeys, in addition to the documentary materials on which it is based.28 The return to classical genres; the supposed resuscitation of Greek drama in late sixteenthcentury operatic form; the reminders of antique theatres in the Teatro Olimpico, the Swan (according to Johannes de Witt), or even the Globe;29 the revival of the naumachia; Serlio’s pseudo-classical scenography—all these and more suggest that the memory or pseudo-memory of form appears to have overshadowed the memory of historical content in Renaissance theatre. Practically speaking, the writers of the chronicle plays seemed disposed to alter events to suit the requisites of dramatic form, as Shakespeare did throughout the series of plays beginning (in historical time) with Richard II and ending with Richard III. The sequence of his chronicle plays leaves the impression of a dramatist tailoring Tudor history variously to the forms of tragedy (Richard II), comedy (1 Henry IV) and epic pageantry (Henry V). What Shakespeare chose to remember of English history was driven partly by the master narrative of the Tudor myth—evincing his participation in the creation of collective memory—and partly by his desire to analogize or critique contemporary Realpolitik. For Wikander (1986, 28ff.) the tensions in Shakespeare’s attitudes toward the past create a dialectic in which the audience is required to participate in the effort of interpreting the facts. Shakespeare shared the tendencies of a historian with others in the 1590s writing a subgenre dubbed the “weak king history play” (Manheim 1969, 71–80), as well as with Jacobeans such as Chapman, Jonson, Massinger, and Ford, who were experimenting in historical dramatic forms. Jonson’s Sejanus nicely demonstrates the historicizing tendency, couching a pedantic antiquarianism (e.g., in reconstructing a Roman religious ritual in 5.3) within a stern moral argument about the dangers of contemporary political ambition. He had few and sporadic followers, however: “What we witness in the history plays stretching from Sejanus to Perkin Warbeck, is first an engagement and then a rejection by dramatists of the growing discipline of history writing modeled upon Machiavelli and popularized by Bacon in his History of Henry VII” (Wikander, 83). Of the scores of historical dramas written after the reopening of the theatres during the Restoration, many were romanticized and manifestly ahistorical, while others open-handedly rewrote history either to make, or avoid, reference to contemporary politics (Tyler 1986, 80–89). John Crowne in 1680 adapted 2 and 3 Henry VI to comment on the issue of whether Charles II would be succeeded by his Catholic brother James. Almost at the same time, Nahum Tate’s adaptation of Richard II, under the title The Sicilian Usurper, was “Silenc’d on the Third Day” according to Tate, because it was suspected of satire on current royal corruption, though Tate vigorously denied such an intention (Tyler, 80–84). Indeed, Tate argues he has changed history to make Richard’s court more virtuous (a back-handed compliment to the current regime, if one pursues the logic rigorously). Colley Cibber ran into censorship problems with his adaptation of Richard III and in the 1700 edition disclaimed it as “free


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

from any bold Paralel, or ill manner’d reflection” (89). The pattern continued into the eighteenth century, as Nicholas Rowe had to alter his Jane Shore in 1714, the year of George I’s succession, because the play appeared to comment on succession issues relative to contemporary royalty. When Lewis Theobald rewrote Shakespeare’s RII in 1720, in a period when the House of Hanover had not yet established irrefutable rights to the throne, he disclaimed in the prologue any comment on contemporary politics (“The Muse presumes no Parallels to draw”)—of course inviting speculation in the very act of denial (87). Throughout this extended period, historical drama became ever more formulaic. Wikander (129) notes the absorption of historical material into domestic drama, while Lindenberger (30–53) finds history plays falling into fixed and/or familiarized formats he identifies as martyr plays (from Calderon’s The Constant Prince to Milton’s Samson Agonistes to Schiller’s Mary Stuart), tyrant plays (from Corneille’s Cinna to Voltaire’s Mahomet), and conspiracy plays (from Jonson’s Roman plays to Venice Preserved to Musset’s Lorenzaccio). *



By the end of the eighteenth century, playwrights had come a long way from remembering history, which became instead a pretext or subject matter rather than an object of contemplation or engagement. By this, I mean simply that plays set in the past tended not to be about the past, whatever other serious matters they might take up. This is not true, however, of what Lindenberger somewhat awkwardly names “ceremonial” plays and which I will here reclassify as commemorative dramas. Commemorative dramas of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries look backward to medieval dramatic forms, including civic pageantry, and forward to the documentary theatre of the twentieth century. They hew closely to and embellish national myth, commemorate historical movements or military campaigns and tend toward epic form. Lindenberger, in indicating that such plays eschew the “kind of unity which the literary mind is accustomed to seek” in favor of establishing “a communal experience with its audience” (79) by any theatrical means necessary, ends up damning the genre with faint praise. Nor does he perceive its relation to twentieth-century documentary dramas, which he has previously exiled from the precincts of dramatic literature, deploring them as dead on the page and dependent “for their effects on their ability to establish a sense of community with their audiences” (21). Lindenberger’s originary model for what I am here calling commemorative drama is Shakespeare’s Henry V. While for Lindenberger, the defining speech of the play is Henry’s soliloquy on “idol ceremony” (4.1236–1290), for me it is the exhortation at Agincourt, whose rhetorical center is a lesson in the construction of collective memory via repeated tradition, as well as a definition of what experimental psychologists will, 350 years hence, dub “flashbulb memory”: He that shall see this day, and live t’old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say, “Tomorrow is Saint Crispian”:

Drama and the Memory of History


Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say, “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.” Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he’ll remember with advantages What feats he did that day. Then shall our names ... Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered. (4.3.44–55)

Lindenberger registers the prophetic, providential, and cyclical nature of Henry V and the other dramas he uses to exemplify the genre (Die Meistersinger, Cervantes’ The Siege of Numantia, “which commemorates the collective martyrdom of an ancient Spanish town besieged and finally defeated by the Romans” [81], Wilhelm Tell, and Paul Green’s The Lost Colony) though without identifying their tendency to travel “back to the future,” that is, to remember a predestined future in the act of remembering the past. It is fascinating that Shakespeare makes a direct move of this sort by having the Chorus of Henry V refer to the Irish campaign being conducted by Essex at the time of the play’s first production (Spring–Summer 1599): Were now the general of our gracious Empress— As in good time he may—from Ireland coming, Bringing rebellion broached on his sword, How many would the peaceful city quit To welcome him! (5.0.30–34)

One can’t help but think that this clap-trap was purged from performances of the play after Essex returned in embarrassed defeat in late September 1599. The intent of commemorative dramas to forge a bond between past and future makes them very like oral epics, and formal irregularities of commemorative drama that abrade Lindenberger’s literary bias may more fruitfully be seen as traces of orality. Oral forms deliberately allow for lacunae impregnated and “enriched by an unspoken context that dwarfs the textual artifact, in which the experience is filled out—and made traditional—by what the conventionality attracts to itself from that context. . . . Its ‘how’ will involve not only the inscribed, textual and made-to-happen, but much more tellingly the immanent, extra-textual and metonymically implied” (Foley 1991, 7–8). Thus, in Henry V, with its ample use of the Chorus, its (albeit equivocal) celebration of an England united in purpose, and its metonymic evocation not only of the seven others in the double quartet of chronicle plays, but of the last two hundred years of English history, Shakespeare is very close to functioning as a rhapsode. Shakespeare’s disposition toward conflation, allegorization, analogizing, and creating fables out of his historical sources was also shared by the sources themselves—Tudor historians who, like Herodotus, were probably better known to their contemporaries in oral form than written (Woolf 1986, 159–183). Perhaps Shakespeare’s speaks for them all when he has Macbeth say (5.3.20) that time is recorded in “syllables,” a unit of the spoken word. The endurance of an oral history-telling tradition among writers of history has not, to my knowledge, been sufficiently recognized. Augustine’s Confessions, if not actually meant to be read aloud, at the least are designed to be

66 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard overheard as a monologue to God. Froissart “was above all a minstrel,” whose four chronicles “occupied the idle hours in the life at court” along with his poems, ballads, songs, and rounds.30 Vasari drew for his Lives of the Painters on “various local oral traditions, which he reproduces in extenso, word by word, sometimes in oratio recta” (Boia 1989, 274). Bossuet’s funeral orations and sermons contain historical parts. Vico occupied the chair of “elocution” at the University of Naples, where he first read aloud and only later published his early work. Voltaire “first approached history through his epic La Henriade.”31 The residue of oral performance no doubt reinforced the narrativity characteristic of historiography until the nineteenth century and also demonstrates the continued porousness of the border between performance genres and kindred reality-driven representations. Such traces of performativity, evident in a multivocal, frequently first-person orality, impart an overlay of memorializing (or sometimes pseudomemorializing) to the history-telling—no matter whether the history-telling takes written, dramatic or oral-epic form. One line of descent connects both commemorative dramas with twentiethcentury documentary theatre and oral history-tellings with the revival of narrative historiography in Robert Darnton’s Great Cat Massacre (1984), Carlo Ginzburg’s Cheese and the Worms (1976), Natalie Davis’s Return of Martin Guerre (1983), and similar works heavily reliant on transcriptions of first-person histories.32 Another line links the majestic historians of the nineteenth century with the survival of progressive historiography today. Along this line are also arrayed the majority of historical dramatists, from Schiller and Strindberg to their lesser descendants well into the twentieth century who, like their historian counterparts, frequently chose to interpret an event more remote in time to serve “the cause of taste and sensitivity to the feelings of those who have a living investment in the memory” of a more recent event (White 1987, 79). The case of Schiller is illustrative. Early in his playwriting career, Schiller exalted a romanticized notion of rebellion epitomized in The Robbers. But the reality of the French Revolution and the execution of Louis XVI compelled him to change his mind (Reed 1991, 70). The spectacle of terrifying passions gone awry, of reason divorced from sympathy and of political action fueled by rumor and ignorance challenged his political philosophy and undermined his confidence in the social role of theatre. Schiller chose to address such issues obliquely through the events of the Thirty Years War in his most celebrated historical drama, the Wallenstein Trilogy. A professor of history at the University of Jena, Schiller in the early 1790s completed an academic history of the Thirty Years War, later to be his subject in Wallenstein’s Camp, The Piccolomini, and Wallenstein’s Death (1796–1799). Scholars generally agree that the academic work, revealing a providentialism and Whiggish bias, is less successful than the plays in revealing the ironies and complexities of seventeenth-century European politics, as well as Wallenstein’s own skills as a Realpolitiker (Reed, 70–85 and Wikander, 141–149). Indeed, in constructing his main character, Schiller was departing both from his previous take on Wallenstein as a betrayer of national interests and from his previous model of the tragic hero driven by an ideal or idée fixe.

Drama and the Memory of History


Like Shakespeare, Schiller struggled with the relationship between dramatic form, contemporary politics, and the facts of history. But while in Shakespeare this struggle feels like an absorbing dramaturgical problem or an engaging intellectual issue, in Schiller the struggle is subsumed into a moral debate over the social function of theatre and the ethics of history-writing. In the Prologue to the Wallenstein trilogy, Schiller worries over the deceptions of theatre, fears that it will be “put to shame by life’s own stage” (Charles Passage translation 1960, l. 69) and ends his drama in a moral and political ambiguity edging toward irresolution. Recent commentators seem anxious to defend Schiller against the charge that he was insufficiently historical. Wikander (158–1559) contends that Schiller’s audience would have read the trilogy in light of the felicitous Peace of Westphalia (which resolved the Thirty Years War) and thus would have carried away an impression of the divergence of tragedy (as instanced in Wallenstein’s personal fate) and history. Reed (70) cautions that Schiller’s apparently reactionary retreat to aestheticism in the historical dramas he wrote after the trilogy needs to be read against the lingering— even if sublimated—and horrifying memories of the French Revolution. To a modern reader the lasting image of the Wallenstein plays is that of a greater man brought down by his inferiors—a conventional and ahistorical tragic pattern. But one should not undervalue the emotional charge that the memory of the French Revolution must have lent to the trilogy and its early audiences nor overlook Schiller’s call for his profession to grapple with its own historical moment. In raising vis-à-vis the theatre the question of “whether the business to which we are devoting the best part of our mental powers is compatible with the dignity of our spirit” (Reed 33) Schiller sounds a note of high seriousness reechoed in the later docudramas of the German tradition. The French Revolution proved to be a watershed in the course of the theatrical memory of history on European stages. A tradition of German historical drama, notably personified in Grabbe and Büchner, connects Schiller with Brecht, Piscator, and the documentary theatre of the 1960s. Though his work is constantly read in terms of his own revolutionary politics, Büchner seems to have been equally interested in writing Rankean history (Wikander, 209). Perhaps as much as onesixth of Dantons Tod (1835) was transcribed from the histories Büchner used as sources (Parham 1975). His title deliberately evokes the last play of Schiller’s trilogy, suggesting that Büchner is both responding to and refuting Schiller’s historiography: “Danton’s death, unlike Wallenstein’s, grows not so much out of his particular doings and misdoings as out of the necessary dynamics of the Revolution itself ” (Wikander, 210–212). Historical dramatists in both France and England were much later in forging such a compelling bond of mature historiography and innovative dramaturgy. Deprived of the luxuries of distance and reflection, French playwrights of the revolutionary period issued a spate of pièces de circonstance (patriotic dramas based in contemporary events) to accompany the tumultuous political developments. For a typical example, L’Ami du peuple ou La Mort de Marat was offered on 8 August 1793 by the Variétés Amusantes; Marat had been killed on July 13th (Carlson 1966, 166). At other theatres, irrespective of the nature of the bill of fare, actors stepped forward during entr’actes to report on the number executed that day on the Place


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

de la Révolution. Such exercises appear to have been motivated entirely by political expediency, for in the reaction after Robespierre’s death, the switch to anti-Jacobin scripts was almost instantaneous. The alacrity with which the pièces were turned out necessitated a heavy reliance on formula, representing the manufacture of collective memory speeded up for the coming of the Industrial Age. Although recreations of the storming of the Bastille were on London stages in the year of the historical event (Booth 1965, 93ff.; Taylor 2000), anticipating Les Mis by almost exactly two centuries, Martin Meisel (1983) makes a key point that the historicizing of the French Revolution did not occur until considerably later: “In July 1830, in France, England, and much of Europe, the French Revolution and the Empire of Napoleon became history. The promotion (or relegation) of a given segment of the past to the status of history is a psychological event, not entirely governed by the lapse of time and the succession of generations. Often an external event precipitates the change. World War II made history of World War I; and similarly the July Revolution made history of the first French Revolution and of the grand Empire” (Meisel, 201). In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Bastille plays had taken their place alongside battle reconstructions, hippodramas, nautical melodramas, and kindred spectacles regularly drawing on contemporary events, but it was not until the 1830s that a deluge of historical dramas on many subjects swept into the “legitimate” theatres of Europe (Watt 1989, 187–211). These included masterpieces such as Dantons Tod, genre pieces such as the Napoleon plays that held the French stage until late in the century (Howarth 1986, 139–161), failed attempts by literary lights such as Browning’s Strafford (1837), and star vehicles such as Bulwer-Lytton’s Richelieu (1839), which remained in the repertory of tragedians until well into the twentieth century. By the time mid-century had passed, Charles Kean’s antiquarian revivals vied for audience attention with Crimean War plays “with little regard for actual events” (Bratton 1980, 121), James White’s pseudo-historical pieces produced by Phelps and Macready in the 1850s, and the likes of Boucicault’s adapation of Delavigne’s Louis XI (Watt 1989, 187–190). In these plays, as well as in the revival of “legitimate” historical drama on the English stage in the 1870s with Tom Taylor and W. G. Wills, historicity is a liability to be avoided, as popular historical drama is instead expected to enact heroic spectacle (more often in France, where the construction of the memory of Napoleon is in full force) or picturesque domesticity (more often in England) (Meisel, 221). Taylor’s ‘Twixt Axe and Crown (1870) rehabilitates “Bloody Mary” by applying the victimization model of domestic melodrama, and Wills’s Charles I (1872), an Irving-Terry vehicle, unhistorically heroizes the King and vilifies Cromwell (Watt, 194–198). The memory in these cases is, once again, less of history than of earlier art forms. Taylor’s five-act blank verse tragedy was greeted by a reviewer as a “new piece of the old sort” (quoted in Watt, 195, emphasis Watt’s) and another reviewer exuded over Charles I: “It was as though one of Van Dyke’s portraits had stepped out of the frame and been endowed with life” (201). To the authentic sets and costumes, Taylor added the stirrings of suffragism in the strong women’s roles he created in the 1870s (he followed up with Jeanne d’Arc in 1871). Wills, who had written sympathetically of the Irish Peasant’s revolt of

Drama and the Memory of History


1848, was likewise commenting politically in evoking the Imperialist Cromwell who slaughtered the Irish at Drogheda (205–206). *



MEMORIALIZING AND THE MODERN THEATRE By the end of the nineteenth century, then, a dramatic model for recapitulating history totally different from the memory-bred classical model had been developed. The domestication of historical genres (including painting and the novel) that G. B. Shaw mocked as “little Arthur’s history” demonstrates a cultural response Martin Meisel calls “refamiliarization.” Urgently conducted by artists in the face of increasing historiographical finesse among academic historians, refamiliarization dictated that “one could be comfortable with the past and with the great, and learn from them, if it appeared, mutatis mutandis, they were much like us” (229). Though he mocked this stereotypical response to the past, Shaw was also prone to his own sort of anachronizing and in so doing set the tone for much historical drama of the twentieth century. History-driven drama in the past hundred years has had many voices: Brechtian intellectual parables; revisionist Soviet history plays patched together from manufactured memories; the perennial reappearance of costume melodrama; pageant and commemorative drama created for specific occasions and sites; the community play movement in England; operatic spectacles like Les Misérables or Miss Saigon; postmodern pastiches such as those of Edward Bond, Heiner Müller or Caryl Churchill; and, separated by a discernible divide from historical drama, the documentary theatre in all of its own variants. My restricted account of this field intends only to suggest how history and memory diverge, collide, and play out their differences therein. Paul Hernadi (1985) makes a good case that, despite such diversity, the twentieth-century history play has been dominated by the ironic stance and the tragicomic mood, achieved by embracing anachronism, openly fictionalizing history and offering us “clairvoyant figures of drama as capable of intellectually penetrating (rather than simply embodying) the historical characters whose lives are being supposedly re-presented on stage” (26–27, emphasis Hernadi’s). Hernadi’s tragicomedies of history—a genre capacious enough in his understanding to embrace among others Shaw, Claudel, Camus, Anouilh, Thornton Wilder, and Brecht—frequently eschew both historical verisimilitude and the veridical, that is, what actually happened in history, for a poeticized historical “veracity.” In effect, modern playwrights think they know better than their characters and sometimes declare so directly, as does Shaw in the preface to St. Joan—claiming his right to have his characters say “the things they would have said if they had known what they were really doing” (quoted by Hernadi, 17). Hernadi’s chapters pair playwrights in order to compare and contrast their history-telling modalities. Thus, in treating St. Joan and Anouilh’s The Lark, Hernadi first takes note of the anachronistic idiom in which each treats the subject, as when


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Shaw has the Earl of Warwick say to Bishop Cauchon: “Well, if you will burn the Protestant, I will burn the Nationalist.” Hernadi comments that in the historical time of the play “no language had words for ‘protestant’ and ‘nationalist,’” nor would Joan’s contemporaries have conceived the historical conflict as one involving “the private person’s relationship to God and the state” (17). Similarly, Anouilh’s “retrospecting consciousness” permeates The Lark, as the playwright unapologetically toys with chronology and allows his characters an occult intuition of the future. But Shaw and Anouilh deviate from the historical record for entirely different reasons. The former burns the historical Joan to prove a point of contemporary social theory, while the latter torches history to demonstrate twentieth-century psychology (24ff.). In the same vein, Hernardi couples Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth with Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade from the perspective of how each uses the conventions of player, author, and audience/spectator to write history, and contrasts Sartre’s The Devil and the Good Lord with Max Frisch’s The Great Wall of China as constructions of myths of progress and recurrence. Hernadi makes it clear that the playwrights he considers are easily as much driven by the shapes and pleasures of story-telling as by recalcitrant facts of history. But so are historians. Willingly following in the footsteps of Northrop Frye and Hayden White, Hernadi adapts the idea of master narratives shared by writers of both fiction and nonfiction. Going beyond them, Hernadi finds two kinds of desire (he writes of the “erotics of retrospection,” 32) imposing order on the historical field: “Desire for self-assertion motivates historiography as an objectifying science that aims at the knower’s mastery over the known by keeping the two as separate as the cognitive interaction between subject and object will allow. Desire for self-transcendence motivates historiography as a hermeneutic discipline that entangles—if not, indeed, constitutes—the knower and the known in ceaseless dialectic of interrelated questions and answers” (75). Hernadi employs his notion of the erotics of retrospection to good effect in discussing the pairings of Sartre/Frisch and Camus’ Caligula with Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, though in the latter case the discussion drifts uncertainly between historiography and psychoanalyzing the characters. For my purposes, Hernadi’s binary of self-assertion and self-transcendence corresponds to the tendencies toward academic, written history, and historical drama on the one hand and collective memory, oral memorializing, and documentary theatre on the other. In consideration of the former, the national dramatic traditions of England and Soviet Russia in the twentieth century afford illuminating and contrasting examples. The twentieth-century English history play shares with its Continental counterparts an almost medieval disposition to treat the past in terms of the present (Harben 1988, 6). This disposition leans toward, though is distinguishable from, postmodern presentism: a suspicion of and alienation from the past that fears and loathes what it cannot instantly recognize. The Shaw who compares St. Joan to Sylvia Pankhurst and Edith Cavell differs from Edward Bond pillorying Shakespeare for being (in Bond’s notion) on the wrong side of the class struggle. The balance between a deep and serious interest in the past and the situational present of the playwright has always been a precarious one for the writer of historical drama. The case of Gordon Daviot’s (pseudonym for Elizabeth Mackintosh, who also wrote novels as Josephine

Drama and the Memory of History


Tey) Richard of Bordeaux (1932) is particularly intriguing for the complexity of the hermeneutic conversation about the past in which it participates. Like Reginald Berkeley’s The Lady with a Lamp (on Florence Nightingale) and Clifford Bax’s The Rose without a Thorn (on Katheryn Howard), Daviot wrote Richard of Bordeaux under the influence of the nascent feminism and pacifism of the 1930s. Daviot sets out to rehabilitate Richard II, whose reputation is popularly known chiefly through Shakespeare’s Richard II. Instead of the prodigal, self-involved, and irresponsible ruler, Daviot presents Richard as a sensitive youth of great promise in conflict with militarists whose appetites for war and plunder stand in sharp contrast to Richard’s vision of peace. Daviot’s Richard is devoted to his wife Anne, who is herself represented as a cultivated, articulate, and supportive spouse. Scenes late in the play in which Richard is parted from his family proved particularly affecting to audiences (Harben 103). John Gielgud directed and performed the title role in the West End production, which ran for more than a year. Daviot relied on primary sources to counter the view, received both from Shakespeare and from academic historians closer to Daviot’s time, of an effete and dissolute Richard (Harben, 94ff.). Around the table at this hermeneutic conversation, then, were the historical Richard and his chroniclers (especially Froissart); Shakespeare’s Richard (and, at one remove, Essex, who had Shakespeare’s play performed in the streets prior to his aborted revolt); the Richard of Victorian historians to whom Daviot was responding; Daviot’s own Richard (and, at one remove, the opposing militarists and pacifists of 1933); and John Gielgud. The most vocal in this conversation was Gielgud, who in 1929 had triumphed as Shakespeare’s Richard II at the Old Vic. Daviot had seen him in the role, and upon reading the script Gielgud found traces of his portrayal in Daviot’s character (Gielgud 1976, 134). The actor was attracted to the Daviot role because it afforded him the opportunity both to revisit and to humanize his Shakespearean characterization. The arched eyebrows and penciled goatee of his Richard of Bordeaux recalled the physiognomy of his 1929 Richard II,33 but the later portrayal brought a new humor and perspective to the character—without sacrificing the pathos of Richard’s parting from his family and faithful servant Maudelyn in Daviot’s last act (Gielgud 1976, 141). Gielgud had construed to revisit his Richard II without revoking it, and the London Times reviewer of Daviot’s play was certain that Gielgud’s reprise of Shakespeare’s Richard “presides over the present stage like a beautiful ghost” (quoted by Harben, 103). In hermeneutical terms, Gielgud’s characterization first evoked and then adjusted the audience’s horizon of expectation for the historical Richard. The evocation of a theatrical memory, along with the circumvention of Victorian historiography in favor of the reclamation of the early chronicles, thus became the instrument for remembering history in a manner resonant with the politics of the 1930s. As did Daviot, other English playwrights have occasionally caused their dialogue with academic historians to be overheard. Robert Bolt allows the Common Man in A Man for All Seasons (1962) to verbalize his disagreement with “Professor Larcomb” over the cause of Wolsey’s death, and Peter Shaffer, in a Plays and Players interview (1964), acknowledged his debt to W. H. Prescott’s The Conquest of Peru (1847) in writing Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964). Harben (176) quarrels with Shaffer for not


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

consulting “subsequent authorities” on the ancient civilizations of Peru and refuses to consider Shaffer’s popular piece as a history play. But Harben misses the point, I think. Historical playwrights typically have little interest in historical or event memory, as Harben herself demonstrates again and again in her analysis of twentieth-century English history plays. Shaffer is merely more open-handed and less apologetic about his intention, as Shaw had been. “I started out with a history play,” Shaffer affirms. “I hope I have ended up with a contemporary story which uses history only as a groundwork in the expression of its theme” (22). Shaffer did not write his play to remind us of Aztec history. Rather, his excavation of Prescott’s monumental history to lay open a conflict between “two men one of whom is an atheist and the other a god” has, in effect, created a memorial to Victorian historiography, just as Daviot’s Richard of Bordeaux constituted a rejection of it. Rejection of the Victorian worldview was taken to radical extremes in Edward Bond’s Early Morning (1968) in which Queen Victoria has two sons who are Siamese twins, Florence Nightingale is Victoria’s lover, and Gladstone and Disraeli conspire against each other like a couple of thugs. This is once again dis(re)membering—a factual dismantling in the service of what Bond considers a higher “truth” about nineteenth-century capitalism. Bond’s tactic is to confront the mythologizing of the past on its own ground by constructing countermyths—a tactic shared with varying degrees of experimentation by the socialist/revisionist historiography of David Hare and Howard Brenton in such plays as Brassneck, The Churchill Play, Plenty, Romans in Britain, and others (Harben, 220ff.). In the hands of such playwrights history is less an art of memory than, like politics, the art of the possible. The manufacture and deconstruction of received historical memory thus occurs in a simulacrum of the memory scene, a variation of the emptied memory scene we have already observed. While the extirpation of “false” memories of the Empire has been the concern of British (and American—Suzan-Lori Parks—and German—Heiner Müller) historical dramatists, the creation of false “memories” has long been the notorious hallmark of their Soviet counterparts. Postrevolutionary playwrights did not just set about rewriting history to forget some things and to create memories of others that never happened; rather they shared in the construction of a completely poeticized, dramatized notion of how past connects to present. As Spencer Golub (1) put it, “by creating rather than simply retrieving memory, the Russian state and intelligentsia directed history to conform to the recurring patterns and tragic conventions of fate.” “The trouble is,” a Soviet historian complained, “you never know what’s going to happen yesterday” (161). Postrevolutionary dramaturgy was necessarily responsive not only to the changing party line on the aesthetics and historiography of historical drama, but to evolving and competing theories of how theatre could best serve Soviet society. Themes raised by Marx and Engels in their ideological critiques of Lassalle’s Franz von Sickingen dominated the making of Soviet historical drama for more than forty years: insufficient attention to class issues; too much focus on the “hero”; preachy (like Schiller) rather than indirect (like Shakespeare) (Roberts 1965, 23–24). Roberts (141ff.) shows how these issues played out in the uproar over Lunacharskii’s Cromwell (1920); in the rehabilitation of the character of Sten’ka Razin from vengeful rebel into seventeenth-century protorevolutionary; in the appropriation of Spartacus to analogize the struggle of Russian

Drama and the Memory of History


freedom with the revolt of Roman slaves; in the celebrations of the Decembrist revolt (generated by its centennial in 1925); in Alexei Tolstoi’s constant revision of scripts about Tsar Peter (Peter I) to suit changing party lines; and, under the threat of war, in the return of military leaders (Admiral Nakhimov, General Suvorov, and even Ivan the Terrible) as heroes of historical drama—and their abrupt banishment postwar, as ideology shifted back from nation to party. Mindful not only of the need for the artist to rewrite history so as to “recognize in past reality the necessary pre-history of his own times” (Roberts 1965, 15), but also to carry intact the recent past into present memory, Soviet ideologues reclaimed the mass spectacle in the service of political dogma. The Play of the Third International (1919), The Blockade of Russia, In Favor of a World Commune, Mystery of Freed Labor, and The Storming of the Winter Palace (all 1920) were commemoration, social ritual, and mass entertainment in one. Inspired by medieval mystery cycles and civic pageantry and by the theories of Romain Rolland on “people’s theatre,” Platon Kerzhentsev, P. S. Kogan, and the Proletkult urged that such spectacles be employed to dissolve the passive audience and eliminate the division between creator and spectator (Deak 1975; Roberts 1988, 27–30; Rolland 1918, 72ff.). The tidying up of unmanageable memories was part of the creative process, as in the case of The Storming of the Winter Palace, a performance “better organized than the actual storming of the Winter Palace (October, 1917), which was full of confusion” (Deak, 20). With neither memory nor history—the former criminalized and the latter outlawed (Golub 163, after Guy Debord)—able to serve as tribunal for the other, the past became completely instrumentalized in Soviet society. The theatre played a crucial role in the instrumentalization (Schudson 1995). Virtually exiled from the past, the Soviet theatre’s intellectuals escaped, retreated, or were confined to what Golub brilliantly calls the “Hamlet gulag”: “Hamlet incarnated the secret history of ‘Holy Russia,’ the moral core of memory, which rejects the illusory historical life founded on political pretendership and embraces the ghost, the spiritual presence of the past” (175). Shakespearean drama may have served a similar purpose in Weimar Germany, where Max Reinhardt almost obsessively kept presenting fantasy productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Leopold Jessner resorted to the baby-talk political symbolism of his celebrated Richard III. *



DOCUMENTARY THEATRE: RETURN OF THE RHAPSODE Cultural traffic between Germany and Russia during the Weimar years was heavy and two-way. For my purposes, it is less important to establish priority of innovation than the extent of shared theatrical practices applied to the task of remembering history. These included the popularity of the revue format to incorporate current events; the introduction of film into theatrical productions (a clear enough instance of the impact of technology on the history/memory dyad); the creation of theatrical

74 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard performances (sometimes called “animated,” “oral,” or “living” newspapers) based on the principles of news reportage in order to offer an alternative to the hegemonic press; the use of amateur actors in mass spectacles commemorating historical events; an emphasis on collective work between playwrights and social scientists to assist and “check” their work; and a disposition to work outside the established professional theatre and the conventional dramatic genres.34 In Germany, all of these practices found sophisticated and innovative expression in the work of Erwin Piscator (1893–1966). Commenting in 1926 on Piscator’s experiments, Bertolt Brecht used the term “documentary”—the same year John Grierson first applied it to Robert Flaherty’s film, Moana.35 Brecht had in mind Piscator’s revolutionary (in two senses) piece of the previous year, Trotz Alledem! (In Spite of Everything!), which may rightfully be named the Ur-text of documentary theatre. Not coincidentally, 1925 also saw the appearance of Maurice Halbwachs’ Les cadres sociaux de la mémoire in Paris, the Ur-text for the concept of collective memory, for it is in the documentary form that collective memory finds its befitting artistic expression. From its origins, documentary theatre is profoundly co(m)memorative, that is, engaged in a project to hold close and repeat the traditions of its represented community. A veteran of World War I and an early, ardent convert to Communism, Piscator had already placed himself in the service of the Proletarian Theatre movement when the German Communist Party (KPD) commissioned him and playwright Felix Gasbarra to create a political revue (Revue Rotter Rummel [1924]). Pleased with both the propaganda and artistic value of their effort, the KPD employed the same team to create a piece for the opening of the Tenth Party Congress to be held in Max Reinhardt’s cavernous Grosses Schauspielhaus. By Piscator’s account, he and Gasbarra originally hoped to mount a theatrical panorama composed of “the revolutionary highlights of the history of mankind from the Spartacus rebellion to the Russian Revolution.”36 When this proved unworkable, he settled on recounting the origins of the KPD, taking his title from the slogan of the Communist martyr, Karl Liebknecht. In so doing, Piscator invented a new kind of theatrical piece composed exclusively from documents, written, aural, and visual.37 Presented in episodic format and accompanied by music, political cartoons, moving pictures borrowed from government archives and photographic projections, In Spite of Everything! created an alternative to the capitalist newspaper accounts of the same events.38 In the process Piscator discovered the elements of what he would later call “Total Theatre,” bombarding the emotions with an arsenal of theatre technology to achieve maximal audience manipulation. For example, a film sequence of Liebknecht distributing antiwar pamphlets in 1914 “merged into a stage scene re-enacting his protest against military preparations in parliament, which was drowned out by a saberrattling speech by the Kaiser over loudspeakers. This provided a transition to the later vote granting the war credit (which Liebknecht alone opposed), accompanied by photographs of mobilization. Synchronized with the raising of hands in parliament, a film of fighting on the Western Front was projected. Then on two separated stage levels the reactions of different sections of society to the opening of hostilities was shown simultaneously in a street scene and a munitions factory” (Innes 1972, 52–53). Doubtless, Piscator marshaled these powerful kinaesthetic effects in order

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to impart “a dialectical grasp of reality which implies movement rather than stasis, relationships rather than reism” and to convey from his left-wing position that reality was “changing and changeable” (McAlpine 1990, 40–41). It is, however, the commemorative rather than the directly political vector of In Spite of Everything! that I wish to emphasize here. In this regard, Piscator’s creation functions ceremonially, as an example of the ritual performances communities or societies characteristically employ in restoring images of the past or displaying recollected knowledge of past events. Commemorative ceremonies include calendrical rituals (such as New Year’s Eve celebrations), jubilees, anniversaries, and liturgies. In Spite of Everything! is quite readily identifiable as a ceremony commemorating a founding event,39 and shares with other commemorative ceremonies a “rhetoric of re-enactment” (Connerton, 65) signaled by a ritual repetition of words with a performative function. In repeating Liebknecht’s speeches—and naming the play with his familiar slogan—the play’s artists hope to reenact with restored efficacy the meaning Liebknecht gave to those words, that is, that the Revolution will be achieved “in spite of everything.” That many of the actors of In Spite of Everything! were amateurs and participants because of their enthusiasm for the cause suggests that commemorative ceremonies in the theatre occasionally strive for a bipresence in which the performers not only represent, but become the represented, as in religious rituals. Such, in any case, would have been the hope of Piscator, who wished to turn the theatrical experience into a truly revolutionary one. “Becoming” Liebknecht or Rosa Luxemburg presented not just mimetic but political challenges, however, for the historical example of these Communist martyrs constituted a crushing (if, it was to be hoped, temporary) defeat. When it came to the reconciling of historical memory with political usefulness, German apparatchiks sided with their Russian colleagues. The critic of the party paper, Die Rote Fahne, identified political shortcomings among the theatrical innovations. The script was too documentary: “Comrade director. You are simply too true to history”—for example, on the question of when workers’ protests were initiated—“Don’t be so literal, there’s no reason to get so hung up about ‘how it was,’” he advised, though complaining that the actor playing Liebknecht was not enough of a “hurricane” and the actress playing Rosa Luxemburg was too loud (quoted in Favorini 1995, 12–13). Piscator must have sensed that the presentation of documented facts on the stage carried with it the danger of simultaneously establishing—on all sides—an ironic attitude toward them. Nonetheless, Piscator’s praxis forged a model for theatrical documentaries reflecting positivist historiography. For Piscator, documentary theatre was capable of achieving a special veracity based in its “containment” of reality—a conviction he reiterated very late in his career (1966), celebrating Peter Weiss and Heinar Kipphardt for “plays which comply with the factual quality of documents and with the strictness of exact historical analysis” (Piscator, “Post ‘Investigation,’” 353). Piscator’s work established documentaries as an innovative form of theatrical history-telling characterized by a central or exclusive reliance on actual rather than imaginary event, on dialogue, song, and/or visual materials (photographs, films, pictorial documents) “found” in the historical record or gathered by the playwright/ researcher, and by a disposition to set individual behavior in an articulated political and/or social

76 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard context. Its tendencies may be distinguished from conventional historical drama as illustrated in table 2.1. I stress these as tendencies only, because there are documentaries that sound very much like history plays (Donald Freed’s Inquest, 1970), as well as history plays that look very much like documentaries (Luis Valdez’ Zoot Suit, 1978), and because both documentaries and history plays have sometimes served as agitationpropaganda.40 Nevertheless, documentaries tend to make history an object rather than a subject; emphasize the multivociality of their sources; represent the selftranscendent side of Hernadi’s dichotomy of history-tellings; choose the veridical over the beautiful or the “true”; and employ the playwright as interpreter/editor or rhapsode (from rhaptein, to sew together, and oide, song)—that is, as compiler rather than author. Also like the rhapsode, the documentary playwright exploits metonymy to open the text to its unspoken context. Indeed, Piscator’s use of “actuals” (verbatim speeches, documentary film footage, some amateur actors) updates metonymic construction. Whether performed in a theatre or not, a history-telling functioning as a commemoration can have subtle or overt political intentions. The annual Nazi commemorations of the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 were at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Piscator or, for a more recent example, from the Delany sisters’ Having Our Say—a history-telling recently on the nonfiction bestseller list and subsequently a hit on Broadway. Yet all of these history-tellings partake of the rhetoric of reenactment, which privileges the first-person testimony over the authority of the controlling narrator/compiler. While on the one hand appearing to release the spectator from the narrative thrall of the historian, on the other such rhetoric appears to offer an unsullied, objective truth that wins for the history-teller an even higher degree of credibility and persuasion. The combination of historiographical positivism and political engagement endorsed by Piscator has continued to influence a major class of documentaries. In the United States, “Living Newspapers” flourished under the auspices of the Federal

Table 2.1

Historical Drama and Documentary Drama

Historical Drama

Documentary Drama

Integration propaganda: reshaping behavior for stable social setting

Dialectical propaganda: demystifying a complex situation











theatricalized history

historicized theatre





Drama and the Memory of History


Theatre Project, though an early example, Ethiopia (1936), was banned because federal authorities thought its verbatim use of documents and speeches might embarrass our government and its allies. In a similarly earnest vein are the subsequent efforts of historian Martin Duberman to engage segregation (In White America, 1963) or critic Eric Bentley’s Are You Now or Have You Ever Been (1972) on the early House Un-American Activities Committee hearings. In England, documentaries were produced in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s principally by the Unity Theatre and Theatre Workshop. Topics included the Czechoslovak appeasem*nt (Crisis, 1938); the development of the atom bomb (Uranium 235, 1946); The Rosenbergs (1953), based on spy-trial documents and the Rosenbergs’ correspondence; the Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution (World on Edge, 1956); and the international hit, Oh What a Lovely War (1963), about World War I. In Germany, Weiss, Kipphardt, and Rolf Hochhuth created a series of reality-driven dramas at least indirectly provoked by the televised Eichmann trial of 1961: Hochhuth’s The Deputy (1963) and Soldiers (1968); Kipphardt’s In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964); and Weiss’s The Investigation (1965) and Discourse on the Progress of the Prolonged War of Liberation in Viet Nam and the Events Leading Up to It as Illustration of the Necessity for Armed Resistance Against Oppression and on the Attempts of the United States of America to Destroy the Foundations of Revolution (1968)—all but the last related to World War II. As chief theorist of what can almost be called a movement, Weiss staked out the positivist position: “the documentary theater affirms that reality, whatever the obscurity in which it masks itself, can be explained in minute detail” (cited in Favorini 1995, 143). The memorial function of such documentaries is to re-mind, that is, to recast our historical memories with events the hegemony may have conveniently wished to forget. They form a continuum with the ceremonial or commemorative plays of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries placed in the service of national interests, though they often do so with a subversive slant. Among some documentary playwrights “a profound political skepticism which disputes the notion that ‘facts = truth’” (Paget 1990, 17) can paradoxically go hand-in-hand with a deep faith in historical positivism. Among others, the need to tell the truth about the past seems a religious obligation, resulting in the creation of what one has termed “liturgies of fact.”41 Such plays function like religious festivals and practices, which refer to, commemorate, or otherwise incorporate historical narratives, as Sukkoth alludes to Exodus, the Roman Mass commemorates the Last Supper, and Ramadam refers to the month the Koran was received by the people (Connerton, 46–48). In the theatre, the chemistry of liturgy and fact can be both complex and volatile, as the following three examples demonstrate. Peter Weiss’s The Investigation (1965) is derived from the Frankfurt war crime trials that Weiss himself attended in 1964. The relationship of The Investigation to its sources is controversial enough to have evoked outraged responses from German nationalists and Jews alike, ranging from accusations that the play was nothing but a plagiarism of Bernd Naumann’s newspaper reports of the trials to the charge that Weiss had grossly distorted the “truth” about Auschwitz.42 The extremity and superficiality of the reactions may be attributed to the resentment among Germans at having to confront the Holocaust “once again” and, among Jews, to Weiss’s provocative

78 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard contention that the roles of victim and victimizer might easily have been exchanged. Finally, and perhaps most controversially, Weiss’s omission of the word “Jew” from the text has been deemed “cruel and purposeful” and evidence of his “exploitation of atrocity” on behalf of his political agenda.43 Although Erika Salloch’s (1972) meticulous comparison of the text with its sources will not resolve the larger issues, it nevertheless helps us to evaluate a play that is not only written from documents but itself strives to be one, as Parham (231) put it. Weiss has compressed the testimony of hundreds of witnesses to nine nameless individuals. Tellingly, for example, he has silently incorporated some testimony of Gerstein, one the protagonists of Hochhuth’s The Deputy, into the speeches of one of the witnesses—thereby resisting the aesthetics of individualism informing Hochhuth’s text. He has reduced the number of defendants from twenty-two to eighteen named individuals. In allocating speeches to the witnesses, he has sometimes split a historical witness into two stage figures or combined the statements of two different individuals into a single stage speech. “The Song of Lili Tofler,” for example, incorporates stories of at least two different women. Weiss regularly makes minor, subtle changes in language for poetic effect or to change tonality slightly or to emphasize the machinelike nature of the camp. Crucially, although the well-documented involvement of German industry with the camps is a leitmotiv of the text and its sources, the assertion that the camps were the “logical” outcome of capitalism is in the form of words put in the mouth of Witness Three by the playwright and not found in the trial transcripts nor other sources (Salloch, 103). Whether this assertion is “true” or not, Salloch (106) appears to be justified in suggesting that at this point the “witness” has become the supporter of a theory whose praxis is not bodied forth in the drama. In failing to identify this insertion, Weiss may rightfully be accused of appropriating for his own purposes the veridicality attaching to the remembered testimony of the witnesses, for the implicit assumption of Weiss’s documentary project is the positivist one that the path of memory leads to verified history. Weiss’s open declaration (Vegesack 1966, 78) in June 1965 of his Marxist-Leninist sympathies caused much critical reaction to the October 19 premiere to focus on whether Weiss had merely created a piece of Communist propaganda. The unprecedented simultaneous openings of The Investigation at fifteen theatres in East and West Germany and in a reading at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London evidently served to increase the embarrassment of most critics at having to deal with it. An equally unfruitful theme running through the criticism questioned whether Weiss had written a play at all; in following the playwright’s instruction to eschew theatricalization and any attempt to represent realistically either the courtroom or the camp, Piscator’s Berlin production probably exacerbated the querulousness of the critics (Parham, 246ff.). Receiving almost no attention was the feature of the play that, leavening the materialist mass of its dread documentation, radiates a numinous energy: that is, Weiss’s evocation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.44 While working on the play, Weiss noted to himself that there were three courses of action transpiring at the trial: one in Auschwitz, one in Frankfurt, and one inside a man (Weiss) who happened to be in Frankfurt (Salloch, 90). If the Auschwitz action is registered in the density of the documentation in The Investigation and the Frankfurt action in its propagandistic thrust, the inner action is Weiss’s engagement

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with Dante. Salloch and Cohen (1993) have insightfully pursued Dantesque themes in Weiss and, in particular, structural parallels between the Divine Comedy and The Investigation, subtitled an “oratorio” and divided into “cantos.” Neither, however, quite makes the point I wish to emphasize here, namely that the intertextual presence of Dante threatens to deconstruct the Marxist model Weiss simultaneously labors to construct. I cannot agree with Salloch (107) that Weiss’s oratorio is wholly of this earth and antimetaphysical, though perhaps that was Weiss’s intent. Weiss sets the Divine Comedy off against Auschwitz as spiritual and material, utopia and dystopia, liturgy and Black Mass. His tactic may have been to critique metaphor by juxtaposition with factuality and departure from metaphor. It would thus be a mistake to conclude that the adduction of Dante aestheticizes Auschwitz and makes it stand vaguely for man’s inhumanity to man; rather Dante and Marx both “accompany” Weiss through Auschwitz, the vision of each threatening to dissolve that of the other. Ultimately, however, Weiss has made Auschwitz “My Place,” as he entitled an essay about his visit to the camp (Salloch, 73ff.). The Investigation is not a metaphor of anything, but an instance of a spiritual, political, and legal discourse, a metonym of a process of interrogation, denial, proof, innocence, and guilt that Weiss’s life project kept under constant scrutiny. The Investigation begins in medias res and ends without a verdict. Like the best documentaries, it throbs with a sense of discovery, of searching for and attempting to fix meaning, and of the elusiveness of meaning and truth: a sense of journey rather than of arrival. Other theatrical liturgies have functioned more overtly and less ambiguously as commemorative ceremonies to awaken religious fervor and simulate ritual in the cause of political action. Fr. Dan Berrigan’s Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1971) recounts his resistance and that of his compatriots against the Vietnam War resulting in their conviction for destroying government property. 45 The script intersperses verbatim trial transcript with confessional, poetry, and event reconstruction (the burning of draft records with napalm). While the play is primarily a commemoration of the Berrigans’ trial concluded scarcely a year before the premiere of the play, it also commemorates the trial figuring centrally in Christian belief and practice: Christ’s conviction prior to crucifixion. Not only does Berrigan’s drama continually call forth Scripture, he also divides the action of the play into a sequence of “Days” (“The Day of the Facts of the Case,” “The Day of the Nine Defendants”), a device that creates a sacred time alongside the profane time of the trial and, more specifically, lends to the chronology of the play the tense and compressed time scheme of Holy Week. When in response to the verdict near the end of the play, a member of the onstage audience bursts out “Members of the jury, you have just found Jesus Christ guilty” (265), the identification of the Berrigan trial as a reenactment of Christ’s becomes explicit. The New Testament imperative embraced by medieval dramatists to “Do this in memory of me” is implicitly the epigraph of Berrigan’s work, as well. Echoes of medieval mysteries are also to be heard in the documentaries produced by the controversial Sergei Kurginian at his Moscow Theatre Studio “On the Boards”—most notably the provocative Compensation: A Liturgy of Fact (1987), sourced in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.46 Scientist, political theorist, self-styled mystic, and director of avant-garde theatre, Kurginian brings renewed meaning to

80 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard the hackneyed phrase “uniquely qualified.” His scientific background is in theoretical physics. His politics are reactionary, allied with “post-Marxist Communism.” His mysticism is Christian, political, and apocalyptic. He believes that Communism expropriated the cult of Christianity, while linking it to a new creed and code, and long predicted the collapse of a barren state ideology: “When you put a salami on the altar, it’s funny.”47 His response, however, is not to reject opposing dogmas but to attempt to reconcile them, asserting that for him the understanding of “Red” and “Orthodox” are close to one another. His theatre work most resembles that of the early Jerzy Grotowski: cultish, based in experimental acting techniques, shorn to the essentials, laboratory-like. Linking the theatre to an older Russian tradition and placing it in antithesis to “Soviet” theatre, Kurginian’s wife (and actress in the company) Masha identifies the work of “On the Boards” as “mystery plays.” Stenographic Report, a subsequent documentary sourced in a contraband transcript of the fifteenth Party Congress in 1926 (in which Stalin was pitted against Trotsky), is termed by her a “political mysteria”—a phrase that may also be used to describe Compensation. In the Kurginians’ view, Chernobyl was not just a “technical” disaster, but a catastrophe with religious meaning. In Ukrainian the word “Chernobyl” connotes “stars falling from the sky” and the Kurginians give this a biblical resonance, connecting it with “Anna Bogaslova,” a reputed disciple of Christ figuring in Russian Apocalyptica. In Compensation this religious dimension takes form in liturgical music, vestment-like costuming, a doll representing an angel and an altar-table setting. The cast comprises a Psychologist narrator, who interviews Chernobyl survivors, as well as an ambiguous and interrogatory Voice on the Radio. The text of the play foregrounds the sacrificial actions of the “liquidators” who gave their lives in attempting to control the damage to the Chernobyl reactor. But this “mysteria” is also political, an interrogation of a historical event so as to make the play’s “investigation” of it part of the event itself. In this, as well as in its religiosity, it recalls Weiss and Berrigan. Like The Investigation, Compensation alludes to Dante (quoted in the first lines of the Psychologist), and its “episodes” correspond to Weiss’s evocation of “cantos” and Berrigan’s use of “Days.” Also, as in Weiss, Kurginian’s text seems to be pulled between Marxist and religious orthodoxies, between immanence and transcendence. But, going beyond Weiss, as a believer (like Berrigan) Kurginian insists on the status of his work as a religious act. Coming twenty-five and thirty years after Berrigan and Weiss, however, Kurginian is much more saturated, irradiated, with the mutabilities and disjunctions of postmodernism. His characters are unstable, appearing to change their nature without the mediation of events in the “plot.” The Psychologist-narrator transforms from a noncommittal observer, repeatedly responding “I don’t know,” to sympathetic identification with the liquidators. The Voice on the Radio initially suggests a do-nothing bureaucracy: Moscow apartments used to come with a radio in the wall broadcasting the official station, which could not be turned off. The Voice is heard to be slurping tea as the recitation of horror and sacrifice proceeds. But, on the other hand, the Voice is identified with the creator of the theatre piece, to whom the Psychologist came with his files of Chernobyl’tsy. And in the final episode the Voice participates in a reminiscence of a subversive film, his persona almost blending with the Psychologist

Drama and the Memory of History


and First Liquidator. The Liquidators themselves are simultaneously concelebrants in a liturgy, living survivors of Chernobyl, and the ghosts of the dead heroes. Grotowski’s title for his theatre’s encounter with human devastation well suits Kurginian’s: Compensation is an “Apocalypsis cum figuris.” Though its documentary nature grounds it more in the specificities of this world—a hell in which the populace wait in line for irradiated mayonnaise—the power of its religious symbolism is in danger of eroding historicity. Compensation threatens to dismantle its own documentary mechanism and is, like Kurginian’s other work, “a drama of disembodiment” (Anninskii) or, in religious terms, a via negativa. Here the politics of representation, in which the actors hope to effect solidarity, dissolve into the mysticism of representation: “Do this in memory of me.” The irridescent discs everywhere on the set of Compensation are simultaneously reactor components and angelic haloes— perhaps also the Host itself. If, like Rauschenberg’s notorious treatment of De Kooning’s drawing, Compensation is documentary “erased,” it is also documentary transubstantiated. *



Relatively few contemporary documentaries are consecrated to remembering in the liturgical mode of The Investigation, Catonsville Nine, and Compensation. But another class of documentaries remembers history in a manner even more directly reminiscent of the rhapsode. In these pieces music and song play so prominent a role as to lend to them the feeling of an extended ballad, recording and at the same time forging the master narratives of a community. Although the musical documentary has enjoyed popularity in England, Canada, and the United States since the early 1960s, American audiences are probably most familiar with the form via Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek’s Quilters (1982), which is sourced in The Quilters: Women and Domestic Art by Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Allen, among other nonfiction works on quilting. Quilters originated in Newman’s development of monologues about quilting for an acting audition at the Denver Center Theatre. Damashek became involved in the process before the material began to take shape as a play, contributing music and lyrics based in traditional folk songs and old poems about quilting, and devising a structure for the material based on the idea of quilting “blocks”—each unit punctuated with a song. The action of the play, culminating in a striking coup de théâtre at the end, is the crafting of a “Legacy,” that is, a quilt celebrating the gifts received from one’s past or ancestry. More specifically, Newman and Damashek set out to record the role played by women on the American frontier as an example of the “herstory” forgotten by the hegemonic culture. As Damashek put it, “We knew basically it was a right-of-passage thing we were going for; we knew basically it was the alternative point of view to John Ford’s story, ‘Women, get back in the wagon’” (quoted in Favorini 1995, 294). In the play, quilting is woman’s way of making: collective, recreative, fecund. Of course, one may “read” this metaphorically (“a woman’s life is a quilt”), but the construction of the play, its own patchwork quality, brings a metonym to the fore: quilting as an act of remembering. Memory is both the form and content of

82 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard the play, which gives the impression of being crafted from the fabric of memory. Not a “memory play” like Glass Menagerie or Dancing at Lughnasa, in which the past and present are filtered through an individual psychology, Quilters is instead a virtual “memory theatre.” While in medieval and Renaissance models the mnemonics are attached to architectural features, in Quilters they adhere to scraps of material that, (en)gendered female, might otherwise be discarded or lost by writers of history. That the play is itself stitched together from women’s oral histories makes for a particularly satisfying coalescence of process and product, fabric and fabricator, as the preservation of memory is twice enacted—by characters and playwrights. Not incidentally, it makes the play’s feminism feel part of its texture, like shot silk. The imperative of giving voice to the voiceless, of reclaiming for history the forgotten past of an unheeded community, is strong in the musical documentary tradition. In this regard, labor history has been a rich source of material, from the lives of Canadian farmworkers to Pittsburgh steelworkers and Staffordshire railroaders. The enactment of making or crafting that so animates Quilters in performance also lies at the heart of an extended series of documentaries produced by Peter Cheeseman at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent48 since the early 1960s. Cheeseman’s work typifies a species of site- or community-specific documentaries much more common in the regional theatre of the United Kingdom than in the United States. While Americans have produced vast reserves of regional drama—from the earliest “Yankee” efforts to the ubiquitous “historical” pageants involving fictionalized incident and dialogue and commercially produced outdoors for a largely tourist audience—documentary dramas in the more restricted sense employed here have been responsive to events rather than communities.49 The documentary plays of John Arden and Margareta D’Arcy, John McGrath and Theatre 7:84 (notably The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil [1973]) and Peter Cheeseman are often driven by political commitment and contemporary event, but they nevertheless retain a provincialism in the best sense, being plainspoken and rich in regional history. Among these, Cheeseman’s work stands out for its radical historiography and durability. Cheeseman saw Joan Littlewood’s legendary production of Oh What a Lovely War in 1964. Inspired, he immediately set to work on a musical documentary of his own entitled The Jolly Potters (1964), which told the story of the pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent and the “five towns,” an area noted for its exquisite Royal Doulton, Wedgwood, and Spode china. Its initial success generated yearly docudramas at the Victoria dealing with such topics as the history of Staffordshire during the Civil War (The Staffordshire Rebels [1965]), the history of the local rail line (The Knotty [1966]), the federation of the six towns (Six Into One [1968]), the life of Hugh Bourne, the founder of Primitive Methodism (The Burning Mountain [1970]), down to the more recent Nice Girls (1993), which tells the story of three women who occupied a coal mine in the region to oppose its intended shutdown. The distinct character of the Stoke documentaries derives not only from their highly specific and localized subject matter, but also from their creation at the hands of a group rather than a single author and the self-imposed rule that “The material used on stage must be primary source material. . . . If there is no primary source material available on a particular topic, no

Drama and the Memory of History


scene can be made about it” (Cheeseman 1970, xiv). Typically, the primary sources of the Stoke documentaries include both archival material and oral histories recorded from local individuals with special knowledge of dramatized events. Like ancient rhapsodes, Cheeseman is concerned with creating an audience of listeners: One of the things wrong with our society is that too few people have a sense of history. We have lost in our society the sort of natural structure whereby old men pass down knowledge to the young in a community. . . . In this sort of atmosphere it seems to me that our obligation is to show people . . . that they [do] not stand alone in the present but are part of a historical perspective.50

Conceiving of his work as a channel or conduit from the past, Cheeseman goes so far as to maintain that “You can’t write a documentary—it’s a contradiction in terms. You can only edit documentary material” (ibid.). Though refusing to accept authorial credit for the plays created under his leadership and leery of the encroachment of ideology, Cheeseman does not deny that the inevitable arrangement, editing, and abridgement involve subjectivity and personal judgment. But he does intend that the compositional pains taken by his company inoculate his productions against political narrow-mindedness and naiveté. The rule of primary source materials, he asserts, “ensures that a multiplicity of voices are heard” (ibid., xiv). The collective creation “tends to preserve the contradiction of viewpoint inherent in every historical event” (ibid., xiv–xv). In historical writing, observes the French historiographer Michel de Certeau, the plurality of original sources is diminished to the singularity of the historical discourse because the citations do “not assume the form of a dialogue or a collage” (1980, 94). Cheeseman, however, does his utmost to preserve the plurality, and the Victoria documentaries show the marks of accrual and encrustation—again like the work of the rhapsode. Indeed, it is difficult to say where Cheeseman is drawing on the collective memory of the people of Staffordshire and where he is adding to it. Music and song play a key and unique role in the Stoke documentaries. Sometimes the shape and character of the developing script is strongly influenced by the presence of musically talented cast members, as was the case with Ben Kingsley and The Staffordshire Rebels or Jeff Parton (a local folk singer) and two actresses, Gillian Brown and Anne Raitt, and The Knotty (xii–xiii). Parton lent a particularly balladic feel to The Knotty, which jostles along from its opening song like the old rolling stock of the North Staffordshire Railway: JEFF (UNACCOMPANIED): There’s a story I will tell you, if you’ll listen to my song, I hope that it will please you, and it will not keep you long. I’ll tell you how the railway through the Potteries was planned, How the N. S. R. built and changed the face of the land. (1)

84 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard The Knotty encompasses more than 150 years of railroad history, reckoning the profits and losses to the Staffordshire economy and environment along the way. The songs often supply narrative links. Cheeseman’s method permits a departure from primary source materials in the invention of song lyrics, on the grounds that songs stand apart from the action, though traditional melodies or new ones composed in traditional musical language are preferentially employed. The script is politically aware without ever being doctrinaire—perhaps owing to its collective creation— and keeps its own seriousness in perspective, as in an early sequence in which the conventions of nineteenth-century melodrama are used to put the “villainy” of land-grabbers in quotes. Even when Cheeseman commits his theatre to political issues still developing as he was chronicling them, the Stoke documentaries are “far from pious exercise[s] in raising radical consciousnesses and reactionary hackles,” as Benedict Nightingale wrote of Nice Girls (1993), which dramatizes the occupation of a colliery by three miners’ wives. Nice Girls reached the New Victoria stage fewer than six months after the events it documents, and Fight for Shelton Bar (1974), which opposed the shutdown of a local steel mill, was so current that the script was constantly altered in the course of its run to accommodate the most recent developments in the negotiations. But as the originating events recede in time, it is not so much the memory of the “fight” that endures (at least for the observer from beyond the community), but the memory of something broader and deeper. It would be accurate to say that although the topics of Cheeseman’s documentaries change they share a single action: the making of the Midlands. Thus, while the railroad in The Knotty may indeed stand metaphorically for the road men travel, its uniqueness is as a metonym for the making of Stoke. By the same token, both the steel-making process and the negotiating process documented in Fight for Shelton Bar, like the play-“wrighting” process that documents them, are less illustrations than instances of the craft that gives the region its character. Collectively, the Stoke documentaries take on a sedimentary nature. They enact a living archeology of the region, uncovering more and more of the past vertically (i.e., back in time) and horizontally (i.e., synchronically across the diverse human activities the land has sustained). And the spectacle of an audience of listeners, manifestly participating in commemoration, encircling the actors in the Victoria’s theatre-inthe-round, and present at a poesis both collectively and anonymously created, itself recalls the ancient image of the rhapsode. On such occasions, it seems starkly clear that historical memory, expropriated from the rhapsode by the writer, is here restored to its oral source. The full circle I have drawn from Greek rhapsode to Midlands balladeer is not meant to circ*mscribe the less tidy contours of the entire history/memory divide. I have suggested in this chapter that dramatic representations of the “memory of history” track intellectual formations predominant elsewhere in contemporary cultures. On the one hand, I accept the view of Hutton and Nora that for many centuries history and memory were unproblematically joined, as the work of the historian was considered an extension of that of the memorialist. Playwrights from Aeschylus to Shakespeare reflect such a circ*mstance. On the other hand, historical drama unproblematically dropped memory from its agenda, turning itself to contemporary politics, anachronism, and irony, as reflected in drama from Nahum Tate to Edward Bond.

Drama and the Memory of History


The latter half of the twentieth century, however, brings a set of conditions that puts history and memory on a collision course. Widespread trauma in response to constant conflict, the lingering effects of colonialism and the rise of identity politics, among other factors, set the stage for an encounter between history and memory that yields some of the century’s most compelling drama—the matter taken up in my final chapter.

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3. Memory Plays before the “Memory Play” Talk about memory has become the language through which we address some of our most pressing concerns. This is because in modernity memory is the key to personal and collective identity. Michael S. Roth, The Ironist’s Cage: Memory, Trauma, and the Construction of History In my own case the earliest childhood memories are . . . regular scenes worked out in plastic form, comparable only to representations on the stage. Sigmund Freud, “Childhood Memories and Screen Memories” Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences. Freud and Breuer, Studies on Hysteria


s Greek protagonists, whether in tragedy or comedy, are strong-willed problem-solvers; as Elizabethan heroes are essentially explorers of every social and psychological corner, even as their Renaissance counterparts searched the globe; as the contestants of French classical theatre are conflicted between duty and desire; as dramatic characters from the Romantic age are isolated above, below, or outside society—modernist dramatis personae are natural rememberers. Theatre of the modern era is theatre of memory. What a standard textbook history of modern theatre terms a “century of innovation” is also a century of memoration, in which memory becomes a persistent and intrusive subject of the drama, as well as an object whose contours are shaped by the many arts of theatre. Though the differential “isms” constituent of modernism and postmodernism have been endlessly anatomized, the perdurance of memory on this changing scene has gone largely unnoticed, perhaps because modernism is so commonly considered as a break with the past—an estimate currently undergoing reconsideration. Coincidental with the rise and maturity of psychology as a modern life science, dramatists brought memory in a major role to the field of play; aptly enough, at just about the same time, modern thinkers about memory discovered the theatrical metaphor as explanatory model. The concept of a “scene” that frames and/or enables a system of cognition encompassing both perception and memory was as indispensable to Freud at the beginning of modernism as it is today. To cite two prominent examples, Bernard Baars’s “theater model” for consciousness and Gerald Edelman’s assertion that in cognition “the world can be correlated and bound into a scene” (1992, 118) carry over Freud’s metaphor from psychology to cognitive science. In each case, the implication is that the mind frames, organizes, and highlights self and nonself experience as the playwright constructs the

88 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard unit of action. But whether the seeker of the source of consciousness is a philosopher, a psychologist, or a playwright, the modernist path toward understanding self and subjectivity goes through the forest of memory. Modernist memographers, though disparate in their approaches, are united by their goal of attempting to reckon the ongoing influx of the past into the present and to determine the way in which, as evolved, psychological and sociocultural beings, we are utterly past-inflected. The sciences of memory, then, are a feature of modernism, and Ian Hacking is correct in asserting that the “systematic attempt to uncover facts about memory” begins “only late in the nineteenth century” (1995, 203, emphasis mine). Hacking goes on to call these “surrogate sciences of the soul” and a way to “control the one aspect of human beings that had hitherto been outside science” (209). Freud’s development of psychoanalysis as prolonged anamnesis; Bergson’s success in freeing memory from pure mentalism, in grounding memory in matter and registering how “the past survives as a bodily habit” (86); Stanislavsky’s delivery of the tool of emotional memory into the hands of actors; T. S. Eliot’s insistence that the poet must live “not merely [in] the past, but the present moment of the past” (1960, 59) and that “the historical sense involves a perception not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence” (49); Halbwachs’ insight that “We preserve memories of each epoch in our lives, and these are continually reproduced; through them, as by a continual relationship, a sense of our identity is perpetuated” (1992, 47); F. C. Bartlett’s comprehension of memory as an evolutionary adaptation to the challenge of dealing with absent objects experienced in the past, and his recognition of the “mark” of remembering as when an agent “acts as if it were being predominately determined by some distant event in its history, using this directly to help it solve some immediate problem” (297)—such propositions as these originate from no single intellectual viewpoint, however fortuitously they may all feed a mainstream of thought that thematizes memory in discourses of the self, the mind, and the lived world. The diverse disciplinary passages negotiated by memographers are distinguished by landmark publications1 in many fields. As the field of psychology itself divided, both the experimental and clinical wings could lay claim to memory. On the clinical side, Théodule Ribot’s Les Maladies de la Mémoire (1881) and Pierre Janet’s L’Automotisme psychologique (1889) and The Mental State of Hystericals (1894, English tr. 1901) entail elaborate description and classification of amnesias, connecting memory loss or forgetfulness with neurotic symptoms. Breuer and Freud’s Studies on Hysteria (1895, English tr. 1909) builds on Janet and relates memory to affect and repression, while Freud’s “Childhood Memories and Screen Memories” (1907; English tr. 1914 in Psychopathology of Everyday Life) and “Remembering, Repeating and Working Through” (1914; English tr. 1924) taxonomize true and false recollections. Jung’s “La structure de l’inconscient” (1916; revised and published in English as The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology [1928]), creates a new blend of clinical psychology and cultural anthropology, which posits archetypes as a species of genetically shared memories. On the experimental side, William James, The Principles of Psychology (1890) undertakes an almost phenomenological analysis of the act of remembering and binds memory to physiology. More theoretically, the bodily basis of memory

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


is explored in Bergson’s Matter and Memory (1896; English tr. 1911) and Richard Semon’s The Mneme (1904; English tr. 1921), which theorizes the “engram” as the brain’s record for a remembered event. Bridging psychology and sociology, Maurice Halbwachs’ The Social Frameworks of Memory (1925; English tr. 1992) and The Collective Memory (posthumous, unfinished, 1950; English tr. 1950) emphasized the impact of social pressure on the implantation of memories. F. C. Bartlett took stock of both Halbwachs and Jung to test whether their hypotheses were compatible with experimental protocols in Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (1932), which underpins revolutionary ideas on memory systems with an experimental protocol and shifts focus from memory trace to memory process. The pioneering developmental psychologist Jean Piaget’s The Language and Thought of the Child (1923; English tr. 1926), Judgment and Reasoning of the Child (1924; English tr. 1928), The Child’s Conception of the World (1926; English tr. 1929), and Memory and Intelligence (1973) furthered the idea that through memory “there is a continuous reciprocity—the mind taking its shape from interaction with the outer world, with which it carries on perpetual commerce” (Murphy and Kovach, 412). A. R. Luria’s Mind of a Mnemonist (1968, based on studies begun in the 1920s) attempts to link brain function and personality via the examination of the case of a prodigious hypermnemonist. Distant from psychology, and deploying a range of concepts and practices relevant to how writers remember, T. S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in Sacred Wood (1920) and, of course, Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–1927; English tr. commencing 1922) compel a rethinking of the relationship of the creative act to the literary past. Such manifold approaches derive from the nature of memory as a multifold phenomenon whose complexity has been fully recognized only in the twentieth century. To the extent that the range of discipline and methodology represented in the books cited confine memory to the system of mentation, however, they may diminish a full appreciation of its ubiquity in the material world—in the body, in the earth, in matter itself. Indeed, much work on memory from the 1880s to the 1920s labors to overcome the traditional dualism whose eventual attrition allows modern psychology to develop. Though neither was a psychologist, Henri Bergson and Richard Semon both addressed the materialization of memory in theoretical works that continue to resonate in memory studies a century after their publication. I adduce them here to demonstrate how far the terrain of memory studies stretched beyond the experiments of Ebbinghaus, their older contemporary. Of the two, Bergson was far more influential in his own time. In Matter and Memory, Bergson uses memory to bridge the dichotomy of materialism and spirituality, of realism and idealism—though he admits that in so doing he only reinforces such dualisms (xi). Seeing the body as a “centre of real action” (21), and a location where the past may be condensed into motor habits or where “the past survives as a bodily habit” (86), he at the same time attempts to prove memory’s independence from matter (73) by noting that it traffics in absent objects—though conditioned by a cerebral, hence bodily, activity (119ff.). The former kind of memory is a species of habit; the latter is “pure” or “true” memory that can yield conscious recall (195–211). He sees memory as progressive, that is, proceeding forward to the actualization of perception, not regressive, that is,


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

taking us back to the past (239). Bergson’s importance is that he frees memory from pure mentalism; relates perception and memory so closely as to forecast the late twentieth-century conception of the present as remembered—because recognizable only through experience—and in rejecting a simplistic associationism for a more complex representation of memory “planes,” “tones,” or “systemizations” (see, e.g., 217–221). Nalbantian rightfully traces Bergson’s organicist ideas on memory to an earlier contemporary, Théodule Ribot, who in 1881 wrote: “La mémoire est, par essence, un fait biologique” (Nalbantian, 6, quoting Ribot’s Les Maladies de la mémoire). To bridge the gap between memory as a biological phenomenon and pure memory “truly moving in the past” (195), Bergson has recourse to the intermediate concept of the image, which is “more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing” (xi, emphasis Bergson’s). As Lawlor and Moulard (2004) put it, for Bergson “In perception . . . the image of a material thing becomes a representation. A representation is always in the image virtually.” Richard Semon, whose ideas also reflect a concern with the way in which memory is materialized in the body, likewise needs a concept of this sort to underpin the “engram,” the memory trace effecting a change in the nervous system. As Daniel Schacter (1996, 57) and others have observed, Semon’s Die Mneme was largely ignored, partly because he murkily tried to connect memory with heredity and reproduction as ways of preserving “the effects of experience across generations” and partly because his emphasis on the recall or retrieval phase of memory was uninteresting to contemporary psychologists. While it is unlikely that Semon’s obscure work was directly influential, the dramatic exploration of the circ*mstances of recall was to become extremely interesting to playwrights and novelists. Pursuing memory beyond mind, and beyond the individual body, Maurice Halbwachs by the 1920s develops the idea that collective memory may be located in a “body” of people, a society. His work will be discussed later in this chapter. Extending the concept still further, Edward Casey and Paul Connerton toward the end of the century describe memory of place and activities of commemoration as examples of human memory outside the body. Casey provocatively posits memory even beyond the human sphere, in the things that belong to the world, as in the way geological strata remember previous eons: “We can only conclude that memory is co-extensive with the world. ‘Everything,’ as Piaget says [in Memory and Intelligence], ‘participates in memory.’ Nothing is not memorial in some manner; everything belongs to some matrix of memory, even if it is a matrix which is remote from human concerns and interests” (311). Such flights of philosophy, it turns out, are not at all remote from how playwrights investigate the autonomy of memory toward the end of the modern era. The idea of memory as it developed in the twentieth century is unusual, though not unique, in being studied formally in the hard sciences, social sciences, and humanities, as well as being a pervasive theme in all of the arts. Because “we do not only recognize, remember, forget, recall, memorize, and relive, but we also recount, commemorate, reminisce, remind, and testify” (Campbell 2003, 51), the universality and diversity of memory make it challenging to anatomize the field of memory studies or to discover how it is ordered across disciplines. In what follows, I will identify three subthemes (and a counterpoint) I have found to be of use in understanding

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


how twentieth-century (or thereabouts) drama constructs memory—themes that playwrights share with memographers in other intellectual domains. Though the themes pervade the memory drama of the entire century, their original formulation is driven by modernism. These themes are memory and the self, memory and the world, and memory and the mind.

MEMORY AND THE SELF This subtheme registers the notion that memory is crucially constitutive of the self conceived as consistent over time. Memory comes to be a litmus test registering transformations of psychological thinking about the self, and memory plays accordingly may be distinguished as Freudian, Jungian, Jamesian, and so on. In the drama as in psychoanalysis, tellings (narratives) figure prominently in memorial self-construction, though the recognition of memory’s autonomy eventually encourages a denarrativizing, deconstructing tendency. The binding together of memorial hermeneutics (the interpretation of mnemic signs and memory-symbols) and therapeutics in the dialectic of remembering and forgetting is a theme shared by Freud, Ibsen, and Strindberg at the very start of the period. But the question of whether psychoanalytic anamnesis recovers a real occurrence is endlessly debated. That the self is established via introjection of historical encounters with other individuals (especially parents), and is therefore intersubjective, becomes a familiar motif. Fathers haunted sons in The Persians and Hamlet, but in twentieth-century drama they do so with far greater frequency. At the same time, toward the end of the modernist period, we witness the liberation of memory from psychology, as memory can be conceived as not exclusively sourced in a subject, though nonetheless impinging upon the self.

MEMORY AND THE WORLD While memory is frequently self-referential, it is not always or completely so. As creatures of evolution, our faculty of memory is phylogenetically determined and a record of adaptation to circ*mstance and ecological conditions—a proposition eventually and explicitly taken up by Theatre de Complicite’s Mnemonic. Our bodies remember where they have been, whether the place remembered is the gym, the beach, or the Alps. The things of the world are memorable, and when we remember we do so by providing a frame establishing ambience, horizon, direction via pathway (on the analogy of links to a web site) and setting, even as a historian may recollect the past by providing context. While history may be considered as an art of memory, it may also be taken as antithetical to it, and playwrights have fruitfully exploited the abrasions between the two. Trauma is often the focal point, via flashback, for the intersection of individual and collective memory. In any case, even individual memory is socialized and group-driven, perhaps an example in the cultural sphere of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny—the idea that “each individual recapitulates in its development from conception to maturity the evolutionary stages through


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

which the species has passed” (Richards, 32). May memory, then, be differentiated by sex, gender, or membership in an ethnic grouping—by virtue of an individual’s disparate exposure to mnemogenics (factors generating memories)?

MEMORY AND THE MIND As has already been seen in the case of The Bells, the study of memory could easily and popularly be intermixed with movements on the periphery of psychology, such as Mesmerism and hypnotism. Subsequently, the associations of memory with parapsychology and Spiritualism are explored both scientifically (by William James and others in the Society for Psychical Research) and dramatically in the likes of Forever After and Peter Ibbetson. In an albeit peculiar and idiosyncratic way, these may be seen as attempts—long before the postpsychoanalytic era—to reject the lingering Cartesianism that disposes Freud’s psychological theories to be nonphysiological and nonanatomical.2 Much later, as neuroscience literally opened the brain to view, memory operations such as amnesias, hypermnesia, and “recovered” memory become crucial case studies for neuroscientists and playwrights alike. The relationship between memory and dreams is explored in the context of revising Freud. Memory is negotiated between psychoanalytic and cognitive models, and memographers seek to discover if memory’s way of constructing and reconstructing the self is sourced or paralleled in the way memory remakes the brain. Embodied memory preoccupies Beckett, Pinter, and the Nobel Prize–winning biochemist, Gerald Edelman, and many other cognitive scientists. Memory’s place, literal and figural, is debated in the context of “vertical” (repression, consciousness-“raising”) or “horizontal” (association/dissociation) models of brain function, as Freud’s stratigraphic and archeological metaphors give way to branching metaphors more securely based in the neurobiology of cortical maps, neuron firing and synaptic junctions. Forgetting and memory distortion take on new importance, as memographers wonder why evolution did not yield a memory faculty that infallibly produces the veridical.

COUNTER-MEMORY AND ANTI-MEMORY Marking a counterpoint to the memory discourse of the twentieth century is a revisionism, skepticism, resistance or antipathy to memory that undermines its intellectual integrity and comprehensibility, even as memory invades one field after another. Within what might be considered its home discipline of psychology, memory is both a mainstay and ubiquitous, but at the same time conceptually vague to the point of scientific uselessness, as the historian of psychology, Graham Richards, averred (129). Analogously, cognitive neuroscience has deconstituted the presence of memory the way Derrida deconstructed semiotics: as “localization” studies that placed memory in one part or another of the brain have been superceded by circuit mapping, memory always already resides somewhere else, activated in the web or network of neuronal connections, not

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


at a single point or place. Not only that, but since memories are continually affected by environmental factors, they are never identical to themselves. John Locke, before the end of the seventeenth century, astoundingly, understood much of the paradox in observing “that our ideas are said to be in our memories, when indeed they are actually nowhere, but only there is an ability in the mind when it will revive them again, and, as it were, paint them anew on itself ” (276). Further, the study of memory distortion sui generis reveals an aporia, the points at which memory undermines itself. Without itself possessing identity yet forming the very core of self-identity, memory is everywhere and nowhere, barnacled with paradox. Malkin (31) takes the simultaneous embrace and frustration of remembrance as uniquely postmodern, since counter-memory—the practice of contesting one version of the past with another—and anti-memory—the practice of actively reconstituting one’s past experience—may be associated with Foucault, Deleuze, and Guattari. But André Malraux (and who more modernist than he?) in 1967 called his autobiography Anti-Memoirs “because it answers a question memoirs do not pose, and does not answer those that they do” (10). The disposition to remember and revise simultaneously—commonly designated as “re-membering”—has been recognized in later modernist thinking almost from its origins, since Nietzsche’s (1969, 57–58) stressing the virtues of active forgetting and since Freud’s determination that his patients’ narratives of seduction were only fantasies disguised as memories. In a similar vein is Halbwachs’ assertion that in collective memory “The past is not preserved but is reconstructed on the basis of the present” (1992, 40). Howard Bursen, in the course of mounting an attack, from a humanist philosophical position, on mechanistic explanatory models for memory (such as stimulusresponse and computer-retrieval theories) comes close to suggesting, after Hobbes, that memory may dissolve into imagination on the one hand and cognition or learning on the other (1978, 111). From a political standpoint, Tony Kushner, who conceives of his theatre work as profoundly commemorative, acknowledges that the postmodern tension between history and memory calls both into question: “But it’s not misremembering that frightens me, but an inveterate psychologizing that insists that all memory has to be read and interpreted. . . . I’m nervous about this attempt to discredit memory. . . . The scary thing to me is when the act of memory is demonized” (quoted in Savran 1999, 112–113). Kushner means to invoke memory to rescue the lost history of minority communities, but Michael Roth sees an attendant danger in the defense: “The psychologization of memory and the doubts about the possibilities for objective history have combined to create an attitude that lets each person have his or her own history. What may appear to be a benign pluralism (or multiculturalism), however, can actually be another symptom of the continuing privatization (or ghettoization) of our relationship to the past. This form of social amnesia depends upon a superficial relativism in which one has no investment in the past that one might share with another” (15). When one group’s remembering challenges another’s forgetting, there may be deeper identity issues at stake as in the “memory wars” waged by the forces of false memory syndrome on the one hand, and recovered memory advocates on the other. As Sue Campbell has


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

shown in Relational Remembering: Rethinking the Memory Wars, such debates may be fully inflected with gender politics. *



JANET, FREUD, IBSEN, STRINDBERG: CASE STUDIES The mainstream of modern memory studies springs from psychology. Thus, it will be necessary to survey, if only from the bankside, some of the roiling disputes formative of the modern discipline, while striving to avoid submersion in the “mad weir of tigerish waters”—a Louis MacNeice line quoted in the epigraph to Graham Richards’ critical history of psychology. Suffice it to say that psychology was compelled to incorporate new explanatory paradigms that affected how memory was conceived. Evolution led such thinkers as Bergson, Richard Semon, and Théodule Ribot to wonder about memory development as adaptive behavior. Advances in brain research and various conceptions of the unconscious or subconscious as theorized by Charcot, Janet, Freud, and Jung eventually contribute both to a taxonomy of types of memory (working memory, semantic memory, collective memory, episodic memory, etc.) and to a new interest in amnesia—an interest made more urgent by the effects of shock and trauma experienced by combatants in World War I. The veridicality and reliability of memory come under scrutiny from perspectives as divergent as psychoanalysis and forensic psychology. Finally, as Richards points out (134–135), theories of race invite speculation on how a collective past may be inscribed on autobiographical memory. Among memographers at the turn of the nineteenth century Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud emerge as a natural pairing. Edward Casey’s (16) brief historical survey of the history of memory makes Freud and Janet modern heroes, revivers of the activist memory tradition. Placing the surge of interest in memory in a more specific cultural context, Ian Hacking sees the period 1874–1886 in France as “the span of time when the structure of the modern sciences of memory came into being” (4), when “a new science, a purported knowledge of memory, quite self-consciously was created in order to secularize the soul” (5). Crucially, it is at the end of this period that Freud goes to Paris and becomes directly familiar with the work of Charcot and Janet. Until the “memory wars” of the 1990s pitted advocates of recovered memory and false memory syndrome against each other, Janet had been largely forgotten as a pioneer of modern psychology. As both Ian Hacking (44, 50, 129–137) and Janice Haaken (1998, 63–85) have pointed out, the memory wars to some extent replayed the opposition of Janet and Freud on the etiology of dysfunction and hysteric symptoms in trauma: the former holding to the position that “something happened” (the recovered memory position), the latter allowing for a false or screen memory obscuring, disguising, or otherwise intruding itself between a rememberer and a repressed experience. The relationship of Janet and Freud is complex, and I will engage it only to flesh out the memory scene at the turn of the century. Initially, Janet and Freud were in agreement that hysterics were marked by traumatic incidents that had become

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


unconscious to one degree or another, but not “forgotten”—Janet citing Freud and Breuer favorably in The Mental State of Hystericals (1894) and they citing him frequently in Studies on Hysteria (1895).3 Subsequently, Freud and Janet became disaffected over who deserved the major credit for positing the unconscious.4 Whether or not one agrees with Daniel Robinson that “Janet all but invents the concept of unconscious motivation” (in the Preface to Janet 1977, xxvi), his theory of hysteria remained more cognitive than psychoanalytic. Lacan thus faults Janet for equating the ego with “the perception-consciousness system” and takes him to task for his lofty distance from his case histories that, according to Lacan, prevented him from hearing the unsaid in their symptoms (1977, 90, 92–93). Where Janet theorizes dissociation, “the mind’s capacity . . . to separate off from normal consciousness a traumatic memory trace” (Haaken, 63), Freud theorized repression, which might entail concealing a guilt-producing fantasy. Haaken (74, 84–85) sees these two approaches ultimately as emphasizing an external (Janet) versus an internal or intrapsychic (Freud) source for distress, though in any case, both dissociation and repression entail unconscious forgetting. Hacking draws the distinction as Janet seeing the origin of trauma in a sort of depersonalized state (something happened), while Freud saw trauma originating in a human intention or action that may not be identical with what is “remembered” (something happened) (192). Though Freud disparaged Janet for finding a “constitutional”—that is, body-based—cause for hysteria (“Psychoanalysis” 1922, 233), Janet’s physiological orientation looks more prescient in the light of cognitive science and the turn of psychiatry toward biology and pharmacology. Casey, Haaken, and Hacking make no reference to theatre, and so they do not notice that contemporaneous with Janet and Freud, Ibsen and Strindberg constructed memory as dynamically operative in character formation. In the late 1890s, or about the time Freud embarked on his self-analysis, paying particular attention to the significance of fragmentary memories (Gay 1988, 97–100), Ibsen was at work on his tiresome and brilliant last play. When We Dead Awaken (1899), certainly Ibsen’s clearest case study of what the era would call hysteria,5 recapitulates many themes and motives from earlier Ibsen—the artwork as child, the irreconcilability of sexual desire and love, the artist tempted to impossible heights—and so to tease out a single theme is reductive but I trust forgivable in the immediate context. When We Dead Awaken shows Ibsen in a profoundly “ruminescent” (Casey’s coinage, 44) mode, particularly if one accepts the identification of the sculptor Rubek with the playwright and Irene with Ibsen’s wife Suzannah.6 In singling out memory, I follow up to a point the clearly marked footsteps of Oliver Gerland (1995), who linked certain features of the plot of When We Dead Awaken to the psychological theories of Janet.7 Gerland makes a strong case that Janet and Ibsen were both exploring the disruptions of traumatic memory and that both dramatist and psychologist concluded that a failure to integrate a traumatic event into a life narrative can be associated with the repetition of the trauma. I want to add here that Ibsen’s subtle analysis of the etiology of Irene’s hysteria and Rubek’s discontent bear at least as much resemblance to Freud’s views on remembering and forgetting. In the first act we meet the famous sculptor Rubek and his far younger wife Maja at the Norwegian seaside resort where they encounter Irene, Rubek’s former model,


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

whom he initially claims not to remember. In the following two acts, which take place in the mountains, as Maja is lured off by the bear hunter Ulfheim, Rubek and Irene reestablish a relationship as fraught with misunderstanding and discrepancy as it had been in the past. For Gerland, the key incident in the play occurs when the two are grouped momentarily like the sculptor’s masterpiece The Resurrection Day. He makes the neat point that the sculpture has fixed or frozen a traumatic memory that, as in cases reported by Janet, triggered obsessive behavior: “The Resurrection Day group is an emblem of Irene and Rubek’s traumatic history, both its product and its abstract . . . . [L]ocated within its confines, Irene and Rubek . . . are possessed by the traumas of their past just like Janet’s patients at the Salpêtrière” (456). But, Gerland allows, the sculpture group may also be thought of in Janetian fashion as a recollection rather than a repetition. This would permit their encounter to be interpreted as therapeutic, for it enables them “to build their relationship anew” (458). They may both perish virtually as double suicides in the famous or infamous avalanche at the end (so adroitly managed with white satin sheeting in Robert Wilson’s production), but even so, Gerland contends, their death is accompanied by Maja’s song of freedom, lending an “irreducible ambivalence” (459) to what Ibsen had to say about the past. While I agree that “Janet posits two kinds of memory—narrative and traumatic— associated with two modes of expressing memory—recollection and reenactment” (453), more can be said on how the creation of the sculpture grouping represents differing—and different kinds of—memories for Rubek and Irene. Furthermore, Gerland does not address forgetting in the play—an odd omission in light of Janet’s renowned writing on amnesia. Finally, I suggest it is Freud rather than Janet who describes memory “scenes” of the sort Gerland shows Ibsen is constructing. It is Freud rather than Janet who returns again and again to the theatre to describe the memory scene as if it were a stage tableau of the sort popular in his era. Gerland’s account of the plot and his linking of Ibsen to Janet sideline key elements that complicate how Ibsen constructs personal or autobiographical memory.8 Gerland downplays how differently Irene and Rubek have dealt with the memory of their relationship and deemphasizes Irene’s psychotic behavior, as she drifts wraithlike and confused amidst the scenery. In Ibsen’s description of Irene “her features are stiff and immobile; her eyelids are lowered, and her eyes seem to stare unseeingly. . . . She walks with stiff and measured steps.”9 Robert Ferguson (1996, 419) connects Irene’s stiff way of walking to Suzannah’s rheumatism, but the description fits a hysterical symptom suffered by Fräulein Elisabeth Von R., who “walked with the upper part of her body bent forward,” and who was easily fatigued from walking (Breuer and Freud, 135). Her other symptoms—social dysfunction, paranoia causing her to carry a knife with which she secretly threatens Rubek, and what may or may not be delusions of killing her husbands and children (256)—suggest dementia praecox (subsequently termed schizophrenia), one of the new diagnoses that eventually replaced the catch-all category of hysteria. While one would be inclined to interpret Irene’s accounts of pitilessly killing her children one by one as preventing their birth by contraception or abortion, her tendency toward violent behavior also evokes her as a Medea-figure. Irene is truly locked into repetitive behavior. Ever since parting from Rubek, she has wandered in search of him, evidently wreaking havoc on surrogates of both the

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


artist and his art—the sculpture she insistently calls “our child” (254, 276–278). She “posed as a naked statue in peep shows” (255) in a sordid repetition of her modeling for Rubek. The dagger she now carries with her is another repetition, a surrogate for the sharp needle she concealed in her hair, to fend off the touches of Rubek she both dreaded and desired, but which never came (258). This troubling arousal is surely meant to be one source of the hysteria she later lived out. Another source is an incident Irene recounts that went unremarked by Rubek when it happened, but has changed her life. As their artist-model relationship came to a close, Rubek summed it up to Irene as a “delightful episode” (280), a characterization that irredeemably demeaned it in her eyes. This double diminution—sexual and social—constitute the trauma she has spent her life trying to exorcize. By contrast, Rubek has found a way of working through their relationship, which Irene has not, and her reappearance emphasizes how different their lives have been. In the first act, he initially denies to Maja that the woman in white whom he has spied is his former model (249) and he subsequently tells Maja that he had forgotten Irene long ago, claiming that he can forget “extremely easily. . . . When I want to” (266, ellipsis and emphasis Ibsen’s). In the second act, we learn details of his ability to “forget” that both substantiate and belie it. After the departure of Irene, Rubek in fact reconfigured the sculpture, making it a larger grouping to include “the cracked and heaving earth” and a swarm of “women and men—as I knew them in life” (278). Irene, who had been the sole figure, is now placed in the middleground of a group. That is, Rubek acted to accommodate the memory of Irene in a larger, living and changing context, while Irene fled—her attempts to exorcize the traumatic relationship only causing her to cling to it, repeating the past. The change in the sculpture signifies, even literalizes, the fact that Irene and Rubek have different memories of their relationship. Ibsen’s point is not only that their “reminiscences” are divergent, but that Rubek’s active refashioning of their relationship is productive and in some sense therapeutic, while her passive clinging to the memory is pathogenic: it is while Rubek recounts the remaking of the sculpture that Irene comes closest to stabbing him (278–280). Though the Rubek we meet in the play is far from happy, he has continued to create and has moved on in his life, incorporating Irene as an “episode” in it. He has sublimated his bitterness and sadness in the animal likenesses he has concealed in the portrait busts he sculpts on commission (244). He has also transferred to Maja the inspirational function formerly Irene’s. As the descriptive vocabulary of the previous two paragraphs suggests, I propose that the psychological analogues to the divergent ways of constructing memory engaged in by Rubek and Irene are not to be found in Janet, but in two of Freud’s classical essays, “The Aetiology of Hysteria” (1896), published while Ibsen was at work on When We Dead Awaken, and “Remembering, Repeating and Working Through,” first published in 1914. Freud declares in the earlier essay that the symptoms of hysteria “are determined by certain experiences of the patient’s that operate traumatically and are reproduced in his psychic life as memory-symbols of these experiences” (185). “Memory-symbols” are not true memories, necessarily, but may be constructs that have to be penetrated to get the patient to focus on the originating traumatic scene. In the later essay, Freud makes clear that therapeutic remembering, which disentangles the remembered situation from the present one, disposes of the

98 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard patient’s compulsion to repeat, and frees him for the next stage in his life. In the play, Rubek’s revision of the sculpture is a reconstruction of the memory of Irene, putting their experience in a different psychological place in his life. Though Rubek may not have fully worked through his resistances, and seems rather to be arrested in what Freud called a “‘transference-neurosis’ . . . an intermediate region between illness and real life” (“Remembering, Repeating and Working Through,” 154), for Rubek as for Freud, remembering is, therapeutically speaking, an “auxiliary of forgetting” (Weinrich, 136). But Irene can make no such adjustment and, in the third act, demonstrates her repetitive behavior in the ways already noticed, but also by confusing in her mind the scene of her traumatic parting with Rubek at the Taunitzer See years ago with the conversation they had just the day before (295). The inability to distinguish past from present is for Freud and Janet alike the surest sign of pathology and explains one of the epigraphs for this chapter: “Hysterics suffer mainly from reminiscences” (Breuer and Freud, 7). Her disturbed and disturbing recollection comes just minutes before Irene and Rubek are buried in the avalanche and makes it very difficult to interpret their entire reunion—psychologically—as anything but the seduction of Rubek into the world of Irene’s dementia. A further distinction needs to be made concerning Irene’s behavior, which is different from the sorts of unconscious reenacting of a forgotten traumatic incident that Janet describes and Gerland (453) cites. Where Janet recounts unconscious or trance-like reenactments, Freud describes repetitions, which are acted out as a result of repression: the patient reproduces “what he has forgotten and repressed . . . not as a memory but as an action; he repeats it, without, of course, knowing that he is repeating it” (“Remembering, Repeating,” 150). What the patient repeats are symbols of memories that display his “inhibitions and unserviceable attitudes and his pathological character-traits” (151). The symbols are linked into “memory-chains” (“Aetiology of Hysteria,” 191) that lead “infallibly . . . to the realm of sexual experience” (193, emphasis Freud’s) in childhood. Though neither Janet’s nor Freud’s case studies precisely describe Irene—who has not repressed the memory of her troubling attraction to Rubek—the sexual source of her hysteria certainly evokes Freud. She may not have been a child when subject to the sexual feelings she could not cope with, but both her vulnerability and youth are emphasized in the text (258, 261–262). We are told she left her family and home to go with Rubek, a decision she characterizes as her “childhood’s resurrection” (259). It perhaps needs to be explicitly stated that the foregoing takes no stand in the dispute between the partisans of Freud and those of Janet over who discovered the unconscious, nor on the validity of psychoanalysis, nor on Freud’s controversial abandonment of the “seduction theory.” By the time of “Remembering, Repeating and Working Through,” Freud had abandoned the notion of traumatic childhood sexual experience in favor of a theory of childhood fantasy of such experience. Fred H. Frankel’s (1994, 328) comment in the course of a review of “flashback” literature is apposite: “There are two quite separate but intertwined issues here: Is the remembered trauma historically true, and is the recall of historically true trauma necessary for healing. Although both of these questions might be answered affirmatively by many clinicians, there is little or no empirical basis for either conclusion.” For my purposes, it is fitting enough to notice that Janet and Freud agreed that various

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


kinds of “nervous” disorders were characterized by pathogenenic reminiscence, that hysterical symptoms could be tied to amnesia, and that forgotten phenomena “are not entirely destroyed; they are not inactive; they continue to act either to increase the amnesia or diminish it,” to quote Janet (Mental State of Hystericals, 111). At the same time, a more dynamic and complex conception of the workings of memory that includes notions like memory-symbol, repression, transference, and sublimation was shared by Freud and Ibsen, but not by Janet. As Freud (1989, 24) said in 1909, “You will now see in what it is that the difference lies between our view and Janet’s. We do not derive the psychical splitting from an innate incapacity for synthesis on the part of the mental apparatus; we explain it dynamically, from the conflict of opposing mental forces and recognize it as the outcome of an active struggling on the part of the two psychical groupings against each other.” What Freud here calls “psychical splitting” and Janet called dissociation are notions that may have both sprung from the single source of French psychology in the period of 1874–1886, as Hacking asserts (197), but their division had profound implications. The Janetian tributary channeling trauma, amnesia, dissociation, and therapeutic hypnotism flowed underground for decades, only to resurface in the era of multiple personalities, recovered memory, and “alternative” therapies. The Freudian stream of fantasy, repression, and the talking cure long ago overflowed its banks to flood modern culture. Hacking (196) draws a further distinction: Freud, unlike Janet, thought that a cure could occur only if a patient was made to deal with the Truth; by contrast, Janet was willing to hypnotize his patients into thinking a trauma never occurred. Hacking concludes that “In the matter of lost and recovered memories, we are the heirs of Freud and Janet. One lived for truth, and quite possibly deluded himself a good deal of the time and even knew he was being deluded. The other, a far more honorable man, helped his patients by lying to them, and did not fool himself that he was doing anything else” (197). Ethical judgments aside, Freud’s way was also Ibsen’s, or, more properly, vice versa. Ibsen was to write no more plays and died on March 26, 1906. Very soon thereafter, his contemporary Strindberg began work on the chamber plays, completing all four in a burst of creativity in 1906 and 1907. If Ibsen wrote his last two plays with Strindberg’s portrait on his wall, Strindberg likewise wrote in the shadow of Ibsen, whom he both deprecated and revered.10 Of the four chamber plays, The Burned House11 is most haunted by the memory of several Ibsen plays, but especially Ghosts. In constructing a plot that features a disreputable gardener, a fire exposing family secrets and an insurance payment not made, was Strindberg subconsciously trying to burn down Ibsen’s house and extirpate his memory? Or was he, in writing about a brother who returns to the home of his childhood, recognizing his Ibsenian origins? Biographical implications aside, The Burned House offers great riches to the student of memory, for in returning an adult to his childhood home Strindberg has created a scene of great memorial potency. While the characters in When We Dead Awaken can be measured by whether they succeed or fail in putting the past behind them, the impulse to sort out the autobiographical past is scarcely the sole motivation of the characters of The Burned House, for whom memory is social as much as personal, deconstructive as much as recollective-constructive. The Burned House thus surveys a far greater segment of the


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

topography of memory: recognition, reminding, reminiscence (frequently divergent), body memory, and place memory crowd Strindberg’s scene. Such a congeries of contested, fragmented, and unreliable memory was magnificently deciphered by Freud in “Childhood Memories and Screen Memories,” written—intriguingly enough—at exactly the same time (the early months of 1907) that Strindberg was working on The Burned House. Freud defines a screen memory as an apparently inconsequential memory that interposes itself between the rememberer and the repressed content. It is of course coincidental but no less intriguing that Freud’s autobiographical case study for screen memory bears striking similarities—in its details of a thieving nurse, an older brother and a disappearing mother—to an incident in Strindberg’s play. Apparently, the dramatist and the scientist, independently and simultaneously, developed remarkably similar ways to describe the dynamics of childhood memory. In Strindberg’s plot, a suspicious fire has destroyed the home of the Dyer Rudolph Valstrom, whose family has occupied it for generations. The burned house and its furnishings are the central scenic element. Suspicion of arson falls upon the Student, who received free board in exchange for tutoring the family’s young children. The businesses of others in the neighborhood are affected, including a Gardener and a Tavern Owner who cater to the adjoining cemetery. The characters are almost always thus referred to by their trade (as the Stonecutter, Painter, etc.) rather than by name. Arriving on the scene is a Stranger, subsequently identified as the Dyer’s younger brother Arvid, who had left for America thirty years before. Though Arvid had never claimed his share of the family’s inheritance, he has now returned, so he says, only to “find the house of my childhood again” (66). As Arvid encounters figures from his past, a pattern of what might be called antireminiscence emerges, in which the conversants have divergent memories that disillusion one another. The Painter (84), for example, remembers Arvid testing him for color blindness and preventing his entrance to art school. When Arvid defends his decision, the Painter reveals it wasn’t that as a child he couldn’t distinguish colors, only that he didn’t know their names. For another example, years ago the Stonecutter had testified in a paternity suit that Arvid fathered a child, but now Arvid reveals that he was not the father, and merely stood forward to support the child because he was fond of her mother (87–92). The Stonecutter becomes deeply anguished over having given false witness, influenced by rumors. Reminiscence, normally indulged to establish community, is here put in the service of its opposite, as divergent memories are deployed to destroy an imagined commonality. The agon of memory and counter-memory is chiefly played out by the two Valstrom brothers directly in front of the ruins of their childhood. Confronted both by Arvid’s revelations and the material evidence of double house walls exposed by the fire, Rudolph is compelled to recognize that the family fortune derived from smuggling rather than the dyeworks, which metaphorically enough disguised their true activities (72). In another telling exchange, Arvid and Rudolph each remember separately finding the memoirs of Casanova12 behind the sermons in their father’s bookcase, but while Rudolph takes this casually (“You too?” [73]), Arvid follows up his memory almost directly with the revelation of his attempted suicide by hanging

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


himself in the closet at age twelve. Further details come to us in fragments—a name carved in a door, hiding in the garden, a sawed-off tree branch—like the reminiscentia strewn among the ruins of the house: a child’s book, a piece of a portrait frame, the end of a bedstead, a clock that falls to pieces when Arvid touches it. Where we see only fragments, Arvid perceives a pattern, however. “No matter how life shaped itself, I’ve always found some connection with the past, or some repetition,” Arvid says. “There are scenes in my life that have occurred many times. . . . Finally life came to seem like a play that was being staged especially for me” (68). Only in retrospect can we piece together what Arvid means. Accepting a sort of psychic determinism, Arvid understands that he has continued to play out in his life his contentious relationship with his brother (69). Similarly, accused unjustly of seducing another’s wife, he accepted the role (89), just as he accepted that his family’s illegitimate business would continue to brand him (71). Most of the brothers’ conflicting and conflictual memories are associated, one way or another, with care-giving women: their mother, the nursemaid Mrs. Vesterlund, and their stepmother. The circ*mstances here are difficult to determine, as the brothers’ conversation seems to proceed almost by free association, with denial frequently blocking the way. In the essay on childhood memories mentioned earlier, Freud similarly returns to childhood incidents whose significance initially defies interpretation, but which are recalled so vividly that he is compelled to call them “regular scenes” and “comparable only to representations on the stage” (“Childhood Memories,” 47). Chief among these is a memory Freud dates to his third year, in which he is standing in front of a cupboard and screaming some demand. His older half-brother holds the cupboard door open. Then his mother, looking beautiful and slim, walks into the room. Freud adds that contemporary with this memory were dreams about his nurse (50), which included such inconsequential details as his handing over small coins to her. Freud’s interpretation of the memory and the attendant dreams was aided by information he gleaned as an adult from his mother. During the time his mother was “in confinement,” that is, pregnant with his younger sister, the nurse was removed from the house and indicted on charges of theft lodged by his older brother. As a child, Freud understood vaguely that his older brother had something to do with the disappearance of the nurse. When he asked him where she went, his older brother flippantly remarked that she was “boxed up” or as we might say in English “put away.” When his mother as well disappeared in confinement, Freud demanded that his brother open the place, the cupboard, where things were put away. Freud adds “I now understand, too, why in the translation of this visual childhood scene my mother’s slimness was emphasized: it must have struck me as having just been restored to her” (51) after pregnancy. Freud finishes by observing in a footnote that the cupboard was likely a symbol of his mother’s womb and that the child of three might have suspected his older brother of somehow placing the child inside it. The Stranger Arvid’s memories of his mother are both more detailed and less coherent than Freud’s. We note at the outset that only Arvid mentions his mother at all, and there are no corroborating or corrective memories from other characters. His initial memory of his mother is not triggered by someone else mentioning her, but by his older brother mentioning the name of his nursemaid, Mrs. Vesterlund, who now


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

owns the adjoining tavern called “The Coffin Nail.” This is the same Mrs. Vesterlund whom Arvid subsequently reports “robbed us blind for ten years” (83). Her name touches off in Arvid a vivid body memory of the pressure on his chest of the heavy nursery air, of his brother attempting to smother him, of beatings and flights to the garden. Still mystified as an adult at this treatment, Arvid muses elliptically “but she was my mother” (67). While the context might suggest that Arvid is referring to the surrogate Mrs. Vesterlund, we are twice told, by Rudolph (67) and Arvid (86), that she was the older brother’s nursemaid, not Arvid’s. It is, then, a maternal absence rather than a presence that Arvid associates with his painful memories. The association angers Rudolph: “Be quiet!” he warns. “Well, you were the favorite, you could do no wrong,” Arvid answers, “Then we got a stepmother. . . . Her father was a professional pallbearer” (ellipsis Strindberg’s, 67). As the scene continues, Arvid adds a few other maternal details. Their Mother (capital “M” in the text) praised Rudolph’s swimming ability over Arvid’s and she favored unripened pears from the orchard that the children loathed (ibid.). Arvid does not suspect, as Freud certainly would have, that the memory of pears screens the image of a mother’s breasts, though “unripened,” that is, not offering milk.13 Finally, the only other mention of their birth mother comes very near the end of the play, when it is revealed that Rudolph has cheated his brother of his inheritance, and Arvid taunts him with “You’re my mother’s son after all” (100). It is difficult to make sense of these details in isolation. Other of Arvid’s memories and recollections associated only indirectly with his mother add perspective, however. The same interview with his brother that yields Arvid’s memories of his mother and Mrs. Vesterlund also features the account of his attempted suicide after reading Casanova. Arvid further reports that when he awoke from the death-like sleep following his hanging, he had “forgotten most of my previous life and had to begin a new one. You all thought me very queer.” Then in the abrupt, transitionless manner in which their conversation proceeds, Arvid asks his brother “Have you remarried?” (74). Rudolph responds that he has a wife and children, and the subject is immediately dropped. Now we already know from the gossip of the tradespeople that Rudolph’s first wife “ran away” (63) and that his second wife had been his children’s governess. Not unexpectedly, Strindberg is drawing on some autobiographical detail. His mother Eleonora bore a child, Strindberg’s elder brother, when she and Strindberg’s father were betrothed, but not married. When Strindberg’s mother died (Strindberg had just turned thirteen), Strindberg’s father remarried within a year. His second wife was the children’s governess (Meyer 1985, 3–15). In any case, that Arvid raises the issue to his brother in the context of remembering their own childhood points us to a central question raised implicitly rather than explicitly in the text: what happened to the birth mother of Arvid and Rudolph? What I make of all this is what Freud might have. Arvid’s remembering Mrs. Vesterlund’s thievery put together with Arvid’s accusation that Rudolph treacherously is “my mother’s son” and with other seemingly inconsequential memory fragments construct a wall of screen memories interposing themselves between Arvid and repressed content. Like the child Freud, Arvid associated a thieving nurse with the disappearance of his mother. Like Freud, Arvid had an elder brother who stood as a rival for his mother’s affections. There may also be a similar sexual subtext suggested

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


in the circ*mstances that led to Arvid’s suicide attempt, and I offer the interpretation that Arvid has repressed the information that his mother, like Rudolph’s wife, ran away, perhaps because his childhood sensibility made him think that he and his brother had somehow caused their mother’s departure with their lustful thoughts inspired by the memoirs of Casanova. Early in their interview, Arvid reminds Rudolph (66) that as children they would “read” the ashes of the fireplace, and that they can do the same now with the ruins of the burned house, and that is exactly what Strindberg has them do and certainly what Freud would have them do. Already in “Aetiology of Hysteria” (1896), Freud had compared recovery of repressed memories to combing through the ruins of an ancient palace (184–185). The Valstrom house may have had double walls and locked doors—Freud’s screen memories—but they cannot fully conceal nor contain the past. In the embers of deep retrospection, the most intimate memories flare up—perhaps even more for the discerning spectator than for Arvid, even though he prides himself on his “excellent memory”. The pile of furnishings atop which Arvid spies the family album (68) is an ash heap of memories displaced, ransacked, destroyed. Arvid twice (66 and 100) addresses the ruins as “house of my childhood,” which for Strindberg as for Freud is a landscape of vividly remembered scenes and shadowy amnesias. *



ARCHETYPES AND ANGUISH: THE BURDENS OF MEMORY If autobiographical memory is conceived as a house or palace or theatre, who is responsible for its construction? While, after the rise of modern psychology, there is no undoing the imbrication of individuality and memory, that the remembering individual may be only one mnemogenic agent marks a counterpoint to the mainstream of psychological memory studies in the twentieth century. Even as the likes of Freud and Janet were erecting the scaffolding of the individual unconscious, personal memory was reconceived as inextricable from a memory system extending physically into the social and natural environment and temporally back through the historical past into prehistory. To the question of what group or population was the individual rememberer subject to, the answers come over the next hundred years: race, religion, family, nationality. C. G. Jung linked the individual’s memories to a primordial, collective unconscious, while Maurice Halbwachs was linking them to sociological group behavior he called collective memory. By the end of the century, Gerald Edelman’s Neural Darwinism (1987) suggests that neuronal groups vie with each other for cerebral supremacy, while in The Selfish Gene (1990) Richard Dawkins’ concept of the “meme” captures the power of cultural replicating units to parasitize the brain. Playwrights likewise speculated on whether individual memories bore evidence of incursion by the memories of others. O’Neill (and much later Peter Shaffer and Brian Friel) took a cue from Jung and wondered about the impact of “racial”


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

memory on individual behavior. Pirandello agonized over how the memories of others may flood and wash away the fragile scaffolding of the self. Robert Sherwood and Maurice Halbwachs, unbeknownst to each other, scanned the borders of history and memory. Where O’Neill emphasized the dangers of interiorizing a past not wholly one’s own, Thornton Wilder sees mainly the opportunity for a healthy selfforgetting in the presence of a fecund heritage. Finally, beyond the fringes of such territories popular playwrights blend memory and Spiritualism in a manner similar to parapsychology. Underlying many conceptions of how the individual relates to the group is the idea, developed by the German biologist and evolutionary thinker Ernst Haeckel, that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” (Haeckel 1896). Although the universal correspondence between ontogeny and phylogeny that Haeckel posited as a natural law was long ago discredited, specific instances inspired a variety of thinkers to apply the principle beyond biogenetics, thereby in some cases contributing to the rise of Social Darwinism. While, as Graham Richards suggests, in the arena of developmental psychology recapitulation “gave new significance to child-study as a method of looking back in time and tracking the psychological evolution of humankind” (33), Haeckel’s “law” also gave rise to a sort of cultural Lamarckism, in which acquired traits were considered to be inherited (rather than inculcated). In A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis Freud subscribed to a version of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, as is clear from his twenty-second lecture (on aetiology), when he writes of the ego instincts and sexual instincts (libido): “Both of them are at bottom inheritances, abbreviated repetitions of the evolution undergone by the whole human race through long-drawn-out periods and from prehistoric ages. In the development of the libido this phylogenetic origin is readily apparent, I should suppose” (1960, 363). Though Freud was ever reluctant to ground his theories in human anatomy, they are not incompatible with commonly held theories that different parts of the brain are more or less phylogenetically determined. As Murphy and Kovacs put it, “the evolutionary point of view involves the conception that cortical tissue, like all other tissue, indirectly reflects the whole history of the previous life, including the life of the genus and the species. . . . There seem to be both general qualities of perceiving and specific phylogenetically and ontogenetically differentiated forms of perceptual responses” (338). In The Complete Lectures on Psychoanalysis Freud even more clearly accepts Haeckel’s principle in acknowledging the archaism of dreamwork: “The prehistory into which the dream-work leads us is of two kinds—on the one hand into the individual’s prehistory, his childhood, and on the other, in so far as each individual somehow recapitulates in an abbreviated form the entire development of the human race, into phylogenetic history, too” (1966, 199). In terms that evoke both Lamarck and Jung, he claims “that symbolic connections, which the individual has never acquired by learning, may justly claim to be regarded as a phylogenetic heritage” (ibid.). Where Freud was content to assert a phylogenetic heritage, Jung in Psychological Types sees evidence for a collective unconscious containing archetypes common to all humans by virtue of basic similarities in psychic functioning derived from “inherited brain structure” (1959, 284). According to Jung, “Even with Freud, who makes the unconscious—at least, metaphorically—take the stage as the acting subject, it is

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


really nothing but the gathering place of forgotten and repressed contents, and has a functional significance thanks only to these” (286). For Freud, phylogenetic heritage aside, the unconscious is personal; for Jung, the unconscious is partly personal, partly collective. In a sense, then, the “individual Self is a portion, or excerpt, or representative, of something universally present in all living creatures” (220): “Man bears his age-long history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind” (197). In the formulation of Jung’s editor De Lazslo, “Jung’s collective unconscious designates all the structural and functional areas which are common to the human psyche per se, the outline of all its general features which in a manner of speaking might be equated with the general build and features of the human body” (ix, emphasis in original). Tribal lore, myths, and fairy tales are expressions of the archetypes. These expressions are symbolic of “the inner, unconscious drama of the psyche which becomes accessible to man’s consciousness by way of projection [i.e., attributing to an external person or object qualities unrecognized as in the individual]” (289). Perhaps Jung’s differences with Freud were never more succinctly expressed than in the Foreword to the fourth edition of Symbols of Transformation. The two volumes of Jung’s “Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia,” as it is subtitled, take the symptoms recounted by a pseudonymous analysand, Mrs. Frank Miller, as the springboard for elaborating the theory of archetypes. As Jung (1956, xxv–xxvi) put it, “The symptoms of the case form the Ariadne thread to guide us through the labyrinth of symbolistic parallels, that is, through the amplifications which are absolutely essential if we wish to establish the meaning of the archetypal context. . . . the deeper you go, the broader the base becomes. It certainly does not become narrower, and it never by any chance ends in a point—in a psychic trauma, for instance.” While physiological “evidence” for the collective unconscious was almost immediately called into question by experimental psychologists such as Frederic Bartlett, Jung’s ideas quickly gained currency in the wider cultural sphere. It may be that Jung, and Halbwachs, and T. S. Eliot when writing in the vein of “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” were all in their own ways reacting to common anxiety that the edge of modernism was severing links to the past, and it may be that their ideas were a salutary response to an exclusively ego-centered view of life. But Jung’s ideas were subject to a nuancing and distortion that put him in an “ambiguous” (Richards, 135) and “opportunistic” (Hayman 1999, 312) relationship to Nazi notions of racial stereotyping. The idea that our brains are hard-wired for certain attitudes and archetypes comprising a collective unconscious proved distressingly compatible with the idea that individuals are differentiated, and determined to a certain sort of behavior, by virtue of the contents of their “inherited” racial experiences. The perils and contradictions of couching racial issues in a universalizing dialogue with a Jungian accent are exampled in several of Eugene O’Neill’s plays, especially The Emperor Jones (1920). That O’Neill knew Jung’s work and that The Emperor Jones reflects Jungian influence is generally acknowledged. Patrick Nolan (1980) uses “Jung’s views to explain the nature of fear in both the personal and racial pasts of Jones,” seeing “Jones’s quest as only a slight permutation of the ancestral tribe’s quest—both being paradigms of the quests of all men” (7). He quotes an O’Neill letter to George Jean Nathan lamenting “the failure of science and materialism” to compensate for the “death of the Old God” or to satisfy “the surviving primitive religious


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

instinct” in support of his (Nolan’s) unproblematized view that “The Emperor Jones, therefore, is really O’Neill’s demonstration of how the black race has failed to achieve a continuity between unconscious, archetypal instincts and the conscious expression of those instincts” (ibid.). The ambiguity over whether The Emperor Jones intended to say anything about the “black race” or was rather meant to typify “all men, with their raw ignorance and hysterical fear under the layers of intellect” (according to Lionel Trilling writing in the Introduction of the Modern Library edition14 of The Emperor Jones 1937, xi) has been examined by Joel Pfister (1995) in the context of the American left in the 1920s and 1930s. Pfister sees O’Neill depicting Brutus Jones “as a victim of his own racial primitivism” (128) and marshals impressive evidence that the play participates in a travesty of black aspiration, citing some contemporary reviewers who felt the play confirmed an American “race psychology” that concluded blacks would be doomed by their “primitive minds” (130). While acknowledging O’Neill’s sensitivity to race prejudice and his attempt to establish a social context for Jones’s absorption of racist rhetoric, Pfister documents the racist iconography of the stage directions (132) and concludes that O’Neill subscribed to a “psychological determinism” that associated “depth” with primitivism in blacks or, later, with domestic turbulence in the Irish (136–137). It is to concerns over the play’s implicit racism that Trilling is responding, in the era of Hitler’s rise, asserting O’Neill’s metaphysical, and not social, intentions. Though Pfister mentions Jung only in passing and not in the context of Emperor Jones, his notice of the ideological work done, intentionally or not, by O’Neill’s psychological determinism points to a Jungian source. Without deploying a full Jungian interpretive apparatus, it is nevertheless easily demonstrated that the immersion of Brutus Jones in “racial” memories is also an interior journey from the perimeter of the personal psyche into its collective unconscious depths. Memory makes its first appearance in Scene Three, the first scene in the forest, as the apparition of Jeff, a man Jones has killed in a knife fight. When Jones shoots him, he disappears (35). Next, he remembers, or, in other words, he sees played out before him, the scene of his murdering of a chain-gang guard (39–41). These apparitions are in the category of the Little Formless Fears appearing in a previous scene; Jones calls them “h’ants” (i.e., hauntings [38]), but as he subsequently clarifies (43), they are not imagined but personal memories of real deeds that haunt him. Scene Five brings an incident he cannot personally remember, a scene of the auctioning of slaves, as does Scene Six, where the low ceiling of forest limbs creates the impression of a slave ship’s hold. Now, however, Jones is absorbed into the apparition, rather than set apart from it: he joins the swaying figures in a mournful chant “controlled by the throb of the tom-tom in the distance” (48). Going further backward into time (im)memorial, he finds himself at a primitive sacred place presided over by a “Congo Witch Doctor” (51), whose sacrificial dance Jones participates in, only to narrowly escape sacrifice by shooting the apparition of a crocodile with his last bullet, the silver one he had reserved for his suicide (53–54). In the final scene, Jones is brought on dead by the natives who have trapped him and brought him down with silver bullets. This course of action seems to track almost formulaically an interior journey, proceeding in Jungian fashion from the outer perimeter of the psyche, where personal memories dwell, through repressed material (Scene Five), through experiences that

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


are felt but not understood (Scene Six), irruptions from the collective unconscious of archetypal imagery (the Witch Doctor and dance), and finally into a core of primordial experience (the crocodile) unassimilable by the ego.15 O’Neill maps a similar journey two years later for Yank in The Hairy Ape (1922). Now the memories go back to prehistory, as O’Neill specifies in the first stage directions that the stokers are to look like depictions of Neanderthal Man, or of their primate predecessors (186). And, of course, the through-line of the play is Yank’s reversion to prehuman status in the cage at the zoo. Though Yank comes to some ideological understanding of the worker’s plight, as with Emperor Jones, the play’s politics are submerged in a stew of evolutionary theory, Jungianism and Behaviorism. Haeckel’s concepts loom here, as well, as it is the phylogenetic heritage of Yank and his cohorts that is remembered in their physiques and behaviors. If Emperor Jones and The Hairy Ape reflect Jungian notions of racial memory, the psychological discourse O’Neill conducted in his domestic dramas reflects the popularity of Freud and his concept of the Oedipus complex. Joel Pfister argues (37–40) for the importance of the mother-son relationship in O’Neill’s dramatic construction of psychological depth, a construction yielding the cultural capital that gave the American managerial class its own self-image and “normalized” female-male relations on a mother-son model. Though O’Neill’s most “psychological” play, Strange Interlude, is remarkably absent of memory as a component of the self, memory looms large in two of O’Neill’s plays in which mother-son relationships are crucially important. In A Moon for the Misbegotten (1952) the romantic relationship of Jamie Tyrone and the Mother Earth figure Josie Hogan hinges upon Jamie’s drunken and ruminative recollection of returning his mother’s body to the East Coast for burial. Until that point, very late in the third act, the only references to memory are repeated associations of forgetting with drinking to excess: Hogan (of Jamie): “he was so paralyzed he don’t remember a thing” (33); Hogan: “I’m too drunk to remember” (100); Josie (of Jamie): “He was too drunk to remember anything” (131). Jamie’s memory of the train ride cross-country both recalls Hickey’s account in The Iceman Cometh of murdering his wife Evelyn and differs significantly from it (Iceman was completed in 1941, A Moon for the Misbegotten in 1943). In Hickey’s case, the memory frame quickly drops away, and the revelation feels like a narrative, almost like the set-piece, parlor recitations so common in the period. By contrast, Jamie’s reliving of his tortured ambivalence—the pain of loss mixed with the shame of his drunken couplings with a whor* on the train—is presented as recurrently formative of his relations with women, especially Josie. It is O’Neill’s intention, I believe, that this revelation does not result in a Sophoclean anagnorisis, which characteristically brings a complete realignment of familial and social relations stemming from seeing the past and present in a new light. It is more like a surrogate Penance, the Roman Catholic sacrament requiring confession and resulting in forgiveness—as Jamie confirms when he later declares that he feels “as if all my sins had been forgiven” (171). In self-recrimination, Jamie comes to a limited understanding that his drunken orgy was both to “make me forget” and “No, it couldn’t have been that. Because I didn’t seem to want to forget” (149–150). It is up to us to realize that the solace he sought with the unnamed prostitute is the same solace he sought at his mother’s breast and in Josie, upon whose “maternal” breast he passes out after telling his story


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

(152–153). Jamie’s behavior thus both remembers and forgets his mother. For Josie, the issue is not how to accommodate the content of Jamie’s memory but its encapsulation, that is, its place among other memories of the hours they have just passed together. Will Jamie remember the acceptance and comfort she has offered? “Dear God, let him remember that one thing and forget the rest,” she prays over his sleeping body (165). But neither of them is up to negotiating the Freudian paradox that one remembers pain, loss, and vulnerability in order to forget them, because neither can step out of the dance of insecurities that constitute their relationship. They part amidst protestations of remembrance whose effect is to undo the memory discourse that marked their deepest communication: JOSIE: I hoped, for your sake, you wouldn’t remember, but now you do, I want you to remember my love for you gave you peace for a while. TYRONE: (Stares at her, fighting with himself. He stammers defensively.) I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t remember— JOSIE: (Sadly) All right, Jim. Neither do I then. Good-bye, and God bless you. (She turns as if to go up the steps of the house.) TYRONE: (Stammers) Wait, Josie! (Coming to her) I’m a liar! I’m a louse! Forgive me, Josie. I do remember! I’m glad I remember! I’ll never forget your love! (175)

He kisses her, and they part. As alcohol lubricates Jamie’s slide to a wished-for oblivion, morphine eases Mary Tyrone’s in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Even more than in Moon for the Misbegotten, memory’s domain here is hellish, a place one descends to. The memory theme rises near the end of the second act with Mary hurtfully reminding James Tyrone, Sr., of his miserliness and he countering with memories of her ravaging addiction.16 Their exchange culminates in Tyrone’s cry of “Mary! For God’s sake, forget the past!” and Mary’s response “The past is the present” (87), an assertion Pfister adduces as dogmatic of O’Neill’s psychological determinism. The third and fourth acts bring a torrent of recriminating memories in which all participate: of Jamie’s dissipation, of Tyrone’s drunkenness on his honeymoon with Mary, of the hardships of his youth, of Edmund’s guilt-free adventures as a young seaman, of Mary’s supposed happy days in convent school. But these memories are problematized with a radical, Strindbergian agnosticism, causing us to apply to all the advice Tyrone gives Edmund on how to deal with Mary’s stories: “take her tales of the past with a grain of salt” (137). Edmund’s insistence on his maritime bliss—“I belonged, without past or future” (153)—needs to be filtered through the memories of the “S. S. Glencairn” plays, where the Edmund prototype and O’Neill surrogate Smitty (in Moon of the Caribees [466]) is given to sighing over “beastly memories” the Donkeyman tells him he ought to forget. Like his mother, Edmund cannot grasp the paradox that makes him want to be free of memory while immersing himself in it, the paradox that causes him to counter his recitation of Baudelaire’s “Enivrez vous” (“Be so drunk you can forget” [132]) with his own reminiscences. For her part, the addicted Mary natters “I’m always dreaming and forgetting,” reminding us that her drug of choice is named after Morpheus, the god of dreaming; but in the very same speech in which she claims forgetfulness she has already succumbed to the obsessive memory of her childhood (“Sister Thomas will give me a dreadful scolding” [171]), which renders her “nothing but a ghost

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


haunting the past,” in Edmund’s words (132). O’Neill’s characters are driven to their addictions in a panic to escape the domain of memory entirely, for both remembering and forgetting cause them endless pain. Beyond the relief promised by Junior depth psychology, They seek the sacramental erasure promised by absolution—wiping the soul’s slate clean as if nothing had ever happened. O’Neill (b. 1888) was a generation younger than Luigi Pirandello (b. 1867), though both began writing plays in earnest during World War I. The theatricalist experiments and overt philosophical explorations O’Neill worked through in the 1920s (notably, The Great God Brown and Lazarus Laughed), remained the territory in which Pirandello felt most at home—a home he initially domesticated by writing in Sicilian dialect as a way of preserving cultural memory. Pirandello’s international reputation grew quickly, and O’Neill could hardly have missed the season of Pirandello plays (1922–1923) at the Fulton Theatre in New York City, nor in January 1924 Henry IV (under the title The Living Mask), a production designed by Robert Edmond Jones.17 Stark Young hailed the play as the best thing to be seen in New York, though he found the performances lacking in “brains,” “mental agitation”, and “cerebral distinction.”18 Just as Pfister argues that O’Neill’s staging of “depth” was increasingly marked by an awareness of its performance, Jennifer Stone (1989, 11) contends that Pirandello labored endlessly to fix a mask or face on an ever-elusive (and illusory?) person. For both of them, memory-making resembles fiction or play-“wrighting,” a constructed blend of truth and fiction, and memories may be counted among the baggage loaded on us by others—ideas traceable to the influence of Nietzsche and Freud.19 If, as Stone asserts, “Pirandello dramatizes the discursive strategies . . . which prevent narration from making an original event immediately accessible or words from making action transparent” (22), then we can expect memory to be a contributor to this representational crisis. Though memory frequently figures in Pirandello’s account of how the psyche works, the theme is typically subsumed into the dynamics of discursive strategizing, role-playing, and domestic relations, as it is in Six Characters in Search of an Author and Right You Are (If You Think You Are), for example. The repetitions and reenactments that characterize so many of Pirandello’s plays are shot through with denial and forgetfulness. Six Characters may be a pessimistic answer to Freud’s “Repeating, Remembering and Working Through,” “making the repetitive point that our perpetually lost origin is nothing we can work through” (Stone, 105). In such a reading of Six Characters, the “text is a refracted foil of an unknowable referent” and “the ‘truth’ of an antecedent primal scene reduplicated in the brothel can never be reproduced” (108–109, 113–114), even though critics have linked its circ*mstances to various primal scenes Pirandello may have observed. Unlike others of his plays where the memory theme comes more to the fore, in Six Characters “The discursive process now assumes an immediacy and primacy which transcend the past event” (117). In Henry IV (1922) and As You Desire Me (1930), however, Pirandello’s foregrounding of the role of memory and forgetting in self-construction adds dazzling theatricalist embellishments to the advances made by Ibsen and Strindberg. In the situation of the earlier play, Pirandello’s main character, whom we know only by the name of his assumed role, Henry IV, rather than his “real” name, has been struck


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

a blow on the head upon falling from his horse in a pageant in which he had been playing the eleventh-century German emperor. The accident “freezes” him in the role, and his family has chosen to shore up his delusion by outfitting a castle and hiring an entourage. His madness lasts for twelve years, after which—unbeknownst to those around him—he consciously chooses to continue the masquerade for another eight years, reassuming the role that had previously assumed him. The action of the play is initiated by the decision of his friends and family—including the woman who rejected him (the Marchioness) and her current lover—to adopt the plan of a psychoanalyst to shock Henry back to his real self by replacing the portrait of his beloved with the living image of her look-alike daughter, thereby returning Henry to the time of his trauma and restarting his life “like a watch which has stopped at a certain hour,” as the Doctor puts it (178).20 As most students of modern drama will remember, the experiment comes to a disastrous conclusion. While Henry had formerly been content to exchange the emotional pain and instability of a “real” life for a character whose actions have been determined and settled by history, now the memory of his lover incarnated in her daughter triggers the torment and disappointment of a life unlived. In a passionate rage, he seizes the daughter in an embrace and then stabs her mother’s lover, forever locking himself in the sanctuary of his masquerade. The ingenuity of the play’s situation may be partially blunted by its familiarity as a classic, but its intricacies continue to yield pleasure: the embedding of its characters in multiple reflexive states; its deeply philosophical engagement with issues of the real, of identity and self-knowledge; its interest in the ethics of psychotherapy and the treatment of the “madman”; its elaboration of the theatrical metaphor as descriptor for character construction and destiny; and its successful recruitment of melodrama in the service of intellectualism (a strategy today deployed by the likes of Michael Frayn and Tom Stoppard). Most relevant to the concerns at hand, however, is Pirandello’s exploration of psychological trauma and its impact upon the role of memory in self-consistency. Where Ibsen constructs a Freudian model of remembering, repeating, and working through, and Strindberg explores how the planes of memory both reveal and consume the burned house of childhood, Pirandello is preoccupied with the idea of memory as organically and absolutely constitutive of the self. Initially, Pirandello frames the thesis negatively; in the opening banter among the three veteran role players of Henry’s entourage and the new man, Berthold, Pirandello cites the instability of jerry-built memory as a sign of the unsoundness of the self. Berthold has mistakenly “swatted up . . . all that historical stuff ” (142) about the wrong Henry IV, he the sixteenthcentury King of France rather than the eleventh-century Emperor of Germany. Faced with forgetting all the history he has remembered and having to swat up a whole new era, Berthold wants to flee, only to be reassured by his fellows that “We don’t any of us know who we are really. . . . [just] Names of the period. . . . We have the form without the content. . . . We’re like so many puppets hung on the wall, waiting for some one to come and move us or make us talk” (143–144). Whether any of us may lay claim to a self filled with “true” content, in verifiable relation with the world, is the play’s argument.

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


This argument is emplotted in the complex and peculiar amnesiac situation of Henry IV. For twelve years, the blow to his head caused him to forget who he really was. In choosing to maintain the masquerade after his gradual recovery, Henry appears to be making the Nietzschean or existentialist gesture of living his life on his own terms. That this life is a masquerade makes his conduct no different from the other wearers of “ridiculous masks” (189); that is, we all assume facades to project an illusion of a fixed and stable self. But his awareness of living what the text refers to variously and constantly as a masquerade, a dream, or madness is, Henry argues, transcendent: “entering straightway into a dream” places you “in the dream that would be no more a dream, because you would have lived it, felt it all alive in you” (195). Not knowing that Henry has been cured of his amnesia, the Doctor devises a “violent trick” (177) to wrench Henry from the past into the present “at one bound” (178). He wants to force an anagnorisis that, ironically, Henry has already accomplished— first spontaneously (the return of his memory) and then consciously (his choice to sacrifice the dynamic interaction of self with the world for a conscious embrace of masquerade and its advantages of control and stability). Unlike Greek drama, where the anagnorisis, no matter whether it comes late or early, reveals a retroactive origin, in Henry’s case “it itself is the discourse which originates, not narrates, the immediate action’s history” (Stone, 133). There is something of the commedia dell’arte character of il Dottore in this dubious scheme, but there is also a nod to the ethically ambiguous techniques of modern psychology. The Doctor’s therapeutic orientation is left vague enough to discourage us from identifying him as Freudian or Jungian; his willingness to shortcut a cure, however, suggests Janet and those of the French school(s) of psychology practicing. In any case, it is part of Pirandello’s dramatic strategy to allow us, rather than the Doctor, to recognize Henry’s eleventh-century masquerade as an elaborate complex of screen memories designed to shield him from the hurtful scene of rejection by the object of his desire. The Doctor, and others of the party who have come to cure Henry, are current enough with psychological (if not psychoanalytical) thinking to understand their task as to refresh Henry’s memory by forcing him out of a bygone era into his own time. The Doctor’s trick is inspired partly by Henry’s own expostulations on memory, when he addresses the Marchioness and her lover, both costumed as eleventh-century characters: But I assure you that you, too, Madam, are in masquerade, Though it be in all seriousness; and I am not speaking of the venerable crown on your brows or the ducal mantle. I am speaking only of the memory you wish to fix in yourself of your fair complexion one day when it pleased you—or of your dark complexion, if you were dark: the fading image of your youth! For you, Peter Damiani, on the contrary, the memory of what you have been, of what you have done, seems to you a recognition of past realities that remain with you like a dream. I’m in the same case too: with so many inexplicable memories —like dreams! (170)


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

That is, in Henry’s estimation, the Marchioness uses memory to bridge a gap in her self-image. Selectively forgetting, she can assume a memory of her former self, like a masquerader putting on a costume. By contrast, Henry (whom we do not yet know at this point is a conscious masquerader) ironically claims for himself and Peter Damiani a self-consistency over time that is, however, inexplicable and dreamlike. When the dream is pleasant, as in Henry’s anecdote of the dozing Irish priest whose self-importance slips away, selfhood is the experience of blissful forgetting (“He was forgetful of everything” [205]). When the dream is painful, it is in recognition of the disguises we put on in defense against the misfortunes and disappointments a lived life inevitably puts in our paths. This is not dissimilar to O’Neill’s philosophy of memory. Sensing doubts and ruptures in the “systematized delirium” (177) characteristic of the hopeless madman, the Doctor believes that “true recollections” can part Henry from his “second personality” and so devises the experiment to enable Henry “to recover at one bound the sensation of the distance of time” (178). Hoping that Henry’s sight of the Marchioness alive again in the form of her daughter will with “a shake—so” cause Henry’s memory clock to “tell the time again after its long stop” (ibid.), the Doctor proceeds with the experiment—leading to its tragic conclusion. Though no one character can draw the moral, Pirandello has emplotted in Henry IV the deep paradox of memory: that it depends on sensing the distance of time even as it bridges that distance, but that in bridging the distance memory real-izes it. Rereading Henry IV in light of the topology and pathology of amnesia, and anamnesia, I could not help being struck by the resonance between the play and Awakenings, Oliver Sacks’s (1990) account of his treatment of postencephalitic and Parkinsonian patients. Following upon the great flu epidemic during and after World War I, came a pandemic of encephalitis lethargica, the “sleepy sickness” that eventually claimed five million lives worldwide and then disappeared in 1927 as mysteriously as it had come (12–20). The epidemic was particularly virulent in Italy in the 1920s (see newspaper headlines reproduced in photo illustrations in Sacks, 184ff.). Many of its victims died swift or lingering deaths. Some made complete recoveries. Some lapsed into prolonged catatonia. Some others appeared normal for many years only to relapse inexplicably. Still others survived for decades afflicted with a remarkably complex range of “Parkinsonian” symptoms, including tics, palsies, eye-rolling, ritualized iterative attacks, stiffening, akinesia, psychosexual disorders, neuroses, and psychoses. In the 1960s, Sacks treated the most grievously disabled survivors of the epidemic with the drug L-dopa, resulting in the dramatic, if heart-breakingly temporary, remissions that gave his book its title. Frequently, the results Sacks achieved were unintentionally similar to those the Doctor of Henry IV had hoped to achieve: some of Sacks’s patients suddenly found themselves returned to where they had become frozen in time (see especially Rose R. and Sam G.), even to the extent of evincing obsolete mannerisms and speech. Pirandello, of course, could not have known of this therapy, but from 1918 on, well before Sacks’s L-dopa experiments, pathologists were describing the unique distortions of time sense afflicting some postencephalitic patients, such as the man whose onset occurred as he reached high to catch a ball

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


during a cricket game in 1919 and in whom recurring crises initiated a “total replay of this original, grotesque and comic moment.”21 The unique distortions of space-time, as well as the permutations of a personal selfhood that now recedes and now discloses itself among Sacks’s postencephalitic patients, cause Sacks to speculate on the relationship of consciousness to identity and of memory to both. Intriguingly, his speculations adopt the vocabulary of drama, histrionics, and Pirandellian theatrics. The vividness and uniquely personal qualities of the memories triggered by L-dopa evoke from Sacks this description: “the person shows forth in all his reactions, in a continual disclosure or epiphany of himself; he is always enacting himself in the theatre of his self. Entire memory-theatres are set in motion; long-past scenes are recalled, re-enacted, with an immediacy which effaces the passage of time. . . . The quality of these recaptured moments shows us the quality of experience itself, and reminds us (as Proust is continually at pains to show) that our memories, our selves, our very existences consist of a collection of moments” (259–261, emphasis Sacks’s). But coexistent with the idea of a selfhood granulated in time is the inescapable impression that an individual “who may have been ‘decomposed’ into a swarm of mannerisms, impulsions, automatisms, and mocking ‘selflets’ for decades” can be “suddenly and completely restored to himself” (238–239, emphasis Sacks’s, n. 116). Sacks takes this as evidence for a dynamic, organic, biological consciousness that may be said to be oneself, and his observations “show . . . that one’s ontological organization, one’s entire being—for all its multiplicity, all its shimmering, ever-shifting succession of patterns (Hume’s ‘bundle of perceptions,’ Proust’s ‘collection of moments’)—is nevertheless a coherent and continuing entity, with a historical, stylistic, and imaginative continuity, with the unity of a lifelong symphony or poem” (ibid.). What Sacks calls a symphony or poem, Pirandello calls “character.” But where the physician takes healing consolation in this lifelong self-consistency the artist Pirandello, himself the lifelong spouse of a “mental patient,” sees only the rictus of tragedy—the frozen, naked mask. If Sacks’s patients were sadly returned to their mocking selflets by a failure of pharmacology, and Henry returned to his by a failure to withstand the pain of loss, the “Strange Lady”22 of Pirandello’s As You Desire Me (1930) chooses an amnesiac charade with full consciousness. The play is the middle piece of a trio of amnesiac dramas, including Giraudoux’s Siegried (1928) and Anouilh’s Traveler Without Luggage (1937), written in belated (or extended) response to the post-traumatic stress syndromes of World War I. As You Desire Me suffers from an awkward and protracted exposition leading to an over-stuffed third act (a “psychiatrist from Vienna” functions like the gun in melodrama, mentioned early on only to intrude later), making it one of Pirandello’s lesser known and less frequently produced plays.23 But it demonstrates even more drastically than Six Characters and Henry IV how threatened Pirandello’s characters are by the impingement of others’ memories upon their subjectivity and personhood, often for Pirandello one and the same thing. In the first act, set in Berlin, the Strange Lady is mistress to Salter, a German writer whose daughter Mop is also enamored of her. Called “Elma,” she dances in clubs and carries on profligately with a crowd of hangers–on. But a photographer, Boffi, claims to recognize her as Lucia (nicknamed Cia), the wife of Bruno Pieri and lady of a proud villa near Udine. Cia was raped and abducted by the Germans during the


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

war, and presumed dead by all but a few of her family, including Bruno. The Strange Lady is taken with Boffi’s story, and claims to be Cia, but it is not clear whether she is speaking the truth, or has read the story in a newspaper and remembered the details, and merely seeks an excuse to flee Salter. She is, in any case, a troubled woman who chiefly wants “to flee from myself—I want to—no longer to remember anything . . . I no longer know I am alive—a body, a body without a name, waiting for someone to come and take it!—Ah well, if he [Bruno] can recreate me, if he can give a soul to this body, which is that of his Cia—let him take it, let him take it, and let him build out of his own memories—his own—a beautiful life, a beautiful new life—Oh, I am in despair!” (67). She goes off with Boffi, even though Salter has shot himself, not fatally, in a vain attempt to keep her with him. The second act, set in the countryside near Udine, labors to establish a reason to suspect the motivations of all who might testify to the Strange Lady’s identity: if Cia is declared dead, the villa will belong to her “ugly” sister Inez. A complex fabric of circ*mstances hopelessly obscures the truth. The Strange Lady resembles the picture of Cia ten years younger, but perhaps only because she has dressed identically. She seems to have few common memories with her Aunt and Uncle, but that is perhaps because, as she says of herself in the third person, she is “dead to every memory of that life, which she no longer wants to remember” (99). She lacks a red identifying mark on her body, but is that because she is not Cia or because “I did all I could to get rid of it” (147)? How can she simultaneously maintain of herself “this woman no longer has a memory of her own, not one,” yet claim “I am Cia!—I am Cia!—I alone!” (144–145)? In the third act Salter and Mop arrive at the villa with the Viennese psychiatrist, his nurse, and a patient. Pirandello specifies in a stage direction how “typically German” (173) they all look, and it is fleetingly implied that Italy has been reinvaded by the Germans—the only political note in the play. The virtually silent doctor has in tow a “Demented Lady,”24 painfully described in the stage directions as “heavy-set and flabby” with “vapid, motionless eyes” and “a wide, foolish, empty smile,” who can only stammer out “quite obviously without any idea of what she is saying” (172–173) the name of Cia’s Aunt Lena. The Demented Lady bears utterly no resemblance to the picture of Cia, but the Strange Lady, in a perverse turnaround, claims that “Cia may even be this woman if they choose to believe it!” (197, emphasis Pirandello’s), precisely because Cia could not now look like herself, having experienced the trauma of war, while the Demented Lady looks as someone might who had suffered greatly. A few more reversals agitate the plot: the Strange Lady has an intimate memory only Cia and Inez could have shared, BUT she says she found the incident in Cia’s diary, YET the diary appears to be in the Strange Lady’s handwriting; the Demented Lady has the identifying mark on her side, BUT it is not a red one and not exactly where Cia’s was. The Strange Lady finally flees with Salter, leaving the stage empty but for Aunt Lena and the Demented Lady, who senselessly repeats her name. The creaking plot does not obscure the compelling maturation and revelation of the Strange Lady’s sensibility and how it relates to her memory. While we cannot credit her revelations as facts, we recognize that as she dances around the truth, she

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


exposes the pain of war, rape, vulnerability, and powerlessness not by seeking our pity but by making us feel what she thinks—the key to playing Pirandello: It was easy to pretend in the beginning that I did not want any memories (and, indeed, woe to Lena and Uncle Salesio if they showed any inclination to revive them for me)—And it was likewise easy to pretend that I had lost all memories; but in the meanwhile, eh? Little by little to manufacture myself a set—(She goes over to Boffi.) He (indicates Bruno) wanted the necessary time, did he not, for putting the ruined villa and the grounds into some sort of shape? Ah, and also for reconstructing me, stone upon stone, like the villa; and the piteous memories of poor Cia, transplanted in me—time to make them grow again and flower in life once more. (204)

Though it evokes Jamie’s attempt to escape the domain of memory by leaving Josie in Moon for the Misbegotten, the Strange Lady’s decision is not one for penetential absolution and forgetting. Here decision to go with Salter feels not like an escape from memory, but like a first step toward building a life on her own terms, which will require her to dismantle stone by stone the self Bruno’s memories, all their memories, would have laid upon her. In Weinrich’s view, her choice is an “identity-founding act” (165) of the sort demanded by Existentialism. She leaves Bruno because in rebuilding the “villa,” “you have not thought of looking to see if, among the scattered stones, the rubbish and the ruins, there might have been something of hers, something of her soul . . . some memory that is really alive—for her! not for you!” (216). Such statements, along with the deep empathy Pirandello extends to the female victims of war (Giraudoux’s and Anouilh’s amnesia plays have male central characters) and the unapologetic way he implies a lesbian relationship between the Strange Lady and Mop, caused Susan Sontag to declare the play “ferociously feminist” (quoted in Stone, 174). Indeed, Pirandello’s keen understanding of how masculine memory may impinge upon and displace feminine memory anticipates Dora, the Cixous/ Benmussa dramatic interrogation of Freud. Henry IV and As You Desire Me both bring to the fore a division between memory and history that rests upon a distinction between internal and external representations of the past, and both plays appear to conclude that such representations can never be brought to syncretism. The Strange Lady cannot or will not reconcile the memorial constructs (“stone upon stone”) of others with what she takes herself to be, and Henry uses medieval history simultaneously to symbolize, instance, and displace his personal history. Henry IV may be “a manifesto of the suturing process” (Stone, 159) that attempts to bind image and subject, as when the Doctor arranges for the live Frida to merge with the painted image of her mother. But what the characters, however at odds with each other, combine to construct is a “world of ahistorical repetition, not of historical remembering” (134)—neither history nor memory, but pseudo-history and counter-memory. *




Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

CASE STUDY IN COLLECTIVE MEMORY: REUNION IN VIENNA At the same time Pirandello was wrestling with the memory-history opposition, and as Freud and Jung were also struggling to delineate through the murk of recapitulation theory the outlines of the internal and external factors of memory formation, the Swiss sociologist Maurice Halbwachs was working to redefine such distinctions or, more radically, to render them meaningless by rethinking the way individual memory is constructed. In The Social Frameworks of Memory (1925), Halbwachs argued that individual recollections are framed by social structures from birth and that collectives such as families, tribes, and religious groupings, create instruments (e.g., rituals, commemorations, epics, dialects) to represent the past through what he called collective memory. If individual memory is socially constructed, Halbwachs argued, even more manipulable is the memory of events we have not directly experienced—historical memory—in the service of the pragmatic demands of the social present: “Here it is only one framework that counts—that which is constituted by the commandments of our present society and which necessarily excludes all others” (Halbwachs 1992, 50). Halbwachs in this passage is very close to saying that group or collective memory is per se a form of forgetting. Halbwachs understood that, on the one hand, collective memory could preserve the heritage and traditions of a neglected or oppressed minority and contest majoritarian versions of the past; on the other hand, common consent about the past within a group may be both the cause and the effect of collective memory and may place it in conflict with history, when the latter is understood as the pursuit of truth about the past employing the protocols of fact-gathering, evidence and logical argument. While group remembering may be put in the service of cultural continuity, it is more the case that societies remember selectively to serve present values: “The past is not preserved but is reconstructed on the basis of the present” (40). Among the examples Halbwachs lays out, his later study of the biblical Holy Land as a memorial invention driven by contemporary religious politics is even more relevant today than when he wrote it in 1941. Halbwachs’ work points in two directions. His application of social constructionism to memory leads, through the Annales school, to postmodernism and Nora’s sharp history-memory antagonism. On the other hand, Halbwachs’ notion that memory was collectively constructed effectively and permanently linked the psychoanalytic discourse, wherein remembering plays a crucial role, with the historiographical discourse, previously dominated by positivistic ideals. Though he mentions neither Freud nor Jung by name in his work on memory, Halbwachs invades their territory in contending that the distorted and fragmentary way in which memories enter dreams, when compared with conscious recollections, is as a pile of building materials to the erected edifice: our recollections depend upon the “great frameworks” (42) provided by society in order to stand. As Hutton puts it, “What Freud characterized as individualized images stored deep in the human mind was for Halbwachs the collective imagery of social discourse “ (78). Halbwachs acknowledged that “the coherence or arrangement of our recollections belongs only to ourselves” (1992, 171) and that “we preserve memories of each epoch in our lives, and these are continually reproduced [and] through them, as by a continual relationship, a sense of our identity

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


is perpetuated” (47). But he also declared that memories are personalized, localized, or associated not just by virtue of individual psychological constitution but through “the framework of collective memory [that] confines and binds our most intimate remembrances to each other” (53). Without recourse to a notion like “phylogenetic heritage,” Halbwachs demonstrates how family, society, and religion offer the tools and terms of self-construction: “In the same moment that we see objects we represent to ourselves the manner in which others would look at them. . . . There are hence no perceptions without recollections. But, inversely, there are no recollections which can be said to be purely interior, that is, which can be preserved only within individual memory” (168–169). Halbwachs did not see that such a position brings him close to the hermeneutic conundrum of Gadamer that we can know the past only in terms of the present and the present only in terms of the past. Nor did he see that his historical positivism—he believed, as Hutton puts it, that “the historian’s first task is to keep memory honest” (77)—is at odds with his keen appreciation of how the values of the present figure in the construction of the past. While the fullest dramatic explorations of the history/memory spectrum mark the latter half of the twentieth century, and are taken up in a later chapter, a largely forgotten play contemporary with Pirandello and Halbwachs brings engagingly to life the history/memory consanguinity. Robert Sherwood could scarcely have known the work of Halbwachs, who exerted little influence outside Francophone culture until years after his death during World War II, and Sherwood’s Reunion in Vienna (1931) appears on the surface to resemble more the comedies of Molnar than Pirandello. Yet, this neglected gem of American theatre contemplates—bemusedly—the confluence of historical circ*mstance, personal memory, and a nostalgia nurtured by social change. Few of us remember that Sherwood was the winner of four Pulitzers and the Bancroft prize for his monumental history of the Roosevelt administration, Roosevelt and Hopkins, not to mention the Academy Award for Best Years of Our Lives. Premiering on Broadway in November of 1931, Reunion in Vienna preceded all these honors, and in its own time was noticed more for its resemblance to The Guardsman and as a vehicle for the Lunts than for its provocative ideas. Brooks Atkinson’s (1931) Times review is typical, celebrating the Lunts and congratulating Sherwood for keeping “the fun exuberant and the evening . . . heartily enjoyable,” though gently chiding the play for wavering “unsteadily between burlesque and satire.” But Sherwood’s historical perspective on contemporary politics, which comes to the fore in his later work, is charmingly forecast here. Reunion in Vienna has as its central characters the thirty-ish and beautiful Elena Krug, her husband the famous surgeon/psychiatrist Anton, and Rudolph Maximilian, grandson to Emperor Franz Josef I, former lover to Elena, and now an eccentric cabdriver in Switzerland. The first act takes place in the Krug drawing room on the afternoon of August 18, 1930, the hundredth anniversary of Franz Josef ’s birth. The supporters of the old regime call on the Krugs to say they are planning for that evening a “rumpus,” as Anton’s father puts it, to which they invite Elena. Elena protests she has “forgotten all those old times. . . . I advise you to forget, too.”25 When one of them responds “You’re asking a great deal of people who have nothing but memories to live on,” Elena turns on them, accusing them of “liv[ing] on something that doesn’t exist” (62), a statement replete with Halbwachsian skepticism about


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

collective memory. Reflecting how even somber episodes in the past are glossed over, Halbwachs had observed “Society causes the mind to transfigure the past to the point of yearning for it” (51). Anton, in terms touched with psychotherapeutic moonshine, urges her to go to the party to rid herself of her own “emotional bondage” to the past (68), implying that she, ironically, has never gotten over Rudolph. She reluctantly agrees, and at the end of the first act is seen asking for her servant to fetch the diamond necklace Rudolph had given her and practicing the waltz with her father-in-law. She has been literally collared by Hapsburg nostalgia. The second act is set in the anteroom of the Imperial Suite in the old hotel, the Lucher, where Elena and Rudolph held their liaisons. Sherwood here and elsewhere in the play is drawing on his visit to Vienna and the Hotel Sacher two years previous (Shuman 1964, 29–30). Anticipating an evening of indulgent nostalgia, Madame Lucher, the cynical, cigar-smoking owner, is seen urging the bandleader to provide “accompaniment for sobs—that’s all that’s expected of you” (77). But the old, down-at-the-heels aristocracy is mightily surprised and animated by the appearance of Rudolph Maximilian himself, who has been spirited across the border in Tyrolean mufti. To the accompaniment of the dance band in the next room, Rudolph, whom we recognize as closer to madness than eccentricity, labors mightily to reseduce Elena. Her resistance flagging, Elena makes an escape through the bathroom, and Rudolph is forced to flee the police, who want to discourage any nostalgia over the old Empire. The third act returns the action to the Krug residence, later that night, where Anton sits listening to the radio, and Elena enters wearing Rudolph’s cape, masking the absence of the dress she left on Rudolph’s bed. Anton doesn’t notice the missing dress, though Old Krug does when he enters, archly commenting “and I don’t set myself up as a great mind-reader, like you” (156). Rudolph enters amidst shrieks from the maid and much door-pounding. He and Anton take each other’s measure, as Elena becomes excited watching their sparring. Suddenly, more pounding at the door signals the arrival of the police, and Rudolph reluctantly follows Elena’s command to hide. She persuades Anton to appeal to the higher authorities to let Rudolph slip back over the border, and Anton’s principles of rationality dictate that he agree and not give in to vindictive reprisal by turning the Archduke in. He hopes his example will release Elena from the thrall of Rudolph: “if you can see him for what he is and not for what your memory tells you that he was—then you’re free” (185). Anton exits, taking the police with him. When Rudolph reenters, he in effect declares Anton the winner, revealing that as he hid he came to recognize himself as “no longer an Archduke, nephew of an Emperor; I am a taxi-driver, dressed up” (189). In this witty, if mini–coup de théâtre, it is the villain, rather than either of the protagonists, who undergoes recognition. As Rudolph exits for a few hours’ sleep before departing, Elena waxes sentimentally over his cape, threadbare but still a symbol of his identity. In the soft glow of light from the hall, she caresses the medals on his cape, enters Rudolph’s room—and the curtain discreetly descends. It rises on the morning, as a sort of coda to the act. Rudolph enters and enthusiastically settles down to a breakfast of kidneys that has been set out by the maid for Anton. The emotional triumphalism of the scene is manifest. Elena enters, “radiant” in the stage directions (196). Their almost domestic banter is interrupted by the

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


return of Anton, who is to escort Rudolph out of the country. He soberly recognizes what has happened between his wife and Rudolph. She asks him to retrieve her wedding ring from the Archduke when they reach the frontier. The curtain falls on her and Old Krug at the table, and this exchange: “You know, Elena—I’ve never, in all my life, had so much fun!” “Neither have I,” (205) she smiles, and sips her coffee. Beneath the droll comedy and efficient melodrama, and the metatheatrical voyeurism of seeing Lynn Fontanne’s Elena seduced by Alfred Lunt’s Rudolph, lies a play of subtlety and political sophistication. Sherwood is watching the rise of Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler from across the Atlantic, scenes Sherwood would evoke more graphically in Idiot’s Delight five years later and polemically in There Shall Be No Night (1940). Likely to have been vivid in his memory was a situation of near anarchy in Austria, where two years earlier, very near the time of Sherwood’s visit to Vienna, the army had put down a general strike and where two years later Civil War would break out. In 1929, he had written to his mother of Vienna “that depressing place still trying to persuade itself that it is the gay opulent capital of all Europe,” and John Mason Brown reports that Sherwood’s reading of the pessimistic Modern Temper by Joseph Wood Krutch also influenced the composition of the play (Meserve 1970, 62–63; Brown 1962, 276). When Sherwood was writing Reunion in Vienna, Austria and Germany had begun to negotiate Anschluss, and an insidious alliance was in the making between Hitler and the aristocratic Papen, resulting in Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor within a year of the play’s publication. The return of the aristocracy, then, was not just a matter for comedy. But if the Vienna of the time was known for dangerous politics, it was no less known for Sigmund Freud,26 the obvious model for Anton Krug. Sherwood, I think, has combined both of these hot topics, so that the seduction of the past is played out in both the personal and historical spheres. As the phenomenologist Casey might put it, the “aura” (76) of 1930s German politics is felt in the atmosphere of Sherwood’s mnemonic presentation. In the banter of the first act, Elena claims to have broken from the past, going so far as to redecorate her home in Vienna to erase it: “We must believe we know nothing of what went on in the world before 1920. We are beginning anew” (18). But this is an oversimplification, amounting to a distortion, of Anton’s Freudian belief that one can free oneself of the past only after confronting it in clear-eyed fashion. Anton had been an outspoken opponent of the Hapsburgs before and during World War I, and they had put him to work in a stone quarry, his abused and crushed hands ending his career as a surgeon, but inspiring his career as a psychiatrist. He is thus in his personal history and in his profession a champion of what must be overcome and put “behind” one and, only after that process, forgotten. Like Freud, Anton has been to America to spread the gospel of reliance on scientific rationalism, which Sherwood evidently means to set off against a romanticizing of the past and a forgetting of past wrongs perpetrated by the old Empire. But Sherwood is no Bolshevik and is aware that the left wing can fantasize the past as easily as the right. He has Anton’s student, Emil, naively “bless the war and the revolution that liberated us from the tyranny of ignorance” (27), while Anton’s father listens to Russian radio broadcasts he can’t understand. Anton is a proponent of sexual freedom—he prescribes Sons and Lovers to a Pennsylvania woman who seeks his help with “the facts of life”—but he also advocates adjusting unrealistic fantasies

120 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard of lovers past with a dose of reality; drolly, he recommends that the Pennsylvania woman rendezvous with her first lover, who is now a manufacturer of dental supplies. Though Elena says Anton “cured” her of her former infatuation with Rudolph and delivered her “body and mind, to the new god” (38), infatuations, whether personal or political, do not die so easily. When Elena remembers to call Anton’s student by name, he excitedly remarks on the courtesy, and she responds “I was trained to remember . . . under the Hapsburgs” (39–40). This is a warning signal. As Freud would have phrased it, rather than remembering and working through Elena is evidently subject to repeating the habits of her youth. Elena’s behavior, including her donning the necklace Rudolph gave her, piquantly suggests she is about to reenact the Hapsburg history that victimized her husband. Having now set up the seduction of the past in both its personal and historical implications, Sherwood sharpens the parallels in the second act. Following upon the derision of “the old formalities, the old nonsense” by the shrewd Lucher, reminiscences are exchanged among the arriving guests and war stories gaseously recounted, as the band saws away lugubriously. The emptiness of the Old Regime speaks for itself. But its putative reincarnation, Rudolph, presents a more complex picture in his assault on Elena, initiated with a slap to her face and a fierce kiss. Her first words to him claim to have erased his memory: “You know—I realize now how completely I had forgotten you,” but his reply signals the struggle has just begun: “Yes—it’s too bad. We’re not equipped with the power to recall sensations. . . . However—tonight we will both refresh our memories” (120). Quite obviously, more than Elena’s virtue is at stake here. While the ersatz Hapsburg history is instantly debunked by virtue of its source, the chorus of declassé aristocrats, the madly charming Rudolph is not so easily dismissed. His attempted reseduction of Elena of course puts to the test the rational realism of which Anton/Sigmund is the chief proponent: will the reawakening of sensation “bring back” the past for Elena or will the image of the down-atthe-heels Rudolph erase his former memory? But, as reflected in Rudolph’s pursuit by the police, no less at stake than the seduction of Elena is the seduction of a nation by its falsely remembered or constructed past—a key issue for Europe and the world in 1931. So when Rudolph suggests to Elena, “We have made history in this hotel. Come—let us make some more” (131), the insinuations are far more than risqué. When Elena claims to see, behind the curtain of her imagination, only a “decayed and loathsome” memory of Rudolph (137), he launches a sophisticated argument, almost a theory of emotional memory, against her objections. He elicits from her the admission that she initially imagined Rudolph when making love with her husband, but “learned” to be resigned. He proposes to replace this learning, that is, to displace with the pleasure principle the Freudian reality principle by which her husband has urged her to live: “It’s time for a little emotion,” Rudolph urges. “We’ll see if we’ve forgotten what life tastes like. . . . I’m only asking you to love me again, for a little while, reminiscently . . . as the echo of a voice that enchanted you . . . ” (138–139). The phrases may be drawn from the lexicon of seduction, but their connotation is more treacherous. Like Rudolph’s previous “let’s make history together,” his invitation to reminiscence is here put forth as a personal instance of bringing back an imagined past into the present by common consent—the social phenomenon, identified by Halbwachs as collective memory. The “cult of the past,” Halbwachs understood, was

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


seductive precisely because one could “roam” in it selectively and without the constraints that present society imposes (1992, 50–51). No less seductively did Hitler invite his countrymen to indulge their fantasies of a storied and gloried past that could be relived, allowing us to glimpse the political idea Sherwood has so colorfully wrapped in romantic comedy. In a wonderful coup, Elena suddenly changes tactics, or changes her mind—we are not sure which—kissing and slapping Rudolph as passionately as he has previously done with her. She throws open the doors, inviting the party-goers from the next room “to see that I haven’t changed, that there are some things that can never change” and letting them witness Rudolph lifting her and carrying her off into the bedroom (141). With keen irony, the event is acclaimed by the cheering revelers as emblematic of “the same Vienna—the same exquisite Vienna” (142), confirming our suspicion that the pleasure bond is forged as much from nostalgia as sex. Though Elena’s gesture proves to be a ruse facilitating her escape from Rudolph’s clutches, the events of the third act, as we have seen, drive her again into his arms. Having borrowed a few schillings for cab fare, the scion of the Hapsburgs arrives at the hearth of the Krugs. Rudolph makes a bizarre offer: he will on the morrow pick a fight with a policeman, inviting assassination, and he will bequeath his brain to Anton for study—in exchange for a night with Elena. Anton’s psychoanalytical probity makes him hesitate to strike Rudolph for the insult, causing Elena to doubt her decision to leave Rudolph’s bedroom at the hotel. With aplomb bordering on dispassion, Anton tolerates the recital by Rudolph of the initial seduction of his wife ten years earlier. Recognizing Anton’s poise as an attempt to outcharm him, Rudolph then trumps Anton by offering to submit himself for analysis. In this game of cat and mouse, it is Anton who is finally trapped—in a trap he set for himself. Just as Elena was forced in the second act to deal with a rematerialized presence from the past, now Anton must face the same challenge. Struggling with the temptation to abandon rationality—and removing his jacket—Anton makes an admission to Rudolph that subtly but directly articulates the action-in-depth of the play: “We’ve expelled the Hapsburgs from Austria, but not all of us have expelled the Hapsburgs from ourselves” (175). The subsequent seduction of Elena, then, gives carnal expression to the idea that while the Hapsburg history is over, the Hapsburg memory has been successfully, collectively interiorized. Following the cue of the preface to the hardback edition, in which Sherwood appears to present his drama as a contest of Superstition and Rationalism (vii), Christopher Bigsby (1982) sees the play as setting off “an effete decadent culture” against “one which destroyed the spontaneous” (142). Indeed, this is the surface action of the play. But Sherwood’s artistic intellect gets the best of his schematic design, and the play turns out to be less neat and more interesting than the maundering preface promises. Both Bigsby and Fearnow (1997, 58–61) give in to the temptation to critique the preface rather than the play, but a deeper reading of even the former reveals that Sherwood had his eye on history. The Caesars, the Tudors, the French Revolution, Mussolini, Stalin, Marx, and Lenin—not just the Hapsburgs— occupy his text. And so do Darwin, Huxley, and Freud. Sherwood’s preface oddly disparages the play as escapist, and the gap between the perceived tone of the play and that of the preface provoked a Pollyanna response to

122 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard the published version from Atkinson in the Times, consoling the playwright with assurances that “Friendship is still man’s grandest melody” (quoted in Meserve, 74). One wonders whether the author’s interpretation of his own play wasn’t influenced by his close friends the Lunts, who certainly tilted the play toward their brand of “bounce and merriment,” to quote Atkinson’s review. But beneath the froth is a marvelously complex play, in which memory and history, rather than being presented in confrontation or convergence, are intertwined like a double-helix. In creating Elena, Sherwood offers us a ravishing and troubling case study in the contesting forces of memory and forgetfulness on the battleground of self–fashioning. A more doctrinaire Freudian would have deemed her reseduction by Rudolph a countertherapeutic acting out, a repetition. But Sherwood boldly allows her to keep her home and her marriage and reclaim her self, thereby offending contemporary moralists, who saw the play as a defense of adultery, and leading the police to halt the production in Toronto (Shuman, 140). In creating Rudolph, who resists change, who remains brutally himself, Sherwood is close to incarnating the juggernaut of history: to win his attention or favor, men and women will betray themselves, or be sacrificed. A more doctrinaire Marxist would have curbed Rudolph’s Mephistophelean appeal—and never allowed the dashing Alfred Lunt to be cast in the role. In creating the Freudian Doctor Krug, Sherwood takes the psychiatrist as custodian and restorer of personal memory, and presses him in the vice of history. A more doctrinaire comedian would have crafted a stereotype instead the complex Anton. Not for another thirty years, with Miller’s After the Fall, would an American playwright address the twinned issues of history and memory in so sophisticated—if a good deal less charming—a fashion. In its own brief time, Reunion in Vienna was grouped with the urbane little comedies of Molnar and Fodor (Shuman, 132). As Walter Meserve reports, it was awarded a $500 prize from the Dramatists Guild, an award given to a play “produced in New York City, [that] makes the audience a little brighter and a little more cheered when it leaves the theatre than when it came in’” (73). Only Richard Dana Skinner (1931) in Commonweal offered Sherwood the back-handed compliment that the play might have had a more satirical edge if the playwright had more rigorously squelched the hollow romance of the old empire. It has since been dismissed as superficial and unoriginal by one of its few recent critics (Shuman, 132 and 141) and as “an amusing star vehicle” by another (Fearnow, 58). But from its array of shrewdly constructed characters a watchful audience can surely glean the penetrating and paradoxical insight that together, history and memory fix an individual in time (“I was trained to remember . . . under the Hapsburgs”), yet they are both the creation of the individual and constitute individuality (“not all of us have expelled the Hapsburgs from ourselves”); that together, history and memory fix a nation in time, yet they are both products of and inputs to the system of national formation—as when the memory of the Hapsburgs is etched again upon Austria in the old jewels Elena puts on, the Viennese waltz she dances to the “accompaniment for sobs” provided by the Lucher’s bandleader, indeed, by the very stones of the old hotel itself—social frameworks all. The “Reunion” in Sherwood’s Vienna is almost allegorically a meeting of history and memory. That is, Sherwood’s passion is engaged, not just or even primarily by the opposition of decadence and sentimentality to science and reason, but by the

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


broad stage of history and the bright scene of human memory. In eerie retrospect, the “reunion” also suggests a meeting of Freud and Halbwachs. Was Freud, like Anton, in denial over the politics of Vienna during the rise of Nazism,27 while the clear-eyed Halbwachs, like the Archduke Rudolph, understood that “reminiscently” embracing the past was indistinguishable from mischievously reconstructing it? But history has its cruel ironies: the reluctant, apolitical Freud escaped Vienna with his life less than two months after Hitler’s triumphant entry in 1938; Halbwachs, a Swiss who married into a Jewish family, lost his at Buchenwald in 1945.28 *



MEMORY BROADWAY BOUND From the heights of the Nobelists Pirandello and O’Neill to the lowlier precincts of the Broadway star vehicle, the memory theme exerted its allure. It is not surprising, then, to find a diverse brace of playwrights—John N. Raphael, Owen Davis, Irwin Shaw, and Thornton Wilder—clustered around a controversial subject that remains a staple of popular culture—memory in near-death and after-death experiences. Their approaches range from the literal, in the case of Raphael’s dramatization of George Du Maurier’s first novel, Peter Ibbetson, to the metaphorical, in the case of Wilder, whose deeply recollective tendencies evoke Plato on memory. But in all cases memory becomes the unlikely partner in explorations of spirituality, mysticism, and the immortality of the soul. In this regard, memory traverses the fields of Mesmerism, animal magnetism, trance, alternate or multiple personalities, materialized spirits, clairvoyance, hypnotism, and Spiritualism, which were frequently thrown together in a huge, bubbling pot of occult or psychical emanations.29 Stirring the pot, either from a discreet distance or close enough to taste, was a surprising range of intellectuals in the first quarter of the twentieth century, including Jung (whose 1902 dissertation was titled “On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena”); William James; the distinguished Swiss psychologist Theodore Flournoy; Julian Huxley; Arthur Conan Doyle; and the classical scholar Frederic W. H. Myers, whose theory of a subliminal self that would survive after death intrigued many, including James.30 Two intellectual events lent credence to a field long beset by, yet seemingly resistant to, fraud and flim-flam: William James’s assumption of the presidency of the British Society for Psychical Research in 1896, and Conan Doyle’s “conversion” to Spiritualism in 1918, subsequent to the supposed manifestation of his deceased son at a séance. Like the playwrights mentioned above, James and Doyle represent the range of attitudes on psychical phenomena. James scarcely said anything on the issue (at least, publicly) without judicious hedging, while Doyle was notoriously (and ironically, in view of his creation of the coolly calculating Holmes) credulous, even to the extent of believing in spirit photography.31 What all this has to do with memory may be illustrated by the case of James. On the one hand, James is rightly celebrated by Edelman as the first scientist to theorize about consciousness by attempting to relate psychological function to the body

124 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard and the brain (1989, 38), and Morton Hunt (1993) reminds us that “there were no professors of psychology in American universities before James began teaching the subject in 1875” (150). Yet Hunt (144) calls him “the psychologist, malgré lui,” and James ultimately abandoned psychology for metaphysics. As Gerald E. Meyers and Rand B. Evans make clear in their twin introductions to the 1981 edition of James’s Principles of Psychology (1890), James was a paradoxical figure chiefly in that he managed to undermine the dualism of mind and body that (in the assumptions of the time) made psychology possible as a discipline—without, however, either transcending or abandoning such dualism.32 James threaded his own way between rationalism and empiricism; conducted experiments, but relied far more heavily on introspection and deduction; bridged the gap between philosophical psychology and behaviorism; and accommodated parapsychology and immortality in his structure of belief. Historians of psychology express frustration at how James largely rejected the materialism of physiological psychology and could consider that individual consciousnesses may be interconnected and part of the experience of God, while at the same time laying the foundation for educational and social psychology, replacing “Soul” with consciousness, and conceiving the self as a “momentary phase” (Meyers’ “Introduction,” xxx) in the stream of consciousness, a conception without which much twentieth-century literature and psychology would be bereft. The two catch phases popularly derived from James’s thought—the “stream” of consciousness (233) and the “blooming, buzzing confusion” (462) of the external world sufficiently direct us to the center of his attention in how consciousness mediates with experience. He confidently declared that thought, consciousness, and subjective life all flow continuously, asserting that the continuity is based in ceaseless cerebral activity: “When the brain acts, a thought occurs” (327, emphasis James’s). James’s thoughts on memory are contained in one of the more empirically leaning chapters (XVI) of his master work and, together with his observations in Chapters X (“The Consciousness of Self ”) and XV (“The Perception of Time”) mark the deepest and most comprehensive writing on memory by an empiricist prior to Bartlett’s Remembering (1932). As an admirer of Janet, James acknowledges that “forgetting is as important a function as recollecting” (639) and notes with interest that forgotten experiences may return after an accident, “which seems to develop latent paths of association, as the photographer’s fluid develops the picture in the collodion film” (641). In concept and metaphorical framing, he is here verging on the notion of flashback almost a decade before the invention of the motion picture and more than two decades before the OED’s citation of the first use of the term. The contradictions generally characteristic of Principles of Psychology also shadow James’s consideration of memory, which wavers between an idea of memory as a faculty or power and memory as a process, as Murphy and Kovacs suggest (200). But several features of his theory have particularly endeared him to later thinkers on memory, particularly to cognitive scientists. He resolutely sought to trace the mental act of memory to its physiological sources. Following in the path of Janet, whose work on amnesiacs he cites (363ff. and 642ff.), he considers alterations of memory as mutations of the self. Finally, and most presciently, he virtually anticipates Gerald Edelman’s bold concept of consciousness itself as remembered. On the

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


way to developing an idea not entirely different from what Edelman will almost a hundred years later elaborate as the concept of reentry, James speculates that paths of memorial association depend upon the excitation or modification of the “plastic nerve substance” connecting the object to be remembered with its associated setting, noting “the brain-tracts excited by the event proper and those excited in its recall, are in part different from each other” (618). James strove to bring to his explorations of “psychical phenomena” the same caution and objectivity that governed the Principles, in Volume 1 of which there is a short section on “Mediumships or possessions.” On the one hand, he interpreted mediumistic possessions as “a perfectly natural special type of alternate personality” (393) and declared “I have no theory to publish of these cases” (394). Yet, he admits, “I am myself persuaded by abundant acquaintance with the trances of one medium that the ‘control’ may be altogether different from any possible waking self of the person” (396, emphasis James’s). For James, memory played a crucial role in connecting his theory of consciousness with the possibility of communicating with “the other side.”33 In an 1898 lecture at Harvard, he attempted to reconcile physiological psychology with belief in immortality, addressing the question of how could one attain immortality if all thought, including spiritual thought, depends upon the physical brain. In answering, he introduces the possibility that the brain is not the origin of consciousness but that “Consciousness pre-exists as an entity, and the various brains give to it its various forms” (Murphy and Ballou, 287). He calls this a “transmission” theory because consciousness is taken to exist already, “behind the scenes,” and brains only transmit it (294). The implication of a priori knowledge makes this theory distinctly Platonist, but it was more directly inspired by Frederic Myers, who played a key intellectual and emotional role in James’s life (Simon, 295–298). As James explained in his address at Myers’ memorial service (1901) in Myers’ theory, consciousness “aggregates and dissipates,” lays hold of bits of information that leak into the subliminal. “The ulterior source of a certain part of this information . . . Myers thought he could reasonably trace to departed human intelligence” (Murphy and Ballou, 223). In such a view, preFreudian psychology, proto-Jungian intimations of the collective unconscious and occult phenomena are seen to converge. As Suzanne Nalbantian keenly points out (22), the vestiges of philosophical dualism unite the work of Janet, James, and Bergson, who all turn Janus-faced both toward cognitive science and that fringe of philosophical psychology which merges with mysticism. James, via Gertrude Stein, may have influenced Thornton Wilder’s thinking about memory; Wilder was tempted to a similar dualism. Furthermore, perhaps through the pervasive use of Principles of Psychology in colleges and universities, James’s account of memory may have influenced American memory plays of the 1940s and 1950s. More immediately, and sensationally, two plays written during World War I likewise address memory as, respectively, a bridge to “the other side” and a function of the brain that replays our lives before our eyes. Though John N. Raphael’s dramatization (1915) of du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson (1890) and Owen Davis’s Forever After (1918) appear to be approaching memory from the opposite poles of para- or metapsychology and realism, they both assume the unresolved dualism James struggled with when he posited a subjective “I” and an objective “me” in Chapter X (“The Consciousness of Self ”) of the Principles.

126 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Peter Ibbetson34 was produced on Broadway in 1917 and 1931, and also received silent (1921) and talking (1935) film productions. In the 1917 Republic Theatre production, John Barrymore played the eponymous hero who kills his Uncle, Colonel Ibbetson (Lionel Barrymore), because the Uncle has impugned his mother’s reputation by claiming to be his father. In the four-act play, two scenes (2.2 and 4.2) are given over entirely to Peter’s memories of his childhood in a suburb of Paris. These scenes do suggest themselves, if somewhat uncertainly, as formative of the character of Peter, and we are to register them as continuing to affect his life in a way that might justifiably be called “psychological.” Even so, this dimension of the piece is absorbed into a larger visionary agenda, in which the audience is drawn into believing in a quasiSpiritualist life after death characterized by unvarnished wish-fulfillment. It was likely not coincidental that the play was presented at the height of World War I, during and after which Spiritualism flourished—spurred by the tragic loss of so many youth. In the plot, at a ball in the English countryside Peter, “a slender, refined, sensitive young man . . . inclined to be dreamy” (s. d., 7), strikes up a friendship with the young widow, Mrs. Deane, who is caddishly pursued by the Colonel. Peter confides idyllically happy memories of his youth to Mrs. Deane, but when he appears to recognize in the duch*ess of Towers his childhood sweetheart Mimsey, he declines to speak with the duch*ess—allowing himself instead only the indulgence of cradling a bouquet she has left behind, while murmuring “l’amour” (28) to the strains of Schubert’s “Serenade” and the fall of the curtain at the end of the first act. The moment is characteristic of the play’s idiom. In the second act, several years have passed, and Peter is visiting Passy, the scene of his childhood memories. Induced by a song his mother used to sing, he falls into a restless sleep during which, as we see in the next scene, he experiences an episode of “true dreaming,” the ability to “go where you like” (as Peter had explained it [21]) in your dreams. Though the audience is not required to “clap three times,” à la Peter Pan, we are earnestly asked to accept that this state may be generated by sleeping with arms raised above head and feet crossed. John N. Raphael is no Proust. With a double of Peter asleep off to the side, Peter and the duch*ess (for she is dreaming as well) watch a scene—the Jamesian “I” observing the “me”—from their youth that is both idyllic and troubling. On the one hand, the scene lays the basis for the happy memories that Peter has carried with him. On the other, it establishes the Colonel as a knave seeking revenge on Peter’s mother for rejecting him. The episode ends with a childhood “scene” that a more sophisticated dramaturgy might have represented as a memory recovered in analysis: as the Colonel threatens his mother with financial ruin and worse, the adult Peter watches his twelve-year-old counterpart shout “‘Mother! Mother! I’ll defend you!’ (BLACKOUT)” (42). Whatever Freud or Strindberg might have made of this material, the transitional, even reactionary nature of Raphael’s dramatization becomes more obvious in the third act, as we see that the psychology of the dream sequence provides the basis for a melodramatic turn. Mrs. Deane and her mother reveal to Peter (via the hoary convention of a letter that should have been destroyed) the Colonel’s claim that he is Peter’s father. “And now I shall always feel I have poisoned those dear, dear memories” (58), Mrs. Deane laments just before, in a fit of anger, Peter strikes the Colonel with his cane and kills him.

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


The fourth act is set in Newgate prison, where Peter awaits a death sentence that, however, is commuted due to the intercession of the duch*ess. Following upon this news are three rapturous scenes forming a sob-inducing coda. First (4.2) comes another episode of true dreaming in which Peter is absolved by the duch*ess of any guilt he may have harbored over killing the Colonel: “Each time I pass my hand across your brow, I wipe away some bitter memory” (71). We also see the childhood pledge of eternal love between young Peter and Mimsey fulfilled in their adult ability to be together as “true dreamers.” In 4.3 (twenty-five years later), Peter is dying and the duch*ess appears to him as a vision with the reassurance: “Nothing is lost—nothing. Our body is the cocoon we spin ourselves from our early life, and at last it bursts and we fly away with our memories about us with great wings. That is what we are, Peter. Little memories that never die” (77). This vision is then fulfilled in the final scene, wherein Peter is greeted in the afterlife by his childhood self, by Mimsey, and by his mother, as well as the adult duch*ess—wish-fulfillment, indeed. The philosophical problem James never solved—if the self is merely a momentary phase in the stream of consciousness, what constitutes personal identity?—is here resolved unapologetically: our momentary selves survive in heaven. It is fair to see this ascent into a Spiritualist heaven as a descent from seriousness and a refusal of the heaviness of memory, its source in the already actualized. One can imagine Freud shaking his head at the duch*ess’s “That is what we are. . . . Little memories that never die” and murmuring “That is not what I meant at all.” One can also imagine F. W. H. Myers (though probably not James) crying “Yes! That’s it!” Metapsychology and Spiritualism aside, Peter Ibbetson may be termed a memory play by virtue of its foregrounding of memory as a distinct phenomenon, and via its inklings of memory’s role in self-formation. Indeed, the “sensitivity” of Peter is likely a euphemism for neurosis, and his homicidal outburst might be described by Freud and Breuer as a bout of hysteria provoked by “reminiscence.” *



No such incipient psychological interests trouble Forever After by the prodigiously productive Owen Davis.35 Opening two months before the end of World War I, the earnestly contemporary Forever After opens with a battle scene forming the backdrop (literally, as a staging note indicates [73]) for a fevered dialogue between Ted, the seriously wounded captain (Conrad Nagel in the original production), and his lieutenant and childhood friend Jack, who tends him. In their conversation, Ted offers sketchy details of a relationship with Jennie (Alice Brady) that was strained and suspended because of a lie. As Jack leaves for help, Ted lapses into a delirium providing the realistic justification for the flashbacks forming the body of the play, as in Elmer Rice’s earlier (1914) On Trial.36 In a blackout, the battlefield drops are pulled out to the sound of Jennie’s girlish laughter, and Ted throws off his battle gear to reveal his prep school underdressing. The plot spins out a romantic melodrama with a fairy-tale ending. The first act sets up the summer romance of a class-divided couple: Jennie’s father is wealthy, Ted’s is not, though both Jennie (Vassar) and Ted (Harvard) will go off to college in the Fall. The first act ends and the second begins with a return to the battlefield,


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

where Ted’s delirium reestablishes the flashback convention. The action of the second act centers around a crew race as the occasion for further class distinctions between Jennie’s and Ted’s families. The third act has Jennie as a nurse at the Red Cross hospital where the rescued Ted has been taken. Now the motivation changes for the final flashback, as Jennie talks urgently to Ted in an effort to get him to emerge from an ether-induced coma. The scene from the past thus evoked returns us to a party where Ted, pridefully rejecting the ardor of his social superior, declares he does not love Jennie, thereby explaining the situation of the play’s opening sequence. A coda in the present shows Ted emerging from his coma and Jennie repeating (73) in a declaration of love the play’s title—which she had earlier glossed (16) as the tag line of a fairy tale her father used to read to her. While in Peter Ibbetson memories are given a sort of metaphysical spin as “true dreaming,” here memories are meant, for the first two acts, to be the mental content of Ted’s battlefield delirium. Also in contrast to the earlier play, wherein the two dream sequences are deliberately gauzy and soft focus, here it is the actual, present-time battle scenes that “should only vaguely shadow the atmosphere of war” (73), while the flashbacks containing most of the action have the aura of reality. Though one might judge both playwrights’ devices (somewhat unfairly) from the perspective of the present as being dated, the impressions about memory they convey differ remarkably. For all of its Spiritualist mumbo-jumbo, Peter Ibbetson shows a genuine interest in memory as mental and psychological process: the memory sequences of Peter’s childhood are essential for us to make sense of his life as a continuous, temporal phenomenon with psychological coherence. To employ terms not then in usage (though the concepts date to the early nineteenth-century work of Herbart and Benecke), while Raphael (after du Maurier) represents the memory process at the moment of encoding, Davis by contrast shows the memory product at the moment of retrieval: for Davis, instead of comprising character, memory resolves plot. The memories constituting the body of Davis’s text make us forget they are memories at all as we watch them. Interestingly enough, the playwright turns out to have been equally forgetful of the operant convention. The third act stage directions emphasize “It is to be remembered that JENNIE’S mind now controls the movement of the play and it is her thoughts and memories that are being mirrored” (53). Yet, at a crucial point in the action Jennie exits the scene (60), upon which follows an extended conversation among, variously, Jennie’s parents, Ted and Ted’s friend Jack—a conversation Jennie clearly could not have remembered. Davis’s unsteadiness with the convention no doubt reflects his tentative exploration of the limits of a device-driven dramaturgy; he did, to his credit, link the flashback device borrowed from Rice and the motion pictures to the idea of a mind controlling the action. But it is worth noting that a play whose Broadway production could command such box office draws as Conrad Nagel and Alice Brady relies, in its representation of memory, on techniques familiar to audiences at The Bells in 1871. Like Peter Ibbetson and Forever After, the memory theme in Irwin Shaw’s Bury the Dead (1936) is subsumed under a larger dramatic agenda.37 Shaw’s still effective antiwar drama is nothing like a memory play, but its six corpses who refuse to be buried, having been shot in “the second year of the war that is to begin tomorrow night” (11), are an embodiment of what must not be forgotten about war: that it kills. Shaw is thus raging against collective amnesia. The image of the dead

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


men, encrusted with dirt, standing hip deep in their graves and appealing to their gravediggers “Say something to us. Forget the grave, as we would forget it” (29) has lost none of its power. Nor has the unintended irony of the First General who exhorts the dead to allow their burial: “Wars can be fought and won only when the dead are buried and forgotten” (64). The gallows humor, and the morbidity, of Shaw’s vision derive from the graveyard scene in Hamlet (probably via O’Neill’s Lazarus Laughed). But in connecting war, trauma, memory, and amnesia, it also looks backward to Forever After and forward to Arthur Laurents’ Home of the Brave (1945). As well, Shaw placed on the Broadway stage a graveyard filled with the talking dead two years before Our Town.38 “And what’s left when your memory’s gone, and your identity, Mrs. Smith?” queries Wilder’s Stage Manager to an imagined member of the audience at Our Town.39 In a way, Wilder had already answered the question, as Paul Lifton (1995, 16) has suggested, when in his three-minute play And the Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead (1928) Wilder posits a Myers/Jamesian “unicity” into which all souls are melted down after the Last Judgment. Such ideas, along with Wilder’s joshing willingness to locate Grover’s Corners ultimately in the “Mind of God” (near the end of the first act) and other strong evidence of his Platonism, long ago sent Wilder’s partisans and detractors into a tizzy over whether the playwright was at all interested in the social reality of the America he seems to celebrate.40 Is he fuzzy-thinking, transcendental, and irrelevant or passionate, radically immanent, and civil? Looking at how Wilder remembers the American past may clarify that issue. But in any case, Wilder’s dramaturgy, rightfully savored in other respects, should also be recognized for its ingenuity in constructing memory. As with Pirandello, our familiarity with the Wilder “classics” may dim an appreciation of their achievement. Indeed, because Wilder’s “technical vocabulary” of the theatre derives from Pirandello’s, as Lifton (131) observes, the devices may seem doubly familiar. Yet, while the memory projects of Pirandello and Wilder are both buttressed by the exposed conventions of the theatre, the mnemonic presentation and eidetic features of memory emerge remarkably different at the hands of the two playwrights. Where Pirandello’s characters chafe at the burdens of others’ memories threatening to fix them in time, Wilder created a theatre in which characters and spectators alike embrace a milieu de mémoire obliviously—to accept a paradox Wilder articulated in a 1957 apologia: The response we make when we ‘believe’ a work of the imagination is [the] form of knowledge which Plato called ‘recollection.’ We have all murdered in thought; and been murdered. We have all seen the ridiculous in estimable persons and in ourselves. We have all known terror as well as enchantment. Imaginative literature has nothing to say to those who do not recognize—who cannot be reminded [emphasis Wilder’s]—of such conditions. Of all the arts the theatre is best endowed to awaken this recollection within us—to believe is to say ‘yes’; but in the theatres of my time I did not feel myself prompted to any such grateful and self-forgetting [emphasis mine] acquiescence. (Preface to Three Plays, vii–viii)

In a phrase, Wilder is saying that the self is “forgotten” or absorbed in the collective remembering that is theatre.

130 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard In positing the theatre as a memory site Wilder both anticipates Nora, who defines a milieu de mémoire as “memory entwined in the intimacy of a collective heritage” (8), and echoes T. S. Eliot, for whom poetic creation is profoundly co(m) memorative; as Eliot says of the poet in “Tradition and the Individual Talent”: “We shall often find that not only the best but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously” (The Sacred Wood, 48). Like his somewhat older contemporaries C. G. Jung and Maurice Halbwachs, Eliot was an appreciator of collectivities and interested in how individuals related to them. Analogous to Jung’s collective unconscious and Halbwachs’ collective memory, Eliot conceives tradition as a communion of poets (likely derived from the Roman Catholic notion of a “communion of saints” connecting the faithful on earth with the saints in heaven) whose work, the whole of literature, “has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order” (49). Consequently, “what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it” (49–50) and thus, “the past [is] altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past” (50). What Eliot here asserts of literary creation is compatible with the neurobiologist Edelman’s notion—developed eighty years later—of cognitive “reentry,” the procedure by which memory processes continually reorganize the remembering subjectivities that “created” them. Likewise in terming the context in which the poet works as “the present moment of the past” (59), Eliot may be evoking William James’s idea that the present should be considered “specious” because it is not really separate from the past. Though Wilder felt he had positioned himself in a 1957 speech on the culture of a democracy as “all anti-T. S. Eliot—who drearily believes that there can be no flowers of the spirit when those high-born elites are gone” (Harrison, 330), he certainly shares Eliot’s engagement with the presence of the past, particularly in The Long Christmas Dinner and Our Town. Wilder wrote The Long Christmas Dinner in 1930 at the MacDowell Colony, publishing it the following year as the featured play in a volume of six one-acters.41 With what may now be counted among the more famous stage directions in theatre history, Wilder lays out the situation. In a new house a long dining table is handsomely spread for Christmas dinner: Ninety years are to be traversed in this play which represents in accelerated motion ninety Christmas dinners in the Bayard house-hold. The actors are dressed in inconspicuous clothes and must indicate their gradual increase in years through their acting. Most of them carry wigs of white hair which they adjust upon their heads at the indicated moment, simply and without comment. The ladies may have shawls concealed beneath the table that they gradually draw up about their shoulders as they grow older. Throughout the play the characters continue eating imaginary food with imaginary knives and forks. There is no curtain. (4)

The house may be new, but the play virtually begins with talk of the old: Mother Bayard, the oldest of the four generations of Bayards represented on stage declares: “I can remember when there were still Indians on this very ground, and I wasn’t

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


a young girl either. I can remember when we had to cross the Mississippi on a new-made raft. I can remember when Saint Louis and Kansas City were full of Indians” (5). With repeated talk of keeping a diary, we soon suspect that the play IS the diary, with births and deaths duly entered and registered onstage by the coming and goings of the characters through two portals. Views are expressed, by the successive scions of the family and by others, about the family business, about the house, the town, and the country. Time passes. But the logic of passing time is not, strictly speaking, based on the sequential, nor is the record thus created a historical one, as there are several time schemes plotted simultaneously: (1) the chronology of passing of generations, so elegantly and simply devised by Wilder via character entrances and exits and comments on the aging household; (2) the folding of time upon itself as registered in repeated phrases—refrains, really—spoken years apart (“a glass of wine with you,” “the sermon was lovely,” “those were the days,”) comments about the weather (“every last twig is wrapped around with ice”), and in the recurring family names (Roderick and Lucia); (3) the stretching of time registered in the movement of characters through the portals representing Birth and Death (a kind of cosmological time or time sub specie aeternitatis). Sometimes the refrains are conscious recitals, sometimes unconscious and ironic repetitions. Thus, while the behavior observed is social, it also feels peculiarly as if we are watching the actions of simple biological creatures caught up in a sort of recombinancy. We are beginning to understand that Wilder’s interest is in what Darwinian biologists call a “population,” a diverse group from which selections are made to strengthen the unit. In terms of philosophy, Adrienne Hacker-Daniels is surely right in identifying the time scheme of flux, circularity, and cyclical change in the play as Heracl*tean (1999, 345). But in terms of the phenomenology of memory, The Long Christmas Dinner constructs what Casey (228–230) calls perdurance, which is not the eversameness of eternity, nor rote repetition, but the simultaneous sameness and difference of tradition, allowing for change. Wilder’s interest in memory is morphological. He registers change in the attitudes of the various scions toward the material world, politics, the social, and domestic milieux. While four generations of the Bayard family make appearances in the short play, this acceleration of history does not bring with it the postmodern anxieties described by Pierre Nora: “An increasingly rapid slippage of the present into the historical past that is gone for good, a general perception that anything and everything may disappear—these indicate a rupture of equilibrium. The remnants of experience still lived in the warmth of tradition, in the silence of custom, in the repetition of the ancestral, have been displaced under the pressure of a fundamentally historical sensibility” (7). Quite the opposite. The play may end with the oldest cousin Ermengarde slumping to her death in a house into which the soot from industrialization has seeped, but some of the children are spread far and wide—to China, even!—and a new house is being built. The perduring sensibility is not historical—to the ire of Wilder’s Marxist critics—but biological, fecund, genomic in that the whole hereditary information of an organism—the Bayard family—is encoded in each successive generation. The action of the play continuously remaps the relations of the Bayards in a way that reflects both heredity and environment.

132 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard The Bayards’ collective heritage seems to perdure naturally and unself-consciously; it does not require what Nora calls “commemorative vigilance” (12) to survive. Eight years later Wilder was more doubtful, for commemorative vigilance is precisely what the Stage Manager of Our Town is there to manage. In this regard, the Stage Manager plays a double role. As a representative of the theatre, he asserts the memorial strength and verity of the art form, insisting that a copy of the play be placed in the cornerstone of the bank being built and declaring: “So—people a thousand years from now—this is the way we were . . . in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying” (Three Plays, 32). As one of “us,” sharing “our” town, the Stage Manager urges commemorative vigilance of a literal sort. When he allows Emily a brief return from the grave, the lesson she takes from posthumously revisiting her birthday is that “We don’t have time to look at one another” (100). Here as throughout, the Stage Manager functions as a surrogate or symbolic reminder—a string tied around the audience’s forefinger. The memories are not his, and he speaks of “our” town more editorially and omnisciently than personally. The memories are not even Wilder’s particularly: he was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Berkeley, California. He did teach at a tutoring camp in New Hampshire, but Grover’s Corners was patterned after no particular New Hampshire town (Harrison 1983, 187). These facts support a determination that the mnemonic mode of Our Town is not predominantly reminiscing nor recollecting, but reminding. The authority of the Stage Manager also signals a deemphasis in the mnemonic presentation on content—the “just what” (Casey, 66) we remember and no more, which dominates The Long Christmas Dinner—in favor of a stronger emphasis on frame and aura. Certainly, Wilder deliberately made the plot content of Our Town almost as bare as the set: Emily Webb, daughter of the editor of the town newspaper, marries George, the son of Doc Gibbs, and dies in childbirth. In the third act, we see the townspeople, living and dead, at her cemetery burial. More important to Our Town are the memory frame: worldhood (sense of setting and surroundings); the self-presence of the rememberer; remembered space (not just visual but gustatory, olfactory, haptic, etc.); and the remembered time (indeterminate or specific, and relational to other past events that cluster together). Equally significant is aura, which Edward Casey describes as (1) the indeterminate margin around more specific memories; and (2) the atmosphere or emotional pervasion of the memory (76–78). Wilder’s construction of the memory frame is complex and paradoxical. From the outset, by virtue of the ingenuity of the staging conventions, the focus memorius is the stage as much as the family—more so than in The Long Christmas Dinner. Even without the explicit indications of Wilder’s later Preface (cited above), it is immediately apparent that the theatre is posited both as a place for remembering and a remembrance of place. The Stage Manager’s dominating presence as a representative of the theatre, his insistence upon naming the actual personae of the production (producer, director, actors), and his disdain for scenery reinforce the idea that the theatre itself, not its secondary representations, is the primary reminder. He is equally insistent that the theatre will function for us as a remembrance of place. As Casey suggests, place and memory have been associated with one another (especially via palaces or theatres) since the origin of the classical memory arts, and he proceeds to

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


show the analogous working of memory and place as containers; as having horizons (internal and external—that is, places within places); as having pathways (literal in the case of place, associational in the case of memories); and “things,” which make for concrete emplacement in memory (183–206). Our Town is rich with examples of these analogies. In his initial monologue, the Stage Manager identifies the geographical coordinates of Grover’s Corners, names its constituent neighborhoods, orients us to the pathways that connect them, and names many of the things that give the town its lived particularity—the churches, the gardens and their produce, the stores, the railroad tracks. The anecdotes, stories and images the Stage Manager offers in remembrance are analogously and intricately arranged. The morning rituals of different inhabitants bleed into one another, forming both a horizon and pathways. Later, on the evening horizon, choir practice contains several story lines, like that of the choir director Mr. Stimson, which form other pathways. Finally, the graveyard of the third act serves as a container scene for the many memories of the dead, but also as a kind of sieve though which memories slip, as Emily bids good-bye to the particular things of the remembered earthly life—“to clocks ticking . . . and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths” (100). All the by-stories, then, function to construct the memory frame. Filling out a sense of setting and surroundings, they often work in countertension to the memorial content of the Emily-George romance, which slides toward the maudlin.42 Joe Crowell, the brightest boy in the high school, is killed in France during the war, the Stage Manager dispassionately reports. Culture in town consists of “some girls” playing piano at High School Commencement (10, 25). The choirmaster is a drunk. As time passes, townspeople begin to lock their doors at night. The characters and their by-stories, rather than any scenery, evoke the remembered place. They cluster in the Gibbs and Webb households or fill in sensory details, as when George carries an armful of imaginary schoolbooks or when Emily’s invisible coffin is carried into the cemetery. As well, as presences on the stage, the characters compress space, as memory frequently does, concentrating “several locales into a single privileged place of enactment” (Casey, 72). Place clings to them. Wilder’s handling of remembered time is equally intricate. On the one hand, the Stage Manager conventionally invites us to remember backward from a vantage point in the present to the past: to 1901 (act 1), 1904 (act 2), and 1913 in (act 3). In each act, however, a new vantage point is established in the past and we are put in the peculiar situation of remembering forward: that is, we are invited to contemplate an antecedent act only after we have encountered its successor. In the first act this happens almost immediately, as we are told that Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs and Joe Crowell are to die, even as they are being introduced. It happens again as Dr. Gibbs’s passion for Civil War battlefields and Professor Willard’s lecture on the town’s paleontology and ancient anthropology establish termini a quo for the present. In the second act, we see George and Emily’s wedding day before we see their courtship, and in the third act, the act latest in time (1913), we are taken back to Emily’s birthday in 1899, prior to the start of the action in the act first. Rather than conventional flashbacks that place a settled past in relationship to a developing present, these manipulations of time establish a coimmanence of past and present, rather like the time scheme Eliot imagines for the world of literature. This condition is also the experience of aging in the body, where a


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

receding hairline or arthritic finger simultaneously registers both now and then. As in The Long Christmas Dinner, the mimesis of Our Town taps a biological source. Casey’s phenomenology of the memory frame identifies one more component to be considered in relation to Our Town, namely, the self-presence of the rememberer. Though Our Town was likely the sort of play Tennessee Williams had in mind when he coined the term “memory play,” the Stage Manager remembers very differently from Tom in The Glass Menagerie, who both recollects and reminisces. By contrast, Our Town is not constituted of the Stage Manager’s personal memories. In typically paradoxical fashion, Wilder emphasizes the Stage Manager’s impersonality by introducing him directly into the action as Mr. Morgan the druggist and the preacher at George and Emily’s wedding; he is manifestly neither of these two, nor is he any personage of the town. The Stage Manager may be part playwright, part chorus, and part deus ex machina, but he is primarily a reminder. To some degree, however, the Stage Manager’s remembering function and managing function are at odds: the more he is a manager, the less he appears to be a rememberer. On the one hand, the self-presence of the rememberer at the remembered scene is a mark of intimacy and familiarity. So in putting himself at the scene, the Stage Manager puts us there, as it were, by proxy, and effects our emotional connection to it. Further, if we can put ourselves at the scene, it takes on a quality of actuality and what Casey calls “finishedness” (41), the feeling that something has happened. Finally, because many memories have a quasi-narrative structure taken on in the retelling, the Stage Manager’s narrative voice would appear to reinforce memorious content. On the other hand, the Stage Manager’s omniscient narration (he knows when people will die) suppresses memory’s autonomy and resistance to authority. This is registered in the play by an abrupt change in rhythm. While the first act rambles among the mundanities of daily life, as a rememberer would, in the second act the Emily/George love story takes center stage with the Stage Manager in a more active mode than previously, taking the druggist and preacher roles. By the time, with a clap of his hands, the Stage Manager declares “Now we’re ready to get on with the wedding” (70) the narrative or story-telling dimension has trumped the mnemonic presentation. We feel managed in a way that we didn’t feel in the first act, where generating aura and memory frame were more important. Wilder slyly suspends the Stage Manager’s omniscience so that we don’t discover that Emily dies in childbirth until the third act, wherein the remembering mode reasserts itself. The Stage Manager returns to his reflective mood and does not intervene in the action until Emily asks to revisit the day of her twelfth birthday, resulting in her tearful farewell to memories of her lifetime. Here marks the convergence of the Stage Manager’s managerial and reminding functions. What he brings about is Emily’s (and our) recognition that we must take the “time to look at one another” (100), while simultaneously purging memory from the play. Wilder, I think, gives the Stage Manager so much power because he wasn’t quite certain he trusted us to manage the catharsis of nostalgia on our own. Wilder’s reminder to seize the day, to my mind, exonerates him from the charge of sentimentalism, even though Emily is cured of her nostalgia in the context of a mystical argument that, as the deceased Mrs. Gibbs puts it, the dead should “forget all that, and think only of what’s ahead” (92). Wilder’s lingering transcendentalism

Memory Plays before the “Memory Play”


is compatible with the immateriality of Our Town’s bare stage, which lends an air of what Casey (41–42) calls virtuality to this memory play: while the Stage Manager’s authoritative self-presence brings the finishedness and coherence of actuality to the action, the lack of scenery establishes the counterpoint of a readiness for remembering and an indefiniteness that invites exploration. The fluctuation between actuality and virtuality is a distinguishing feature of the play. Likewise, the play oscillates between reminding and something like reminiscence. While the graveyard inhabitants of the third act vigorously discourage nostalgia, the play has a communal-discursive aspect that resembles reminiscence but is hard to name. “Wistful” does not quite capture the social dimension of this memory mode, though it is a common descriptor of the play. Casey’s coinage of “ruminescent” is to the point, implying both the reflectiveness and detachment of rumination and the fact that reminiscence “flourishes in the company of others” (113, emphasis Casey’s). In representing remembering as a social practice, Wilder is, no doubt unawares, echoing the ideas of both Halbwachs and Frederic Bartlett. The latter’s Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology (1932) is important chiefly for two aspects of his theory of remembering, both of which are relevant to how playwrights such as Wilder construct memory. Bartlett emphasized, first, that “remembering appears to be far more decisively an affair of construction rather than one of mere reproduction” (205) and, second, that “both the matter and the manner of recall are often predominantly determined by social influences” (244). Our Town shares both these perceptions. First, the Stage Manager’s management of commemorative vigilance is manifestly constructive, and the memory of “our town” he constructs is what Bartlett terms (201) an “organised [sic] setting” or “schema.” Though Bartlett initially develops the schema concept to explain the organic response of an individual’s act of recall, defining it as a “postural model of ourselves which constantly changes” (199) and an “active organization of past reactions, or of past experiences” (201), he subsequently applies the concept to a social group that he insists “is never merely a collection of people, but is always in some way organised [sic] (253). So, if “in remembering proper, and in its constructive work . . . the persistent social custom and institution set the stage and direct the action” (244), Wilder embodies that social authority in the Stage Manager, who organizes us into a group of rememberers and the stage into a place for remembering. These conceptions free memory, in psychology, from being thought of as solely a personal record and, in drama, from the positivist notion of simple flashback. Completing Wilder’s paradoxical phenomenology of memory is the fact that Our Town is simultaneously reminder and remindand, both recalling and instancing our town-ship—the way in which as social beings we are bound up with the lives of others. Unlike for most of the other modernist playwrights considered in this chapter, that condition is not a stricture but a solace for Wilder, who holds to a belief in the perdurance that allows for sameness and (a degree of ) difference. Cultural and racial differences are, of course, another matter, as the memorial content imposed by the Stage Manager admittedly reinscribes hom*ogeneity. But at least Wilder is working on a tabula rasa that restores to the stage its readiness for remembering. The mark of memory, according to Bartlett, is “when an agent acts as if it were being predominately determined by some distant event in its history, using this directly to help it


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

solve some immediate problem” (297). The problem addressed by the quintessentially commemorative Our Town is that, Wilder presumed, its intended audience has forgotten the “repetitive patterns” (“Preface” to Three Plays, x) that can unite citizens in their triumphs and tragedies. Wilder invites, perhaps requires us to experience ourselves as “coming after” and to place ourselves “in relation to the past in its otherness and potential connection” (Roth, 16) to ourselves. This dutiful regard of one’s own aspect toward the past is what some will condemn and others celebrate as piety, a virtue anciently associated with memory.

4. The “Memory Play” and After: Narrative Paradigms Recordor et confiteor, recolo et narro. St. Augustine Memory is an action: essentially, it is the action of telling a story. Pierre Janet, Les Médications Psychologiques


ithin the discipline of psychology, Frederic Bartlett’s 1932 Remembering inaugurated a “brief period of interest in ‘ordinary’ remembering and forgetting” (Richards 2002, 132), before memory was reabsorbed into the clinical study of psychopathology on the one hand and the laboratory study of educational application on the other. Bartlett’s emphasis on the constructive and social dimensions of remembering naturally pointed to a consideration of memory in the larger context of self-formation. For Bartlett, this context was evolutionary, in that he held organisms developed memory to account for the physically absent and thus to escape “over-determination by the last preceding member of a given series” (209). At the same time, he thought of self-formation as comprehensively cognitive, in that the composition of autobiographical memory responds to “appetite, instinct, interests and ideals” (210). Furthermore, Bartlett’s schemata or organized settings that constitute memory are themselves interconnected, and these interconnections are what we mean by temperament and character. Bartlett concluded that just as the ability to restructure and reprocess the organic mass of the past is virtually indistinguishable from consciousness, a concept of “self” is virtually reducible to the demands of an organism striving to organize perceptions via memory in accord with personal tendencies and social determinants. It would be almost fifty years, however, before a series of publications over the course of a decade redirected the attention of psychologists to memory’s crucial role in the ongoing self-making of a lived life. In an influential 1977 article, “Flashbulb Memories,” Harvard psychologists Roger Brown and James Kulik showed that surprising, consequential, and emotionally arousing events registered with mnemic intensity and also drew into memory often trivial concomitant circ*mstances, the illustrative example being the memory of exactly where one was when President Kennedy was shot. The intensity of the memory also affected frequent rehearsal, which in turn affected the degree of elaboration in the narration of the memory. Ulrich Neisser’s Memory Observed (1982) brought together important essays on remembering in natural contexts, in contrast to the laboratory study of memorized words and lists initiated by Ebbinghaus in the nineteenth century. Endel Tulving’s


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Elements of Episodic Memory (1983) considered memory of personal events in the context of the development of the self. Finally, Jerome Bruner in “Life As Narrative” (1987) suggested a complex feedback mechanism for the way in which the telling of memories impacted self-formation: “the culturally shaped cognitive and linguistic processes that guide the self-telling of life narratives achieve the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and purpose-build the very ‘events’ of a life” (15).1 During roughly the same fifty years, from the mid-1930s to the mid-1980s, the scene of autobiographical memory was as crowded in the theatre as it was empty in psychology. The interplay of memory and narrative that Bruner calls attention to in draw-the-curtain fashion in 1987 had long since become a staple, even a cliché of world stages. Well before mid-century, Wilder’s Stage Manager (1938), John Van Druten’s Katrin in I Remember Mama (1944), and Tennessee Williams’ Tom in The Glass Menagerie (1944–1945) had organized, segmented, and purpose-built memory into narrative in ways that continue to serve as models for playwrights and audiences alike. The remembering narrator, long a feature of the novel and already embraced by film, took the stage with full force. The approach of dramatic and narrative forms toward each other was noticed as early as Wellek and Warren’s Theory of Literature (1942) and as recently as Kathleen George’s Winter’s Tales (2005). Narrative (or narratology) is a vast topic in itself and can easily lead us away from memory into separate (if related) issues of voice, point of view, framing, the choral function, and the handling of time. So it is appropriate to note that there can be memory plays without narrators, as the foregoing chapters have demonstrated; that many plays with narrators do not foreground memory (Amadeus, Becket); and that memory may be distinguished from storytelling by what Casey terms its quasi-narrative structure. Casey argues (44–45) that some memories may have a quality that can become narrative; that the content of memories is not necessarily narrative; and that remembering per se lacks a narrative voice in which the narrator knows where the story is going. In the drama, the impulse post–Glass Menagerie to narrativize memory begets the contrary inclination to denarrativize memory by suppressing the controlling narrator, in order to reclaim memory’s spontaneity, intrusiveness, and subversive tendency—an inclination expressed in what I term, in the next chapter, the drama of mnemic signs. A memory play, by my definition, is one in which the intention to remember and/or forget comes prominently to the fore, with or without the aid of a remembering narrator; in which the phenomenon of memory is a distinct and central area of the drama’s attention; in which memory is presented as a way of knowing the past different from, though not necessarily opposed to, history; or in which memory or forgetting serves as a crucial factor in self-formation and/or self-deconstruction. Like the documentary mode, the modernist memory play is a widespread and characteristic cultural formation of the twentieth century. Both documentary and memory play, Peter Szondi (1987, 65–69 and 83–95) suggested, were “tentative solutions” to the erosion at the end of the nineteenth century of the “absolute” drama (i.e., the drama inspired by the English Renaissance). In Szondi’s understanding, the absolutes of drama—the present, the interpersonal, and the event—had been relativized in modern drama, thereby draining action of

The “Memory Play” and After


causal connection and immanence. In compensation for the lost unity of action, playwrights introduced an “epic” or “central” I. Among the examples he cites are Piscator as “the extravagant, larger-than-life epic I” who brings all the documentary elements together “and disseminates them to the public with the gesture of the public orator” (69); Our Town, in which “Dramatic action is replaced by scenic narrative, the order of which is determined by the Stage Manager” (84); and Death of a Salesman, where the characters other than Willie Loman “emerge as references to the central I” and “the present and its action constantly overflow into the play of the past” driven by Willie’s mémoire involontaire (93). *



TENNESSEE WILLIAMS AND THE MEMORY SCENE Though The Glass Menagerie in declaring itself a “memory play” appears to have launched a genre, the inverse is closer to the truth. That is, by employing the term, Williams was making reference to a tradition in which he thought his audience would readily place his current work. Indeed, six months prior to the opening of The Glass Menagerie, John Van Druten’s adaptation of Kathryn Forbes’s popular memoir Mama’s Bank Account opened on Broadway as I Remember Mama (October 19, 1944, at the Music Box). The familiarity of the source material and an outstanding cast (including a young Marlon Brando) generated a run through the end of June 1946 that exceeded Glass Menagerie’s by five months. John Van Druten served as his own director, so the Foreword and stage directions of the Acting Edition are telling. Van Druten makes a point in the Foreword of warning amateurs of the difficulty of producing the play because the changes in time and place call for traveler curtains and revolving stages. Together with the stage direction indicating “The period of the play is 1910,”2 emphasis on the materiality of the past directs attention to the remembered, rather than the remembering—the title of the play notwithstanding. I Remember Mama opens with the adult daughter Katrin reading aloud from a manuscript: she has become a writer. This is notably different from Glass Menagerie, where we have to infer that the Tom who is telling us is the Tom who eventually wrote the play. Though at least a decade separates Katrin as writer from Katrin as adolescent character in her own story, the two are played by a single actor. Van Druten’s mnemonic dramaturgy allows the recalled to flow directly from the impetus for retrieval. Katrin’s “I remember that every Saturday night Mama would sit down by the kitchen table and count out the money Papa had brought home in the little envelope” (8) immediately yields the scene she describes. This and other domestic vignettes in the play are generic scenes, and stand in contrast to memories of specific episodes over two years in the lives of the Norwegian émigré family living in San Francisco. During that period, Katrin graduates from high school and has a story accepted for publication, her young sister Dagmar survives a mastoid operation, irascible but kind Uncle Chris dies, Papa goes on strike, an aunt is married and has a baby. Though

140 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard wistful—the past is held onto tightly in order to give pleasure and moral strength in the present—the play’s narrative structure disallows the drift of true reminiscence, while leaving the sentimentality intact, as when, on his death bed, Uncle Chris says to Katrin “One day maybe you write story about Uncle Chris. If you remember” and she replies “(Whispering.) I’ll remember” (67). Katrin devotes some attention to the eidetic features of memory: “It’s funny, but when I look back, I always see Nels [her brother] and Christine [her older sister] and myself looking almost as we do today. I guess that’s because people you see all the time stay the same age in your head. Dagmar’s different. She’s always the baby–so I see her as a baby. Mama–it’s funny but I always see mama as around forty. She couldn’t always have been forty” (8). Katrin’s distinctions conform (if confusedly) to what are termed, after Freud, observer memories, wherein we see ourselves in the scene, and field memories, wherein we see the scene from the perspective from which we originally saw it. That she looks back to a time when she and her siblings were in their late teens and early twenties reflects the well-documented reminiscence bump in which memories encoded in the period between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five yield the highest number of recalled memories. This period corresponds with the formation of the self and self-concept (Anderson and Conway 1997). Thus, while I Remember Mama is scarcely more than efficient domestic drama, it does depict a fullblown memory system exemplifying an “interaction among acquisition, retention and retrieval mechanisms that is characterized by certain rules of operation” (Schacter et al. 2000, 628). It is a memory play. “Mr. Williams calls his drama a ‘memory play.’ Like I Remember Mama it has a commentator who also acts a role. Standing in the present, the commentator glances back, and as he sets the scene the action unfolds. . . . Mr. Williams’ use of a commentator is not necessary to his story; some of the remarks are literary and unduly pretentious for the simple play” (Nichols 1945). Lewis Nichols’ New York Times review, like many others, took a patronizing, if generally positive tone with The Glass Menagerie, while lavishly praising Laurette Taylor, in her return to the stage, as Amanda. Alluding to the “gauzy atmosphere” and “preoccupation with ‘memory,’” critics were likelier to invoke William Saroyan, J. M. Barrie, Oscar Wilde, and Chekhov than to deal substantively with the drama.3 Yet, Tom’s positioning vis-à-vis his memories is far more sophisticated than Katrin’s toward hers. In I Remember Mama memory corresponds to the ancient metaphor of a storage unit or bank from which Katrin can make valuable withdrawals; the veridicality of what she remembers is never challenged. By contrast, in The Glass Menagerie, memory is “nonrealistic . . . exaggerated . . . dim and poetic” and like the Wingfield apartment metaphorically shrouded in the “latticework of neighboring fire escapes.”4 One might say that the “shift from an emphasis on atomistic memory traces to multimodal narrative wholes” (Schrauf and Rubin 2003, 122) that took psychology fifty years to effect, happened in the American theatre between Van Druten’s opening night in October 1944 and Williams’ the following March. Though Williams’ mnemonic dramaturgy superficially resembles Van Druten’s in that memory flows directly from a narrator/participant, differences far outweigh similarities. I Remember Mama illustrates “episodic memory,” the term cognitive psychologists use to emphasize remembered event; the play’s episodic structure made it a

The “Memory Play” and After


natural choice for adaptation into a long-running, live television series (1949–1957). By contrast, The Glass Menagerie constructs “autobiographical memory,” a term underscoring the personal, individual nature of the remembering and its “significance to the self-system” (Nelson 1993, 8). Likewise, Williams’ setting “An alley in St. Louis. Now and the Past” (127), unlike Van Druten’s flat statement of the “period” as 1910, alerts us to the importance of memory’s negotiation between past and present. Also, the mechanical materiality of I Remember Mama’s scenery may be contrasted with the scrim and projections of The Glass Menagerie. Finally, while Katrin clearly conceives her memorial role as conservator, Tom admits to being a conjuror, and he closes the play with an exhortation to forget—for Tom an act of Nietzschean liberation and individuation. Consideration of autobiographical memory in The Glass Menagerie is complicated by the degree to which Tom’s memories are identified as the playwright’s own, an identification encouraged by the echo in Tom’s opening monologue (“The play is memory . . . it is not realistic” [145]) of Williams’ stage directions (“The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic” [143]). The tendency to identify Tom as Tennessee is only exacerbated by the fact that Williams drew heavily on autobiographical detail and family conditions in writing the play. But the limitations of psychobiographical criticism become apparent as soon as one recalls that the sensibilities and situations, and the memories, of all of the characters, not just Tom, are Williams’ creations. While Tom is clearly Tennessee’s surrogate, at the same time, “Tennessee” became the adopted persona for the man born as Thomas Lanier Williams III about seven years before he wrote Glass Menagerie, so that Williams is remembering himself as Tom through the prism of “Tennessee” (Leverich 1995, 274–275). Thus, though the doubleness of a remembering and remembered Tom may well reflect the psychological circ*mstance of the playwright, Williams’ assumption of a fabricating persona should direct us beyond psychobiography toward understanding the construction of memory as a fictive act. The Glass Menagerie fits us so comfortably that we excuse its faint mustiness. Who can refuse the invitation to celebrate Tom’s struggle for individuation, his sister Laura’s sensitivity, and even their mother Amanda’s powers of endurance? Unlike most of Williams’ later plays it neither demands that we extend the range of our natural compassion nor does it cause us to stir in indignation. But in the very modesty of its objectives, in the fine conformity of the play’s reach and grasp lie its appeal. Through the sharing device of Tom’s narration, the play ultimately strikes us as a small gift from the son to his mother, a token of his affections. Just as Laura forgives the well-meaning gaucherie of Jim the Gentleman Caller by giving him the glass unicorn he has damaged, Tom lavishes upon his family the creative spirit they unwittingly fostered. Tom has become a “Shakespeare,” the play tells us with gentle irony, not by fleeing to the movies but by dwelling again among the familiar images projected on his soul. While the playwright’s construction of memory is thus more knowing than Tom’s, Tom is the most sophisticated rememberer in the play. When Tom remembers Amanda’s reminiscing over the seventeen gentlemen callers she received one afternoon on Blue Mountain, he does so in a way that establishes “the tyranny of Amanda’s memories over her own life and the lives of her children” (Schroeder


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

1989, 108). Likewise, Tom shows that his sister’s memories “lock Laura as securely into the world of the past as her mother’s memories of gentlemen callers” (109). In Freudian terms, Tom represents himself as remembering and working through, so as not to repeat, while Amanda and Laura are caught in the throes of repetition marked by Jim’s catastrophic visit. Furthermore, Tom’s memories are accorded a special veridicality by the playwright, intentionally or not. Tom “remembers” two scenes at which he was not present: Amanda’s confrontation with Laura over her absence at Rubicam’s Business College and Laura’s private moments with Jim. While one could infer, upon reflection, that the incidents were reported to Tom, and only a rare playgoer would notice any discrepancy, the unnoticed effect is to render Tom’s memory uniquely reliable and reflective of what “really” happened. But Williams does not let us ignore the fact that Tom’s memory is idiosyncratic and autobiographical, not omniscient. The projected images and legends frequently, if inconsistently, undercut the studied, photographic memory implied in the remembered episodes. For example, the father’s grinning photograph appearing when Tom speaks of escaping from his domestic coffin (168) may suggest an association that Tom’s conscious mind does not make. Likewise, the legend “This is my sister: Celebrate her with strings!” (193) introduces a mocking tone belied by the ensuing scene with Laura and Jim, as if Tom was still working through his memories of Laura. Because the self-presence of the rememberer is the most prominent feature of the play’s memory frame, we recognize that Tom’s closing exhortation, “Blow out your candles, Laura” (237), is in the nature of a note to self, complex in its motivations: of gratitude, exorcism, premonition, and therapeutic transcendence. Furthermore, the prevalence of stagings within the play (“Tom motions for music and a spot of light on Amanda” [149]; the scene is set for the arrival of Jim; Amanda’s self-dramatization, etc.) reinforce the identity of Tom as Tennessee and suggest that Williams, through Tom, is constructing his own subjectivity in the face of his personal self-dividedness. Unlike Katrin, who represents herself merely, almost selflessly, as the medium or channel for the memories of her Norwegian family, Tom constructs himself as the one who remembers in order to organize his past, make sense of it, and to forget. According to C. W. E. Bigsby, Tom “‘writes the play . . . because he has not effected that escape from the past which had been his primary motive for leaving” (Bigsby 1997, 37). According to R. B. Parker (1988, 133), “Tennessee” wrote the play for a similar, if more specific, reason: Parker reads The Glass Menagerie in light of The Two-Character Play as an “obsessive reliving” of Williams’ transgressive desire for his sister Rose. And according to David Savran (1992, 83) Williams’ “endorsem*nt of transgressive liaisons” and “valorization of eroticism generally” were among the screens “that would allow him to represent his hom*osexuality in other guises.” A persistent strain in criticism of Williams thus pursues the layers of autobiographical detail embedded in the plays, frequently aided by the playwright’s exceedingly candid Memoirs.5 I shall draw on these details only to the extent that they illuminate the playwright’s construction of memory, which takes a decidedly different turn in the later plays. In that context, Savran’s work is particularly useful for it departs from the dirge of negative criticism that has greeted Williams’ plays after Night of the Iguana (1961) to identify a new discursive paradigm.

The “Memory Play” and After


This new discourse or mode of address is “much more likely to be evoked through diegetic prose, stage directions, or visual images” (Savran 1992, 159) and is disruptive and unstable compared with the conventionally linear narratives of the earlier work. Savran calls the earlier discourse “‘heterosexual,’ because of its cultural orthodoxy and the way that it (en)genders erotic relationships,” while “The second mode could be labeled ‘hom*osexual,’ not because all (or sometimes any) of the longings represented are same-sex desires, but because, in their penchant for transgression, for the suspension of norms, they function as a structural equivalent of hom*osexual desire” (160). While both modes may coexist in a given text, the second mode predominates in the later plays. To Savran’s schema I would add that these modes bear with them their respective mnemonic dramaturgies. Like bilinguals whose memory networks reflect the experience of living in two cultures (Schrauf and Rubin 2003), the “heterosexual” and “hom*osexual” sides of Williams remember differently. Drawing on an image (from Williams’ short story “The Mysteries of the Joy Rio”) of a movie theatre balcony where sexual liaisons transpire, Savran observes that the “hom*osexual” spectacle “takes place in the gloomy, subtextual, private galleries” (78). Indeed, many of the later plays are set in bars or dives (In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, Small Craft Warnings, The Red Devil Battery Sign, Vieux Carré) or ghostly domiciles suggesting an interiorized landscape (The Two-Character Play, Clothes for a Summer Hotel, Kingdom of Earth). Such places are natural contexts for remembering, which Williams takes advantage of in different ways. The Red Devil Battery Sign, produced in London in 1977 and subsequently revised, focuses on a paranoid woman who believes she has evidence of an industrialist plot behind the Kennedy assassination. It is set in Dallas. Writing fifteen years after the fact, Williams may be trying to evoke the cultural memory of the assassination to provide a political foundation for his familiar portrait of a woman going over the edge. But the retrospective context feels merely pro forma, as it does in Vieux Carré. Most critics place Vieux Carré (1978, but subsequently rewritten) in the category of memory plays because it features a remembering narrator who also plays a role in what is remembered. The Writer introduces the characters as ghosts, moving from the shadows of his memory into the light, until at the end “the house is empty” (116), and he opens the door on the future. But we learn very little about the writer in the present, who remains as colorless as the remembering Katrin in the present of I Remember Mama. Williams is much more engaged by his portrait gallery of down-at-the-heel types and the atmospherics of the old rooming house. In contrast to The Glass Menagerie, only the metatheatrical knowledge that the Writer is Williams lends any memorative interest. The Two-Character Play (formerly Out Cry, revised 1967–1975) takes on such interest largely by virtue of its interlinearity with The Glass Menagerie. Williams approved of Lyle Leverich’s proposal to produce the two in tandem and participated in the casting (Leverich, xix), implicitly lending credence to R. B. Parker’s suggestion that the solipsism of sibling love suppressed in The Glass Menagerie is directly explored in The Two-Character Play.6 Here, Felice and Clare prepare to perform an unfinished script in a locked and empty theatre apocalyptically cut off from the outside world, as in Beckett’s Endgame. The rest of the acting company has abandoned them, and there is no prospect of an audience, though a ghost audience is registered in echoing laughs and cries. The setting is a stage littered with props and an inset of

144 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard an old Southern interior; set and costumes are configured with astrological signs. As we learn that the “performance” they may or may not undertake will entail “a lot of improvisation” (318),7 we gather that it is actually episodes from their past they will perform. Rehearsal begins when the lights suddenly go up on the interior set. As Felice and Clare argue over text and suggest cuts, it is difficult to know when they are performing the play-within-the-play and when they are engaging the material that the script is sourced in—their parents’ relationship. The “performance” then shifts into a reminiscent mode. When they begin to talk about leaving the house, and that conversation segues into details of their parents’ “terrible accident” (337)—they were murdered, but by whom?—we understand that the house is the past and that Felice and Clare are consequently performing a version of the past to which they are “confined.” The Pirandellian “performance” resumes in the second act. We learn their parents died in a murder/suicide, and the siblings talk of repeating their parents’ act. Felice encourages Clare to leave the house, which she does reluctantly with him. But they quickly return and load the revolver their father used, though lacking the courage to shoot. They end the “performance” and in mock-allusion to The Glass Menagerie light cigarettes, instead of blowing out candles. Again they attempt to reenact the murder/ suicide, and again they cannot. The lights fade out on “their hands lifting towards each other” (370). Parker argues sensibly that the play-within-the-play is Freudian, in the sense that a primal, sexual issue is addressed (the family is a prison) and that the framing play is Jungian, in the sense that an individuation issue is addressed (the theatre is a prison). But, fundamentally this is less a play about remembering than rehashing— Williams’ attempt to shake free of the remembering mode and to call an end to his O’Neill-like lament that the parents’ sins are visited on their children. Like Hamlet and Pericles, The Two-Character Play and The Glass Menagerie form a Mnemosyne/ Lesmosyne pair. Glass Menagerie Resolves with a healthy forgetting; Two-Character Play, like Hamlet, obsessively remembers and replays murder and domestic trauma. Far more successful and arguably the gem among Williams’ late plays is Something Cloudy, Something Clear, produced in 1981 and published in 1995.8 The play bears some superficial resemblances to The Glass Menagerie in that a remembering writer (August) is represented in the present and the past: the setting is “deep in the past: remembered, specifically, from a time forty years later . . . September, 1940 and September, 1980” (x). Furthermore, a linear story extends on either side of a point on which, August says, “life turned” (12). All the action takes place on a sunny Cape Cod beach, so its venue does not conform to the typical “hom*osexual” site described by Savran, who was writing before the play was published. In the plot, the doomed couple Kip and Clare befriend August in the hopes that he, with a play optioned for Broadway, might shelter them over the winter in New York City. Clare is diabetic and trying to break free from a vicious lover, Bugsy. Kip is a Canadian draft-dodger with a brain tumor. August is prone to picking up violent sailors. In the course of the action, August seduces Kip and is visited by his producers, the Fiddlers (in real-life, Lawrence Langner and Armina Marshall), and his star, Caroline Wales (the real-life Miriam Hopkins, who actually appeared in Williams’ Battle of Angels). The happy prospect that August’s play will be produced is undercut with the knowledge that Kip and Clare will die. The play in the telling may sound more melodramatic than it is;

The “Memory Play” and After


in the playing it can be elegiac sans sentimentality, both cloudy and clear-eyed. Many details derive from the passage covering this part of Williams’ life in his Memoirs (54–62), and the title alludes to the cataract on Williams’ left eye. Like the Memoirs, Something Cloudy allows for a much freer flow of time and event than does The Glass Menagerie. Of the Memoirs, Williams wrote (2006, xviii): “This whole book is written by something like the process of ‘free association,’ which I learned to practice during my several periods of psychoanalysis. It concerns the reportage of present occurrences, both trivial and important; and of memories, mostly much more important. At least to me. I will frequently interrupt recollections of the past with an account of what concerns me in the present because many of the things which concerned me in the past continue to preoccupy me today.” Similarly, Something Cloudy deliberately blends present and past and superimposes incidents from different memory planes one upon the other. The play’s dual modes of givenness, cloudy and clear, derive from a radical rethinking of the memory frame. The play begins in medias res with August typing a manuscript in a ramshackle beach house; Clare and Kip are similarly introduced without narrative mediation. But five minutes into the action, Clare and August commence an exchange they could not have had “then”: CLARE: Not yet! AUGUST: The double exposure. You’re right. I concede that point. (7)

The obscurity is somewhat clarified a few minutes later with Clare and August arguing about the “voice” of August in the past (11), but the clarity is fleeting as we subsequently discover that Clare did not survive her congenital diabetes: “Is it as bad to die when you’re young as Kip and I were and even you were that summer. Tell me. You’ve lived to discover an answer” (12). Evidently, then, the dialogue between August and the ghostly Clare is not happening “now” any more than the rest of the action is happening “then.” But when Clare advises August to “play it straight, play it not like summer long past but as it was then” (13)—meaning that August must not transfigure or embellish—we understand that she has “survived” as a creative intermediary for Williams, a sort of allegorical character representing the clarity on the events Williams lacked when they happened (Adamson, Introduction to Something Cloudy, vii). The simple now/then framework of The Glass Menagerie or Vieux Carré has been demolished. The unapologetic, fleeting, and abrupt introduction of real-life characters from Williams’ past leaves the play open to the familiar negative reaction to his late plays as “too personal.”9 But the appearances of Williams’ long-term lover (“a nurse wheels in the memory of Frank Merlo” [17]), his childhood sweetheart Hazel Kramer, and Tallulah Bankhead, whose career and addictions were entwined with his, have their figural places in the memorial planes of loss, longing, and aspiration, planes that are a surer guide to the play’s structure than the rejected scheme of present versus past. The “exposure” is thus multifold, not double—distributed in parallel stories and lines of association. Williams allows the expansion or branching out of memories that is part of the playwriting process to seep into the performance. Because Kip (also the real name of Williams’ lover, Kip Keirnan) reminds the playwright of Merlo dying,


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

August handles this episode simultaneously in present and past, as when he speaks in the present (“He closed his eyes”) and immediately following in the past (“Frank, are you sure you don’t want me to go?” [17]). Likewise, August associates Clare, via longing, with the memory of Hazel, which appears spontaneously (“She is a girl who was Hazel” [20]). Williams proceeds to liberate the narrative with increasing boldness. Explaining his insistence on a hundred dollar option for the play with his producers, the August of the present speaks across time to the Kip in the past: AUGUST: I have guts now, but I also had them then. KIP: Now? Then? AUGUST: Present and past, yes, a sort of double exposure. KIP: I don’t understand. AUGUST: You’re not supposed to, Kip. (38)

Similarly, August floats in and out of the past in the scene with Tallulah, capped by August’s observation “Life is all—it’s just one time. It finally seems to occur all at one time” (59). In the following scene with Kip, August makes observations about how he appears to himself as a young man and then interrogates his own memories. The play’s final scene offers no compromise with simplicity, as August places his hands on Kip in the past but utters words in the present: “You—don’t exist anymore” (84). But August immediately contradicts himself, saying that people exist so long as the memory does, and that in memory they are “undisfigured, uncorrupted by the years that have removed me from their summer” (85). Appropriately enough, the play closes with no blackout, curtain, or any indication of an ending. Like Miller’s After the Fall (1964), Something Cloudy bears vestiges of the psychoanalytic hour, and like the Memoirs, the mnemonic dramaturgy of the play reflects the influence of Williams’ psychoanalyst, Lawrence Kubie, an unorthodox Freudian of the Ernst Kris school (Paller 2000). Kris, well known in America from the 1930s through the 1950s, proposed that each of us is occupied with constructing a “personal myth,” or lifetime narrative whose “firm outline and richness of detail are meant to cover significant omissions and distortions” (Ross 1991, 85). Kris’s followers, rejecting the sudden lift of repression as a therapeutic goal, emphasized the importance of gradually reconstructing memories postchildhood, and both Kris and Kubie were interested in the “preconscious” as the source of creativity. In Kubie’s words, “In order for the preconscious to make a significant contribution to an individual’s creativity, it must be free to gather, assemble, and rearrange ideas and images. An unfettered preconscious supplies the artist with a constant stream of old data—images, concepts and information—rearranged into new combinations for the artist’s use. In other words, the preconscious reorganizes the material of everyday life into images an artist can employ” (Paller, 48, quoting Kubie). The advice to let creativity go unfettered, to stream, and to eschew firm outline surely left its mark on the play: “Outline for—sh*t!” says August (1) in the first words of dialogue, crumpling his papers. For Williams here, in contrast to The Glass Menagerie, the memory frame is a component both of structure and of situation. As Barbara Johnson wrote in another context, “The ‘frame’ thus becomes not the borderline between inside and outside,

The “Memory Play” and After


but precisely what asserts the inapplicability of the inside/outside polarity to the act of interpretation” (quoted by Richardson 2002, 330). The play takes place neither then nor now but only there, as if the past were a place, and a particularly fragile, liminal one of shifting dunes, sea waves, and a beach shack with no walls—a holding-ready place, preserving some of the inchoateness of quasinarrative, virtuality, and memory. The geotrope of Something Cloudy, Something Clear draws attention to what Herbert Blau (1990, 38–39) recognized as the “generic relationship of theater and theory, which share an etymological root having to do with watching and the place of watching, the site of seeing, which is, as in the unconscious, a memory-place, where the thing seen is being-thought and, in the act of speculation, not seen until thought” (emphasis Blau’s). This place is also an emotional locus, a point on which “life turned,” as August says (12). Furthermore, to judge from the depth of autobiographical detail, Williams used his own body as the “placer of places” (Casey, 195) to inhabit and orient himself to the past—an act of exposure for which he was critically excoriated. The subjectivity Williams constructs for August is remarkably body-minded, liberated, and unashamedly gay: Tom has become August, and Laura has finally become Kip. As well, by deliberately disrupting the linear story, Williams successfully resists the power of convention to enforce narrative conformity and to blunt emotion. It is, I suspect, the memory scene Williams spent his entire working life trying to construct. *



MEMORY, CHARACTER, AND THE NARRATIVE SELF: FROM LOMAN TO LYMAN According to Graham Richards (144–147), a new term to describe one’s unique, essential nature gained favor among psychologists and the general public, subsequent to the publication of Gordon Allport’s Personality: A Psychological Interpretation in 1937. Before Americans had personality, they had temperament or character— referring, respectively, to emotional and moral composition. The superiority of personality to those terms stems from its ethical and theoretical neutrality: personality “trait” or “type” theories emphasize, respectively, individual differences as being expressed in dimensions of a sort that can be assessed on a personality questionnaire, or holistic categories defined in terms of orientation to the world—with very many variations and blurrings among and between classifications. They can be based in theories of development, cognition, or social construction and tested via instruments from surveys to visual associations (Rorschach Test) and even graphological analysis. Personality psychology arose at a time when the underlying notion of a unitary, enduring self was largely unquestioned, and it has endured long after the postmodern proposition of a self as continually modified by social role, experience and by the stories we tell to ourselves and to others about ourselves. Yet, though “self ” may be a product of narrative construction and subjective memory, we experience ourselves

148 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard as remembering versions of ourselves and “this is a remembering of changes ‘I’ have experienced,” as Richards puts it (149). There may yet be meaning in the notion of an “empirical” self, as argued by William James, Oliver Sacks, or Bernard J. Baars, and personality may better be described as a “system,” rather than a collection of traits: a network or locus of coordinations, in which memory and narrative play “processing” roles (Singer and Blagov 2004). When memory becomes narrative, motivations, coordinations, causalities, and goals, which may have previously gone unnoticed, come to the fore. The tension between an ethically neutral notion of “personality” and the morally loaded concept of “character” infuses almost all the drama of Arthur Miller, especially when memory comes overtly into play. Miller was formed in the era of character; his “entry into the big world” (Miller, Timebends [1987], 213), when he was hired at the Chadick-Delamater auto parts warehouse in the early 1930s, occurred pre-Allport. But he wrote mainly in the era of personality, and his later creations (such as Quentin in After the Fall) threaten to fractionate in myriad, retrospective, self-reappraisals at the expense of character. Thus, though memory is at the core of Miller’s own “sense of drama, which is that there is a terrific emotional tension within the person who is drawn back to the past to orient himself to the present” (Miller quoted in Evans 1969, 56), his mnemonic dramaturgy changes with the times. Also, Miller displays an almost taxonomic interest in the range of memory modes: Death of a Salesman and After the Fall focusing on recognition, A Memory of Two Mondays “avowedly a reminiscence” (Timebends, 355) and Danger: Memory! an exploration of reminding. Already with Death of a Salesman (1949) memory is, ambivalently, both a psychological identifier and the messenger of moral responsibility. As Miller (quoted in Hayman 1970, 3) has said, “The past is something you must take into account—it’s simply impossible to individuate people in my opinion without it”; consequently, Willy Loman, Quentin, and Lyman Felt (The Ride Down Mt. Morgan) remember in remarkably different ways. But as early as Salesman Miller had realized that the very form of the memory play had to be driven by the agenda of the remembering subject. In what almost seems like an implied criticism of Glass Menagerie, Miller comments (Introduction to Collected Plays 1957, 26) on Willy’s processing of the past: “In dramatic terms the form, therefore, is this process, instead of being a once-removed summation or indication of it,” explaining further, “There are no flashbacks in this play but only a mobile concurrency of past and present . . . because in his desperation to justify his life, Willy Loman has destroyed the boundaries between now and then.’” [emphasis Miller’s] Miller (ibid.) also says of Willy: “I was convinced only that if I could make him remember enough he would kill himself, and the structure of the play was determined by what was needed to draw up his memories like a mass of tangled roots without end or beginning.” That Miller abandoned The Inside of His Head as the title for his play (Evans, 15), however, signals the limits of his enthusiasm for psychologizing; Miller is ultimately as interested in the state of Willy’s soul as in the state of his mind. Many early critics observed the relationship between the play’s form and the wanderings of Willy’s mind, if disagreeing on the relevance of terms like “stream of consciousness” and “flashback.”10 An early (1950) psychoanalytical perspective suggested that “Willy Loman, exhausted salesman, does not go back to the past. The past, as in

The “Memory Play” and After


hallucination, comes back to him; not chronologically as in flashback, but dynamically with the inner logic of his erupting volcanic unconscious” (Schneider reprinted in Weales 1996, 252). Though John Gassner (1949) used the term flashback, he praised Miller for departing from conventional usage of the technique: “each reminiscence springs from a tension in Willy. The reminiscence is not hurled at us as necessary information but presented as a compulsive act on Willy’s part. . . . In several instances, and especially in the crucial scene in which Willy recalls that his son’s failure is largely the result of his having found him with a strange woman in a Boston hotel, the memory scene does not arise at once but crystallizes out of fluid and half-formed thoughts. In addition, it is noteworthy that no recollection is allowed to leave the play in a state of stasis” (Gassner, reprinted in Weales, 238). It is, in fact, never the case that Willy drifts from a reminiscent mood directly into a reverie. Miller rejected both “stream of consciousness” and “flashbacks” as descriptors, believing he had constructed Willy’s character as a “mosaic of pieces” (quoted in Evans, 23) and that “there is no past to be ‘brought forward’ in a human being, . . . he is his past at every moment” (Collected Plays, 23). Rather than flashback, the dramaturgical mechanism might be called, in the title of Miller’s autobiography, a “timebend”: the folding of “time together [to] bring past and present into immediate contact. And the assumption behind that is that meaning is a product of such interactions, that the parallel universes of ‘now’ and ‘then,’ once brought into contact, generate significance, speak to one another in the language of memory” (Bigsby 2005, 126). Though the flute and apartment-tower scrim of the original production of Death of a Salesman may recall the violin and fire-escape scrim of Glass Menagerie (Jo Mielziner was the designer in both cases), Miller deploys his protagonist’s memory entirely differently. Where Tom constructs the narrative from scenes he chooses to remember, Willy is constructed through memories he does not choose and cannot control. Jerome Bruner need have looked no further than Willy Loman’s visions for a prime example of the power of self-told life narratives “to structure perceptual experience.” In Glass Menagerie “now” and “then” are separated by the very divide Miller’s play denies. In abandoning the more psychological title for the play, then, Miller did not relinquish the desire to convey realistically Willy’s mental constructions; rather, he intended to do so in a form that borrowed more, as he said (Timebends, 182), from the fluidity of A Streetcar Named Desire than Glass Menagerie. As with Blanche, the “now” for Willy is a ticking bomb for which the past is a fuse, whereas Tom seems to have all the time in the world to remember. While Glass Menagerie is a coming of age story, Miller, in naming remembering as the cause of Willy’s death, is deliberately placing Death of a Salesman in the tragic tradition. Laying aside Miller’s misguided engagement with tragic theory,11 he has compacted Willy’s character out of causality and choice in a manner that would have suited Aristotle. Like the Greek tragic hero, Willy is determined by an irrevocable past, and the road from Brooklyn to his New England territory required a choice at virtually every turn. Like that of Oedipus or Orestes, Willy’s story is one of contamination and the struggle for redemption, and Willy’s encounter with his past is less a reappraisal than a reckoning. Willy’s remembering is the registry of his moral character, just as his present predicament constricts his sense of identity. Both are in a degraded state, as Biff ’s return home reminds Willy simultaneously of his adulterous betrayal of Linda, his failure


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

as a role model for his sons, and his reduced marketability and utility as a provider for his family: “When you come home, he’s always the worst,” as Linda says to Biff (161). Willy’s memory describes his life as a contamination sequence that works its mischief in both directions: positive recollections edge toward disaster, with the bad retroactively ruining the good, and negative memories damage current self-appraisal. Thus Willy’s first remembered episode sets the tone for the blighted idyll that is the Loman past. The memory is of Biff ’s last year in high school, with a promising football career ahead of him, amidst a scene of domestic hopefulness. But Willy’s memory curdles the scene to reveal Biff ’s prospects in jeopardy because of his academic irresponsibility and the Loman domesticity troubled by money problems. This memory, in turn, branches to a scene on the road of Willy and his paramour, the set-up for the climactic episode where Biff discovers his father’s affair. After a brief return to the present, in which Uncle Charlie reminds Willy of his Uncle Ben, comes the first episode with Ben, which is both a fevered vision and a remembrance encapsulating other scraps of memory of the Loman parents. The long night of Willy’s coming home, and the act, end with a pipedream of a plan hatched for Biff to visit a highschool classmate, Bill Oliver, to borrow money to buy a ranch or as venture capital for a sporting goods business to be run by the boys. For the plan even to be proposed requires a conspiracy among the entire Loman family to face neither the reality of the past nor the needs of the present. As Linda sings Willy to sleep, he plunges into a childlike reverie of Biff: “Remember that Ebbets Field game? . . . he was the tallest— remember? . . . Remember how he waved to me?” (171). But we cannot avoid noticing that Miller has shown us not the reminiscences that give Willy solace, but the memories that will drive him to suicide. The second act spends less stage time “in” the past because it is clear by now that for Willy the past has fully suffused the present. Both the boys and Willy, who is to ask his boss Howard to be reassigned to the city, set out on their doomed missions, precipitating both a replay and a repeat of past mistakes. Ironically, Willy’s meeting begins with a parodic reminder of the difference between present and past, as Howard shows off a new gadget—a tape recorder; the past almost literally mocks Willy. In the course of what becomes Willy’s firing, the tape recorder springs to life with Howard’s son reciting the capitals of the forty-eight states, a brilliant device that situates Willy simultaneously in political, geographical, and historical contexts. When the scene segues into a vision of Ben, a metaphysical context is added, for Willy is now using the memory of Ben to justify the suicidal course he has entered upon, just as Ben, representing the entrepreneurial dream, is using Willy as a sacrifice to progress and profits. These contexts, together with Willy’s memory of the funeral of Dave Singleman, who died “the death of a salesman . . . remembered, loved and helped” (180) raise an iconic, almost allegorical profile for Willy, whose struggle for redemption takes place not just “inside of his head” but on a map of American postwar aspiration. The mnemonic mode has thus shifted from reminding and reminiscence to recognition, the mode most compatible both with tragedy and with Miller’s conception of the “mobile concurrency” of past and present. Recognition is the suffusion of the present by the past with an attendant enlightenment or clarification, but it is Miller’s strategy to tantalize Willy with recognition and ultimately to withhold it. We see this

The “Memory Play” and After


in the following scenes, both past and present, in which Willy cannot recognize that both Charley and his son Bernard have shown only good will toward the Lomans— except for a flash of insight when Willy says Charley is the only friend he has (but what about Linda?). The promise of this illumination is broken when neither Willy, nor the boys, can face the pain of Biff ’s failure to charm Bill Oliver into a loan. Then, the onrush of the shameful memory Willy and Biff share of Willy’s infidelity breaks up what was supposed to be a celebratory dinner for the Loman men. When Biff, confronting Willy in the hotel room of his Boston tryst, blurts out “You—you gave her mama’s stockings!” (208), we realize what Willy never does: that his mistake was not adultery but his confusion over who really loved him. The subsequent scene of the men’s return home is the most antagonistic of the play, the family having lost its coherence under the pressure of insufferable indignities, remembered and renewed. Biff ’s unsparing judgment shortly before Willy’s suicide,“The man don’t know who we are!” (216), is repeated almost verbatim in the Requiem: “Charley, the man didn’t know who he was” (221). These assessments, harsh as they are, name the Aristotelian hamartia that deprives Willy of a clarifying recognition: he did not know his philoi (loved ones) from his ecthroi (enemies). Willy has mistaken the entire network of relationships that constitute his identity, and this mistake characterizes him, as Aristotle might have put it.12 Willy is the man who thought the company would take care of him, who was willing to trade being loved for being liked, and who betrayed Linda with the woman in the hotel room. Willy’s fleeting recognition that Biff really loves him scarcely ameliorates these harsh assessments, and it comes too late: Ben beckons Willy to his reckoning at that very moment (218). When Willy kills himself for the insurance money, it is his last, worst mistake—recalculating his “worth” in the most superficial terms society dictates. Though it echoes Ancient Greek tragic rhythms, Willy’s struggle for redemption has a particular American resonance. Willy fails where Americans (especially presidential candidates, it seems at this writing) frequently appear to succeed, in “the transformation of personal suffering into positive-affective life scenes that serve to redeem and justify one’s life” (McAdams 2004, 96). In the normal course of psychological development, a burgeoning sense of intentionality and causality contributes to selfformation; somewhat later, autobiographical memory and narrative are marshaled in the making of identity. Furthermore, the goals of the current working self affect both encoding and retrieval, “modulating the construction of memories” (103). But Willy’s memory fails in precisely this: he cannot construct a narrative confirming his identity as father and role model, as provider, or even as cog in the capitalist wheel, instead fixating on the incident in the hotel room as the crucial self-narrative episode. The cruelest irony of Salesman is that Willy consequently casts his suicidal act as a redemptive one, thinking that the only way to get back in his family’s good graces is to leave them forever. In American cultural terms, it is also Willy’s last chance to reclaim his use-value to the entrepreneurial system he esteems, to enshrine himself, via the “death of a salesman,” in the “progressive” order that destroyed him. Finally, the cultural context informing Willy extends, according to Harold Bloom (2007, 4–5), to “the world of normative Jewish memory” that holds Death of a Salesman together, in which “everything has already happened”; Miller, “a passionate moralist, all but rabbinical in his ethical vision,” thus cannot escape looking back.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Throughout Miller’s canon memory remains bound to moral and social responsibility. But if his declaration that “if I could make [Willy] remember enough he would kill himself ” almost evokes the Old Testament deity, Miller has become decidedly less deterministic and unforgiving in After the Fall (1964), its title acknowledging a post-Edenic condition of universal fallibility.13 The play shares with Death of a Salesman an internal, memorial action for its main character, as “The action takes place in the mind, thought, and memory of Quentin” (1).14 In the context of discussing Incident at Vichy, which Miller said he wrote as a companion piece to After the Fall, Miller observes “I have worked in two veins always and I guess they alternate. In one the event is inside the brain and in the other the brain is inside the event” (quoted in Hayman 1970, 14). Salesman and After the Fall are clearly “inside the brain,” but in the latter Miller displays an almost scientific interest in how memory works: “The mind has no color but its memories are brilliant against the grayness of its landscape. . . . The effect, therefore, will be the surging, flitting instantaneousness of a mind questing over its own surfaces and into its depths” (1–2). Miller’s metaphor goes beyond the psychological, to the neurological and perhaps ethical; he wants to represent gray matter(s). Furthermore, Quentin’s temperament and status make for an entirely different mnemonic experience from Willy’s in Death of a Salesman. Though Jo Mielziner’s set design of an array of platforms for the original After the Fall obviously attempted to capture the abstraction of Quentin’s mind, Miller preferred the setting of the Franco Zeffirelli production, because its concentric oblong steel frames and pneumatic lifts, providing many hidden entrances and exits, better captured the feeling of being inside the head of the main character (Hayman 1970, 61). Whereas an extended apron sufficed as the locale of Willy’s memory sequences (Adler 1995), Quentin’s mind, that of a lawyer, required a far more complex representation. As Miller put it to Mel Gussow (2002, 89), “the play is about the kind of a person that is not Willy Loman . . . somebody who is always trying to figure out what happened to him. . . . It’s the difference between a more intellectualized human being and a less intellectualized one.” Indeed, the far-fetched postmodern turn June Schlueter (1995) takes with Willy Loman applies not to him but to Quentin, whose name could well be substituted below: The complexities of Willy’s memory trips model the epistemological questions involved in any one person’s relation to the past. Whether Willy’s motivation at any moment is to repudiate or to reclaim, it is clear that the impulse of his recollections is transformative. Willy’s (or anyone else’s) relation to the past involves a series of rereadings and misreadings; the boundaries between the discourses of history and fiction are neither manifest nor firm. (150)

American reception focused much more on the play’s autobiographical dimension (Quentin/Maggie = Miller/Monroe) than on Miller’s subtle rendering of Quentin’s cerebral anatomy. By contrast, in Paris and Rome, Miller observed (in Gussow 2002, 90) that audiences could readily relate the play to Giraudoux and Pirandello, in whose work the “fever of thinking” is saturated with emotion. Miller thought of After the Fall as a “cathexis” (93), registering its psychological intensity, and for me it

The “Memory Play” and After


reflects a Racinian and Cartesian fixation on states of mind. The play has the privacy of the psychoanalytical session or the confessional, as well as an Augustinian impulse to make out of one’s confession a public record. After the Fall is Racinian in a thematic sense, as well. Quentin’s attempt to reconcile power with love repeats the main actions of Bérénice and Andromaque. His relationships with his first wife Louise, with Maggie, and with Holga, his hope for the future, all “ha[ve] to do with power” (After the Fall, 91). On the one hand, Quentin does not want to be a separate person and consequently “tend[s] to make relatives of people” (76), surrounding himself with a community he cares for. On the other hand, he is tempted to a powerful, messianic role that threatens to isolate him from the lives of those he loves. In his mind, Quentin associates his dilemma both with Christian imagery—twice he spreads his arms in crucifixion—and with the imagery of the Holocaust—a watchtower rises from the set. Ultimately, he comes to the tortuous and troubled perception that he can save no one because “God’s power is love without limit. But when a man reaches for that . . . he is only reaching for the power” (152, ellipsis Miller’s). As with Willy, this faulty recognition does not prevent a reversal (Maggie dies from a drug overdose) and it only partially clarifies for Quentin his relationship to the community of his loved ones. Tragedy remains for Miller “an illumination that kills” (quoted in Evans, 77–78). Where Willy’s involuntary memory drives the action of Death of a Salesman, Quentin’s active, inquiring mind drives After the Fall. The characters initially enter all in a rush and randomly, like a mind flooded with thoughts, and soon a convention is apparent: sometimes Quentin articulates a thought and the scene appears, and sometimes a character is brought to light on stage and then Quentin explains her to us and the Listener. These are, respectively, conscious and unconscious memories, though Quentin never once has to say “I remember,” because it is almost immediately obvious that virtually the entire play is remembered. But the associations among these memories are not obvious to us as Quentin brings them up: why should the fact that one of his clients got a nose job remind him of his mother’s funeral? As the themes intertwine, our interest phases from a curiosity about how Quentin’s mind works to an engagement with how the networks and interstices of memory are psychologically and morally revealing, how a character is shaped—though “character” itself appears to be a notion Quentin would prefer to discount. In contrast to Willy, whose character is fixed and whose memory dooms him, Quentin is a work-in-progress, and he deploys memory in constant self-reappraisal and, even more crucially, in order to make sense of a complex life. In a typical pattern of retrospective self-appraisal (Cameron et al. 2004), Quentin enacts a dynamic of derogation and enhancement, but both strategies support the goal of self-construction, the message of derogation being “I’m better than I was then,” and that of enhancement being “my self-regard and current self-appraisal are justified.” He reviews the formative episodes of his life, both blaming and exonerating himself for his divorce from Louise, his belated decision to defend his law partner against Red-baiting, and his abandonment of Maggie to her inevitable selfdestruction. Quentin’s lawyerly search for a verdict on his life, however, begins with the observation that there is “no judge in sight” (5) and ends by giving up the hope of certainty (163).


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Quentin more successfully puts memory in the service of sense-making, and his memories collect themselves in organized settings similar to Frederic Bartlett’s schemata or to what some cognitive psychologists call “event-memory organization packets” (E-MOPs). This theory, in the well-known formulation of Lawrence Barsalou (1988), holds that “(1) extended-event time lines [such as “school,” “work,” “relationship”] form the primary organization of autobiographical memory; (2) idiosyncratic summarizations of events become nested within these time lines; (3) a specific event is represented as a collection of exemplars from different ontological domains [such as people, locations, activities, objects], and (4) an event summarization is constructed from the experience of a single specific event” (194). In effect, such schemata organize Quentin’s mindscape, with work and relationships forming the primary extended-event time lines, within which “situations that made me feel guilty” are the idiosyncratic summarization and “women who looked up to me” are the ontological domain from which exemplars are served up. Not only does Miller’s mnemonic dramaturgy anticipate Barsalou’s theory, but the branching and multilayered diagrams accompanying Barsalou’s article recall the landscape of sculpted and pitted levels of the Mielziner set. Barsalou, however, all but ignores how memory organization relates to narrative style, as well as to how the framing of questions leads to certain kinds of memories as “answers.” Willy’s question as to how he can best serve the integrity of the Loman family invites a singular answer, which Willy’s memories selectively supply: because he is a bad father, role model, and provider, he should kill himself in order to justify his life. But because Quentin at the outset finds no one occupying the judge’s bench, his search for self-justification can yield no simple verdict of innocence or guilt. In After the Fall, Quentin’s retrospection yields intricately branching, encapsulating, and pivoting memories rather than the straight-line causality of Willy’s remembering—differences reflected in the narrative styles of the two plays. As Austin Quigley (2007) has put it, “Rather than providing a single mode of measuring or a unified narrative establishing a single principle of value, the action of [After the Fall] provides a variety of exemplary instances in which each effectively measures the other, and these complex examples are not convertible into a governing precept” (143–144). The story of Quentin, whose very name suggests the interrogative mood, ends in a question mark. Miller had already explored the relationship between narrative strategy and remembering in A Memory of Two Mondays (1955) and would do so again with The Price (1968). Each might merit more attention here had the models for both not already occupied us. Bert, the narrator of the former piece, both participates in and comments poetically on the action, very much like Tom in The Glass Menagerie, while the sharply contrasting life stories of Victor and Walter in the latter, like the two brothers in The Burned House, have modulated their construction of memory to different ends. In view of the recent revelation that in 1966 Miller and his wife Inge Morath had a Down-syndrome child whom they institutionalized—a fact Miller failed to include in his autobiography—the play Miller wrote immediately after the birth of his son Daniel may well reckon the “price” one pays for selective remembering. As Susanna Andrews (2007, 5) put it, “A writer, used to being in control of narratives, Miller excised a central character who didn’t fit the plot of his life as he wanted it to be.”

The “Memory Play” and After


The incursion of autobiographical memory, intended or not, may have impacted Danger: Memory! (1986). In Timebends Miller wrote that the paired one-acters I Can’t Remember Anything and Clara were about “a kind of imploding time—moments when a buried layer of experience suddenly surges upward to become the new surface of attention and flashes news from below” (590). His description echoes an earlier observation in his autobiography upon the occasion of Marilyn Monroe’s death— “There are people so vivid in life that they seem not to disappear when they die” (531)—suggesting that the vision/memory of Clara, who appears to her father Kroll after her murder, may also reflect Miller’s memory of Marilyn. Miller himself attached no such interpretation to Danger: Memory! which (as with his view of The Price) he saw as reflecting postwar moral relativism and loss of idealism (Timebends, 591, and Bigsby 2005, 283–284). Indeed, both one-acters feature a revisiting of familiar social issues, filtered in I Can’t Remember Anything through the reminiscences of Leo, a Depression-era Communist, and in Clara through Kroll’s memory of the segregated Army, of the Holocaust, and of the Vietnam War. In both plays, as well, shared memories fashion the bonds of social intercourse. In I Can’t Remember Anything Leo and Leonora, virtually two aspects of one person, enact a hobbled dialectic of remembering and forgetting. Leonora, who drinks too much, insists “I simply cannot remember anything at all” (9),15 while Leo dwells too much in the past. But we learn that Leonora’s “amnesia” conceals deep grief over the loss of her husband and that Leo, for all of his tiresome reminiscing, lives in the present: he will be “re-membered” as an organ donor. Their little samba at the end (they used to dance together frequently) puts them both in the same time frame—an intimate, fleeting moment of the present, eventuated through the past. If in I Can’t Remember Anything memory forges affective response, which in turn fortifies memory, in Clara aversive emotion blocks Kroll from remembering crucial details that might reveal the identity of his daughter’s murderer. Where After the Fall deliberately staged a cathexis for Quentin Clara may represent the removal of cathexis from a hostile memory (Kroll’s viewing of the body of his murdered daughter), with the investigating detective Lew Fine serving as analyst-surrogate, the role taken in the earlier play by the Listener. Clara begins with Polaroid photos that police officers are taking of the crime scene registering as flashbulb memories for Kroll: he can’t get the image of his daughter’s bloodied body out of his head. As Kroll comes out of shock he begins to remember, if confusedly. The remainder of the action is shaped by the detective’s persistent interrogation of Kroll, eventually yielding the name of Clara’s ex-con boyfriend, a likely suspect in her murder. Clara “appears” to Kroll and there are flashbacks of conversations they had. Kroll’s autobiographical memories, representing him as a liberal activist, may have influenced his daughter to take up the profession (working with prisoners) indirectly responsible for her death. The playing of a record of “Shenandoah” triggers a flashback/memory/monologue, in which Kroll recounts the story of a race riot to Clara. This memory yields the last name, Hernandez, of the suspected killer. The play ends with Kroll calm, having released his guilt over the past. In the short space of a single act, Miller has laboured to construct a narrative in which Kroll’s effort to purge, but not repress, guilty memories of his daughter serves


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

as “a slice of our historical experience over the past decades since World War II” (Timebends, 591)—making Clara virtually an abstract or index to Miller’s mnemonic dramaturgy. Critics counted this more a weakness than a strength. Clara plays on “clarifying,” as does Claire in Something Cloudy, Something Clear, and critics have been no kinder to Miller’s experimental, late memory plays than to Williams’. Frank Rich thought Miller failed to connect the social issues rehearsed by Leo and Kroll with characters we can be interested in on their own. He spoke for other New York critics in judging that “the pontificator wins out over the playwright,” though one cannot help suspecting that Gregory Mosher’s misapplied “Pinteresque” directing may have been partially responsible (1987). Miller knew and admired Pinter, had been working in a Pinteresque vein earlier in the 1980s (Elegy for a Lady) and took pride in the fact that “Clara evoked an unprecedented number of letters from younger playwrights” (Timebends, 591), but the action of Danger: Memory! to recover a verifiable past is thoroughly at odds with Pinter. Similarly, the ethics of causality in Miller’s The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991) forge the play’s retrospection in a mode that Pinter consistently problematizes. Mt. Morgan departs even more radically from linear narrative and realistic convention than does Clara. Its main character Lyman Felt, a rich, famous, and irredeemably egocentric insurance salesman, clings tenaciously to life in a hospital bed, having courted death and tempted fate with a breakneck trip down a mountain road in New Hampshire. When authorities call his family to his bedside, circ*mstances reveal the nasty secret that finally explodes in the face of his loved ones: he is married to two women (Theo and Leah), with each of whom he has fathered a child (the married Bessie and the young Ben). Lyman’s situation—in pain, delirious, and with the anesthetic beginning to wear off—to some degree justifies the visions, memories, flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinations that tell his story. But the convention is applied freely enough to allow informational flashbacks that could not be Lyman’s memories (for he is not present in them). Though in his mind Lyman slips his body cast to observe scenes elsewhere in the hospital, and we sometimes see things through his eyes, as when Theo and Bessie finally confront him in a “superemphatically threatening”16 manner, the play may be said to take place less inside Lyman’s head than inside his body, as Lyman’s presence is “felt” everywhere.17 Though Lyman frequently sounds like an intellectualizing, if liberated Quentin (“come down off the cross,” his Nurse tells him [75]) or even a Hickey (“To hell with this guilt” [118]), both the form and matter of Mt. Morgan emphasize Lyman’s corporeality. We see his sexual fantasies, his dream of urinating in his father’s hat, his memory of staring down and roaring at a wild African lion. He thrashes, weeps, gives an “animal outcry from his very bowel” (56), flaunts his second wife beneath the window of his first, and has sex with both of them on the same day. As constructed by his own memories and those of others, he is a man of appetites, surely reflecting Miller’s observation of Reagan-era amorality. Because the play veers between farce and tragedy, its moral compass is difficult to follow, and here a grasp of Miller’s changing mnemonic dramaturgy may be of help. Where Willy’s memories monomaniacally determine his fate, and Quentin’s “event-memory organizing packets” yield no single principle to live by, Lyman is reconciled to the irreconcilable chasm between body and morals, between the “exuberant, willful huckersterism” of a man who has “ridden on his personality”

The “Memory Play” and After


(Bigsby 2005, 378, quoting Miller) and his own deplorable “character,” the word Lyman consistently uses to describe himself. Lyman apologizes to Bessie because “my character’s so bad” (43), discusses with Theo his “miserable character” (66), repeats to her “I guess there’s no use apologizing, you know my character” (84), and finally declares “my character [is] sitting on my chest like a bag of cement” (111). This last image uncomfortably confronts Miller’s older allegiance to the Moral Philosophy of character with the playwright’s emerging notion of what Bigsby calls a “biology of morals” (2005, 379), grounded in embodiment. One might say that Miller persists in attaching a moral imperative to the materialist premise of Alfred North Whitehead that “time . . . is the irreversible relationship of settled past to derivative present” (Casey, 173, quoting Whitehead). For Lyman Felt, as for Willy Loman, one ethical choice leads to another, and the present self “comes into being by conforming to the immediate past, which it reproduces as objectified in the present itself ” (174). For Whitehead, Casey, and the aptly named protagonist of The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, the felt body transmits this “inheritance” of the external world, defining “the enduring personality [as] the historic route of living occasions which are severally dominant in the body at successive instants” (176, quoting Whitehead). Ultimately, Miller dramatizes “character” as the life story you can’t forget. *



“LET IT TELL ITSELF” It would not be accurate to say that Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller “led the way” in deploying memory and forgetting to tell life stories or in foregrounding a narrator who looks back. Their restless experiments with memory themes may be counted among scores of contemporary memory plays over the past sixty years that engage milestone events in the lives of their protagonist/narrators; that remember along the lines of Freudian and Jungian models; that probe amnesia in a context of social and personal trauma; and that take a position in the debate over false and recovered memory known as the “memory wars.” There is no straight-line development away from remembering narrators or from protagonists unable to escape haunting memories that come unbidden. On the contrary, dramatic memographers are unwilling to give up any effective device, from flashbacks considered old when Elmer Rice used them a second time in For the Defense (1919) to Shakespeare’s remembering story-teller, Gower. Many plays, though employing narrators cleverly, are more engaged with the nature of story-telling than memory (Amadeus [1979], M. Butterfly [1988]), and such plays will not occupy me here. Nor will I consider plays like Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman (2003) which employs flashbacks while exploring (or exploiting) childhood abuse, though without interest in the processes of memory. I also exclude many plays that, though memorious, break no new dramaturgical ground: for example, Eugene, the remembering narrator of Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound (1983–1987) is part Tom Wingfield, part Katrin from

158 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard I Remember Mama, and part Stage Manager (though none of these shares his obsession with sex). By contrast, though Rashom*on (1959) employed familiar narrative devices from Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s original stories of the 1920s, filtered through Kurosawa’s 1950 film, its authors forged a model for the stage that still inspires imitation (Brian Friel’s Faith Healer [1979], Michael John LaChiusa’s See What I Wanna See [2007]). Rashom*on’s original Broadway production with a star-studded cast (Akim Tamiroff, Oscar hom*olka, Rod Steiger, and Claire Bloom) directed by Peter Glenville ran for six months,18 and the play is very frequently revived. Set a thousand years ago in Kyoto, the plot enacts four differing accounts of a rape and murder by three participants (the bandit Tajomaru, a Husband, and Wife) and one eyewitness to the last few moments of the scene (the Woodcutter). There are two frames for the action: a group including the Woodcutter, a Buddhist Priest, and a Wigmaker recalling a hearing in Police Court; and the reenactments of the incident from the principals’ discrepant perspectives. The mnemonic presentation is thus complicated by flashbacks encapsulated within flashbacks and narrated interludes, along with the conflicting accounts. The first set of flashbacks establishes the convention maintained throughout. The opening gossip among Priest, Woodcutter (Tamiroff ), and Wigmaker (hom*olka), who are taking shelter in a run-down section of the city near the Rashom*on Gate, segues to the Woodcutter’s account of the hearing in Police Court. His account triggers the first flashback, in which we see the accused bandit Tajomaru (Steiger) testifying, rather than just hearing about him through the Woodcutter. Tajomaru’s testimony almost immediately becomes a flashback of the scene he is describing, effected by a lighting change and a simple cross by Tajomaru into the scene he describes. He slips in and out of the scene to offer more narrative at court— again aided by a lighting change. After we see Tajomaru’s version (in which he ties up the Husband and seduces the Wife [Bloom], her struggles giving way to compliance), we return to the opening scene and its characters, reinforcing that it has been the Woodcutter’s memory of what he heard in court that we have just seen. The scene returns to court and then again to the memory within the memory, both narrated and acted by Tajomaru. His account concludes with the release of the tied-up Husband; a heroic fight in which the husband is killed; and the flight of the Wife. The accounts of the other three conflict irreconcilably with Tajomura’s and each other’s, despite their protestations of accuracy: “I’ll try to remember it all—as it happened,” says the Wife (33). Though the Woodcutter’s version, which depicts the three principals in the most ridiculous and unflattering light, would appear to have the most credibility because of his objectivity as an observer, he too is impugned when the Wigmaker guesses a detail left out: that the Woodcutter stole the Husband’s sword. In a final twist, the discovery of an abandoned new-born, which the Woodcutter will shelter next to his six children, causes us to ponder the complexity of human motives—the matter of this enduring parable. The form of the parable offers a different lesson, however, that we “remember” what reflects favorably upon us and that the construction of one’s life story requires “memory” to comply with it. My skeptical quotation marks are meant to register that the audience at Rashom*on does not believe it is the characters’ memories that differ; rather, “Everyone tells what he wants the world to believe,” the Wigmaker comments (51). Decades of psychological

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research and dozens of memory plays will remove the skeptical quotes, as memographers discover that ordinary memory bends to the demands of the autobiographical impulse.19 For a case in point, it is not at all clear what parts, if any, of the conflicting stories in Brian Friel’s Faith Healer20 (1979) are distortions and lies. The play strips away the frames and flashbacks of Rashom*on, leaving the core of four retrospective monologues. The itinerant faith healer Frank has the first and last; in between, his manager Teddy and his mistress (later wife) Grace offer alternative accounts of a Depression-era tour of the British Isles. They differ on details great and small. Was it Frank’s mother or father who died while they were on tour? Who insisted that the Fred Astaire recording of “The Way You Look Tonight” be played at Frank’s healing sessions? Was Grace barren or did she have a miscarriage, or more than one? Was Frank present or absent for the birth of a stillborn child? Did he really heal anyone? What actually happened on a healing night in Ballybeg, which Frank remembers as “A Dionysian night. A Bacchanalian night. A frenzied excessive Irish night when ritual was consciously and relentlessly debauched” (17) and which Grace names “That most persistent of all the memories” (19)? As the “truth” becomes indiscernible in a flurry of discrepant detail, the play takes an even more wintry turn. Teddy claims to have identified Grace’s dead body in a London morgue, and Frank brings the Ballybeg story to a nonconclusion, stopping before we find out what happened and suggesting that perhaps they are all ghosts: “That even we had ceased to be physical and existed only in spirit, only in the need we had for each other” (44). Memory, Friel suggests, is born of need and gives birth to spirits that leave only their stories behind. As Ben Brantley (2006) has put it, “The tragedy for the characters in Faith Healer is that while connection among them is elusive, the memory of fleeting contact remains and scalds.” Like faith, memory heals uncertainly and unreliably. From the foregoing, it may be seen that playwrights concluded well before Jerome Bruner (1987) that the veridicality of a memory was less important to the rememberer than its psychological effect, and that the unconscious construction of episodic memory was not necessarily a sign of neurosis or pathology. Robert Patrick’s Kennedy’s Children (1973–1975)21 likewise anticipates a brace of memory studies: Brown and Kulick’s “Flashbulb Memories” (1977); Nelson’s (2003) thesis “that personal autobiographical memory is functionally and structurally related to the use of cultural myths and social narratives” (125); and also Fivush and Haden’s (2003) conclusion that “each of us creates a life narrative embedded in sociocultural frameworks that define what is appropriate to remember, how to remember it, and what it means to be a self with an autobiographical past” (vii). Patrick’s play begins with a radio report of the Dallas motorcade of President Kennedy, followed by two shots that literally trigger a monologue beginning with “For me, it was the most important day of my life. I measure everything as happening before it or after it. I remember every detail, every instant, every little bit of information as it came in” (5). The speaker is Wanda, a secretary in sensible shoes, one of five regulars at a Greenwich Village bar whose monologues comprise the entire action of Kennedy’s Children, except for some pantomimed business with the silent Bartender. The other four are Sparger, a gay actor; Mark, a Vietnam vet suffering

160 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard from what we would now call post-traumatic stress disorder, reading from his war diary; Rona, a hippie who had embraced every social cause of the 1960s; and Carla, the tart with a history of whoring who wants to be a “sex goddess.” The five never address each other, and their origins, politics, sexuality, prospects, and sense of the past differ widely. Though neither their lives nor their narratives intersect, and therefore cannot be said to contradict one another, in another sense Kennedy’s Children evokes Rashom*on in that the five remember the ferment of the 1960s divergently: the Vietnam War, the Peace Movement, sexual liberation, civil rights, careerism. They differ even more in the affect they attach to their memories—idealism, despair, hurt, cynicism, anger—and consequently in the role each assigns himself or herself in a life story: idealist, activist, artist, goddess, avenger. Socioculturally, memory should function to negotiate social values, dictate relationships, strengthen bonds, build hierarchies, and forge consensus, but in 1970s America it does the opposite, Patrick supposes. In his drama, the social frameworks dictating the five life stories stand apart from each other, reflecting a society sundered by the Kennedy assassination. “The relative emphasis put on the self in different cultural and social contexts influences the form and function of autobiographical memory and the need for developing a uniquely personal life narrative in those contexts,” Nelson’s cross-cultural research indicates (2003, 125). She also finds an inverse relationship between an integrated social structure and the construction and valuation of individual memory: “The more integrated the social structure . . . the less likely individual variations of experience will be valued or encouraged” (127). In representing a society so un- or dis-integrated that the characters’ memories are recited in a void, Patrick virtually predicted Nelson’s findings. Following the publication of Neisser’s Memory Observed in 1982, the surge of studies on how memories are organized into narratives finally positioned one-moment-intime events as a regular subject for cognitive psychology. Sometimes events writ large by history become self-defining for individuals, as Wanda specifically articulates in Kennedy’s Children; I take up these encounters of memory and history at greater length in chapter 6. More often, formative events are momentous only to the individual in question and a small circle of friends and family. Later in this chapter and in the following one, I will consider plays in which characters under stress can no longer command their personal memories. By contrast, other remembering narrators continue to weave memories of milestone moments into a coherent story, even though they may have to share the narrative function with other characters. Because some forms of memory are manifestly free of narrative (remembering to, remembering how, remembering that, etc.), and even episodic memory is only quasi-narrative, plays whose remembering protagonists control the narrative are phenomenologically suspect. Yet, such plays may still be of memorative interest, compensating for their narrative determinacy with a pretense of spontaneity to create a sort of pseudo-memory. This is the case with Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky (1970), whose narrator Alan begins with the Pirandellian protest that since the characters won’t follow his direction he will “let [the story] tell itself,” even though it’s “all autobiographical” (3–4).22 Lemon Sky is not interesting for the originality of its mnemonic dramaturgy, but for representing how a milestone memory functions in the construction of a narrative self. Now twenty-nine, Alan remembers back to the late 1950s and his arrival in a San

The “Memory Play” and After


Diego suburb at the age of seventeen to spend time with his father. Alan has arrived from Nebraska, where his divorced mother lives and where his father Doug met Ronnie, the stepmother Alan now encounters for the first time. The rest of the father’s household consists of Alan’s two younger half-brothers and two seventeen-year-old girls, the foster children Penny and Carol. In the domestic drama that follows, promiscuous, pill-taking Carol dies in an auto accident; Doug makes a pass at Penny; and Alan is “outed” as gay by his inflamed father. These revelations are peppered with metatheatrical commentary throughout. Alan breaks conversation with his father to address the audience directly. He introduces Penny, as the “character on whom the plot will pivot” (25). Both Doug and Ronnie sporadically address the audience, and Carol complains to Alan about being “locked in your goddam sideshow, dragged out to play second fiddle” (68). Obviously, memory is not driving the story, but vice versa. Even so, the six months Alan spent in his father’s house form an episodic memory node, a protrusion around which the paths of selfhood appear to detour. Alan’s efforts seem like an awkward attempt at what I have come to think of as the “Wingfield maneuver,” Tom’s elegant negotiation of the episodic memories serving as the obstacle course for his coming-of-age story. Alan’s memories don’t convince us of their guiding power, as Tom’s do. Memory’s directive function, its power to guide us away from painful repeating and toward therapeutic transcendence in the telling, lies at the heart of Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive (1997). Vogel’s remembering narrator Li’l Bit shares with Alan and with Eugene of Neil Simon’s trilogy the ability to step in and out of her memories to comment on the action, and, like them, she is grappling with the emergence of her sexuality. There are, of course, vast differences in sensibility, and Vogel’s use of three “Greek” choruses to play ensemble roles produces a sophisticated alienation-effect lacking in the other works. Vogel’s fearless confrontation of the ambiguities and powerful allures of pedophilia disallows an easy escape into moral outrage or compassionate identification. Instead, we are required to ponder how gender affects power and how constructing a self necessitates “taking the wheel” of one’s life story. Memory is the engine driving Li’l Bit’s self-possession. But How I Learned to Drive is less a construction of flashbacks or memory scenes accompanied by narration than a coherent memory system or memory model. Cognitive psychologists use such terms to describe a “set of correlated processes”; an “interaction among acquisition, retention and retrieval mechanisms that is characterized by certain rules of operation” (Schacter, Wagner, and Buckner 1999, 628); or an overarching paradigm to explain how memory works in connection with emotions, deep reflections, personal strategies, and evaluations (Ratcliff and McKoon 1999). Vogel emplots Li’l Bit’s molestation by her Uncle Peck from the age of eleven until she leaves for college at seventeen both in a sociocultural framework and in the complex, multimodal memory system that enables the construction of autobiography. Li’l Bit begins by explaining that the nicknames in her family are of sexual origin, a textbook example of how semantic memory (recognizing by names) is constitutive of autobiographical memory. Her memory takes her—she “Back[s] up” in the idiom of the play (17)—both to private episodes with Uncle Peck (he takes nude photos of her at thirteen; he fondles her in a car) and uproarious, scatological conversations with her Mother and Grandmother at the dinner table. The order of


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

events does not obey sequential chronology. Though Li’l Bit initially remembers herself as seventeen in 1969, subsequent memory scenes flash both backward and forward. We are aided in following the story with scene titles derived from road signs or the driver’s manual and by ads for vintage cars. These devices engage the memory mode cognitive scientists call the perceptual representation system to cue associations with both the memory of our own driving lessons and the historical context of the 1960s. Furthermore, both literally and metaphorically Vogel associates the motor and cognitive skills established in the acquisition of the procedural memory for driving with the ownership and control of one’s own body emerging from adolescence. Li’l Bit’s family culture is sexually turbid. There are hints that Uncle Peck was abused, and that his pedophilia may extend to boys. His wife, Aunt Mary, suggests that Peck’s “problems” are sourced in his war experience and that she knows what’s going on with Li’l Bit, “a sly one” (45). Her Mother and Grandmother share a conviction about the only thing men want, and her Grandfather is indefatigably avid in pursuit of it. Li’l Bit, at twenty-seven, admits to having seduced a high-school boy. Such details, in a less courageous play, would produce a “suppressed memory” story of the kind seen on daytime television talk shows during the “memory wars” of the 1990s. Yet, Vogel, without mitigating the destructiveness of Uncle Peck’s conduct (Li’l Bit leaves college an alcoholic, after a year), shows us a Li’l Bit “accelerating” away from him, upshifting as she comes into her own with elegance and probity and gentleness. In the circ*mstances of the play, the key factor accounting for Li’l Bit’s autonomy is her ability to talk things through. Instead of shameful silence, in the episodes with Uncle Peck, they both speak of what is happening, and she participates in the sexual talk at home. Cognitive psychologists concur that such narration is crucial in organizing events into human terms: “Conversational interactions that occur during events may facilitate children’s understanding of an experience and serve to organize the resulting representation, in turn, affecting its accessibility for later retrieval over long delayed intervals—perhaps even a lifetime” (Haden 2003, 50). Children learn from such interactions “who I am in relation to who I was” (57). “Narrative forms allow for more complex organization and understanding of experienced events through the provision of subjective evaluations of what occurred and the formation of thematic relations among events separated in time and space,” according to Fivush and Haden (2003, viii), while Thorne and McLean (2003) add that a metanarrative, in which the rememberer includes a postevent telling episode, helps to clarify the meaning of the original event narrative. In the case of traumatic events, culturally dictated master narratives include a John Wayne position (I was strong), a Florence Nightingale position (I was empathetic) or a vulnerable position (for which, Thorne and McLean contend, our culture has no general script). That Li’l Bit ultimately thematizes her sexual memories as learning how to drive, learning how to set her own course, represents a rejection of master narratives culturally associated with the telling of trauma, even as it represents Vogel’s rejection of familiar mnemonic dramaturgy. At the same time, Vogel does not let us lose sight of the possibility that Li’l Bit’s construction of her abuse as a sort of “valuable” experience may itself be a defense mechanism against the effects of her trauma.

The “Memory Play” and After


The shift of attention to multimodal narrative wholes that has occurred in cognitive psychology over the past twenty-five years thus marks the acceptance of a memory model playwrights had been laboring over much earlier. Increasingly, however, spectacular advances in brain research, widely reported and capturing the popular imagination, are reflected in film (from Johnny Mnemonic to Memento) and theatre. If How I Learned to Drive implies a complex of neural networks, Polly Teale’s After Mrs. Rochester (2003) more explicitly conveys the remembering brain with the familiar imagery of a cluttered room, where two sets of memories occupy the same cramped space. The locked room in the remote Devon countryside is both the sanctuary of the writer Jean Rhys, whose Daughter at the beginning of the play is literally trying to get through to her, and the attic of Bertha, the first Mrs. Rochester of Jane Eyre. Rhys’s most famous novel Wide Sargasso Sea rewrites Jane Eyre, setting it in the 1840s in the West Indies and shifting the focus from Jane to Bertha. The two sets of memories in Teale’s conception are Jean’s recollections of her troubled childhood and youth, and Bertha’s remembering her life and reliving events from the original novel. In the play, the room is always occupied both by a disheveled, rambling Bertha and by Jean. They are soon joined by Ella–Jean as a young girl–whom Jean calls forth with difficulty from memory: ELLA: Leave me alone. JEAN: I’m trying to remember . . . ELLA: Remember what? JEAN: (gradually) Remember . . . who I was when they still called me Ella. Remember . . . why . . . (She picks up the cane that her MOTHER used to beat her with). (7, ellipses Teale’s)

Throughout Jean speaks directly with Ella and with Bertha, both of whom occupy places in her mind. As Jean remembers and narrates, we see the scenes of her youth that she sees. These scenes are interspersed with episodes from Jane Eyre that parallel aspects of Jean’s life, particularly her relationship with men. There are also parallels between how Rochester treats Bertha and how Ella was treated as a child; both resisted with savagery. Jean has a copy of Jane Eyre on her desk, and sometimes Ella reads passages from the novel to a friend, so that past and present share the stage with a time-traveling vector of Rhys’s imagination. The plot follows Ella/Jean from the West Indies to London, through affairs and alcoholism, to initial success as a writer, aided by Ford Madox Ford and her literary agent, both also her sexual partners. Teale is equally interested in the bios and the graphos of Rhys’s autobiography, and After Mrs. Rochester conveys, as vividly as any play familiar to me, how art can function mnemonically, as a second language does for bilingual rememberers, to “free up an individual to reframe his or her first language memories in the narrative context of a ‘new’ life-story” (Schrauf and Rubin, 126). Multimodal narratives, plural rememberers, and refracted, discrepant memories may seem more in tune with the era of postmodernism—and perhaps they are. But they did not banish from the stage memory plays based on a psychoanalytic model, in which the rememberer, sometimes with the aid of a therapist, searches deeper within himself, rather than wider in a social network, for the source of his memories. Many

164 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard such plays are of a Freudian cast, in that they entail family matters and repressed, painfully reconstructed memory. Others, in quasi-Jungian fashion, connect a rememberer to ancient images, traditions, and collectives. In Hugh Leonard’s humorously Oedipal Da (1973), the setting is an Irish kitchen in May 1968, as well as “places remembered” and “times remembered” (3),23 but a neutral area defined only by lighting is the main playing space. Da exuberantly pulls one device after another from its dramaturgical bag of tricks. As Charlie, in his forties, goes through memorabilia in the parental home after his father’s death, his Da intrudes from Charlie’s mind into his conversation with his friend Oliver. In my memory of the Broadway production, Barnard Hughes popped up here and there, bathed in a leprachaunish light, perhaps in distant homage to Hamlet’s Ghost’s “old mole” appearances. After Oliver leaves, Da settles in for an extended stay. For the remainder of the play, the interaction between Charlie and his Da, and between Charlie and a younger version of himself, is naturalistic. As rapidly as the change in POV in a film, Charlie changes from participant in scenes to observer of flashbacks. Charlie dislikes the memory of his younger self (Young Charlie throws him a look when Charlie refers to him as “that little prick” [14]), and is likewise embarrassed by the memories of his parents’ poverty, and his father’s obsequiousness, ignorance, and reactionary politics. Da’s charm and energy, however, as well as his insistence upon contesting Charlie’s version of the past, convince us that Charlie has not done justice to the memory of Da. Oedipal undertones and echoes of the psychoanalytical hour resonate. Da interrupts the embraces of Young Charlie and the neighborhood tart, with whom he had anticipated losing his virginity. Charlie has a memory of his father raging in jealousy over his mother’s having a glass of port with the wife of the man she had wanted to marry instead of Da. When Young Charlie, with whom Charlie has a boozy conversation that Da keeps interrupting, criticizes his “ji*zzless” (46) existence, Charlie retaliates with a flashback memory of his younger self idling as a clerk with petty responsibilities for thirteen years, and then with a memory of his father pensioned off for a paltry amount by the household for whom he gardened all his life. Clearly, Charlie has not resolved his feelings toward his past, unable to complete the “Wingfield maneuver.” The play ends with Charlie burning papers and throwing away the house key in hopes of shaking off his father’s memory—which pursues him over a hill and out of sight. Plays like Da and Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang for my Father (1968) are almost entirely circ*mscribed by the subjectivity of the protagonist; Charlie and Anderson’s remembering narrator Gene are alike “working through” memories that continue to disturb them, even though their success in the enterprise may be in doubt. By contrast, the remembering narrators of Peter Shaffer’s Equus (1973) and Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa (1990) follow memory into a labyrinth in the former and a “mirage” in the latter, where it connects with its (supposed) archaic, collective source. Both plays evoke Greek mythology and ancient sacrifice, despite their differences in tone. Equus, one of the most criticized and frequently produced plays of the late twentieth century, does not yield easily to summary treatment. As with other complex or intellectually ambitious dramas considered herein, my handling of Equus will focus

The “Memory Play” and After


on the representation of memory as a feature of its dramaturgy. Sex (heterosexual and otherwise), religion (Christian and otherwise), individual freedom versus civilization, the function of psychoanalysis, the R. D. Laingian definition of sanity—all these themes, as well as the debate over whether the play is pretentious claptrap or a peak of poésie de théâtre, will be necessarily subordinate. Two memory frames encapsulate the action: the analyst Dysart’s recollections of his treatment of the young Alan Strang and Strang’s uncovering the repressed memories surrounding his blinding of six horses in the stable where he worked. Both frames generate flashbacks. Dysart introduces his in the manner of a conventional narrator setting the scene; a light change does the trick. By contrast, he induces abreaction in Strang through a combination of cajolery, self-revelation, hypnotism, and the administering of a placebo he tells Strang is a “truth drug.” Dysart’s self-searching forms an ironic counterpoint to the boy’s katabasis, or trip to the psychological underworld. Both end in darkness, bewilderment, and loss. Along the way, the play heats up a psychological potage, whose main ingredients are Freudian repression, Janetian “alternative” therapies, and Jungian archetypes. Likewise, Shaffer’s mnemonic dramaturgy is a potluck: remembering narrators, flashbacks, the course of psychoanalysis, repressed memory, and the collective unconscious had all been seen before on stage, but here come together in an audience-friendly spread enlivened by nudity and attempted intercourse. A Jungian schema, however, provides the foundation for the memorial action.24 Dysart is allied with the persona archetype, the public mask we show to others, as Strang is with the shadow archetype, the animal side of ourselves that we find by following the skein of desire. Alan has created a labyrinth around that part of himself, represented by the square within the circle of the play’s setting. But a labyrinth viewed from an objective, exterior vantage point can form a mandala, the contemplation of which allows Dysart to penetrate to the heart of Strang’s mystery. There he discovers a centaur (the horseback-riding Alan), a half-man, half-beast like the minotaur. In clinical terms, the appearance of the centaur/minotaur marks the return of a primitive agony manifested in the play by falling (as off the horse); loss of a sense of the real (Alan’s paranoia that the horses are watching); loss of body/mind integrity (“it’s not me,” Alan, who tries to make love with Jill); and loss of capacity to relate to objects (Alan’s withdrawal). This behavior stems from a “complex” associated mainly with Alan’s father. Alan is ashamed of his father for encountering him at a p*rnographic film and likewise ashamed of his own sexual feelings. In blinding the horses, Alan may even be trying to castrate his father, who displaced with the picture of a horse the image of Christ that previously hung in Alan’s room. In the end, Dysart is torn by doubts over the efficacy of analysis, believing that in taking away Alan’s pain he has also taken away his ability to feel.25 Shaffer is suggesting that Dysart has made the same mistake as his analysand: trying to kill the beast within, rather than acknowledging its place in our collective memory. An orthodox Jungian, Shaffer has said: “Most people do not realize—and by ‘realize’ I mean they do not feel intensely, from day to day, in any way that truly affects them—that we did not begin the world, that we are repositories, walking encyclopedias, of all human experience, that we contain within us, within our heads and without our genes, the whole of human history. The more one comes to realize that the cells of one’s brain


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

contain endless archetypal images that stretch back beyond the Stone Age, the more one can come to an immense and important sense of who one is, for himself, instead of just a little worried package of responses and reflexes, sexual drives and frustrations” (quoted in Pao 2000). If Dysart is something of a Pentheus figure, spying upon a primitive ritual that threatens his own self-integration, such an image is explicitly suggested in Dancing at Lughnasa,26 where Brian Friel has the narrator Michael remembering the women who raised him in a situation that recalls The Bacchae, within a Jungian frame that evokes Equus. In Friel’s play, which flashes back to 1936, the Lughnasa festival serves like the equine rituals in Equus to rival the cult of Christianity in providing a “sense of who one is.” Lughnasa introduces us to the five Mundy sisters of County Donegal through the adult recollections of Michael, sister Chris’s seven-year-old son in the play’s flashbacks. The childhood presence of Friel’s adult rememberer is partly represented by his absence: the boy Michael is not impersonated, though he is addressed by other characters. In Friel’s will o’ the wisp plot, we overhear the sisters mock, sigh over, and dance out their (mostly) frustrated desires for male companionship. We also watch their brother, Father Jack, going native—that is, reverting to the tribal religion he embarrassingly adopted as an African missionary. A double shame afflicting the Mundys inverts their energies and subverts their attempts to break out of their harsh confines. To Father Jack’s eccentricities is added the stigma of Michael, Chris’s love child, fathered by the charming and self-deceiving Gerry, who wanders back into their lives for the few weeks of the play’s action. Because of Father Jack, sister Kate loses her teaching position. Because of Gerry, Agnes and Rose cut out on their own, ultimately destined for urban disaster. Unlike either Dysart or Alan Strang, Michael’s sense of self-continuity is tied to landscape, and he is remembering the conditions that formed, rather than deformed, him. Michael is ostensibly more like Tom Wingfield, and Christopher Murray (1997) has noticed the many similarities (alienating devices, Depression setting, matriarchal society) to Glass Menagerie, which Friel’s daughter was directing at the Peaco*ck, while Lughnasa was premiering at the Abbey in April 1990. In order to write his selfhistory, Michael like Tom must reimagine himself in memory. In his sweeping, poetic monologue at the end of the play, he equates memory with the creative imagination, and both of these with dancing: But there is one memory of that Lughasa time that visits me most often; and what fascinates me about that memory is that it owes nothing to fact. In that memory atmosphere is more real than incident and everything is simultaneously actual and illusory. . . . When I remember it, I think of it as dancing. . . . Dancing as if language had surrendered to movement–as if this ritual, this wordless ceremony, was now the way to speak, to whisper private and sacred things, to be in touch with some otherness.” (83–84)

Friel’s perspective is broader than Michael’s, however. Where Michael aligns dancing with the creative telling of his own life story, Friel’s view is more ambiguous. For Gerry, who has been a dancing teacher, it is the vehicle of seduction. For the dancing women, it is sublimated sexuality. For Father Jack, whose clumsy shuffle-dance accompanies Michael’s foreboding speech at the end of the first act, it is a parodic

The “Memory Play” and After


vestige of the powerful rituals he encountered in Africa. Murray’s identification of Father Jack as “modern Ireland personified” (34) and his dark reading of the play as dramatizing disintegration and loss also support the notion that dancing functions like the equine rituals in Equus as both a substitute for integration and the irruption and depletion of the uncontrollable libido. Is Michael’s remembering, then, a failed attempt at constructing social reintegration (Murray’s reading), an effort to “work through” the memories that continue to beset him (the “Wingfield maneuver”), a reanimation of the powerful maternal forces that gave him birth (a Jungian reading), or a revisit of the “Celtic” folk idiom, a tony relative of Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance”? While there is some truth to each of these, of relevance is Friel’s homage to Euripides’ The Bacchae, even to the odd detail of a man in each play climbing a tree and looking down on a group of wild women. I don’t mean to insist on precise analogies—tree-climbing Pentheus is reduced in Friel’s play to shiftless, wandering Gerry, who is not dismembered by the women (even though he is subsequently and perhaps symbolically crippled in the Spanish Civil War). There is a closer analogy between Father Jack as a senex figure and Cadmus or Teiresias; the priest’s alliance with his sisters brings them no power. Most suggestive of all is how Friel redistributes the function of the Dionysus/Stranger figure among the narrator, his father Gerry, and the unseen but ever-present Michael as a young boy. As narrator, Michael like Dionysus returns to a scene sacred to him. Gerry, as a trickster figure, functions like the Dionysus who dupes Pentheus into spying on the women, but he is also like the Dionysus who inspired the women’s devotion in the first place. As a child, Michael moves magically and invisibly through the society of women, a beautiful, androgynous young god. In the Jungian vocabulary that Friel also seems to be consciously employing, the fivefold presence of the mother archetype keeps the shadow archetype at bay, displaced into Father Jack’s shenanigans and the scary faces painted on Michael’s kites that never get off the ground. While, on the one hand Michael enters the sisters’ “mystery” from the outside as an adult rememberer, he does so to revisit the ruptured matriarchy, to internalize its power, and to reclaim his anima, the feminine component in men that is the source of their creativity. Unlike boys, whose autobiographical memories are shot through with stories of heroism and besting antagonists, Michael remembers like a girl, whose preschool memories typically focus on family and home life (Nelson 2003). *



“MY MEMORY IS THE THING I FORGET WITH” Differences between Freudian and Jungian taxonomies of the psyche repeat in key aspects the split between Freud and Janet on the role of repression versus dissociation in the dynamic of remembering and forgetting (Haule 1984). For Freud, repression of sexual shame was tied to a fixed idea, which “hysterics” return to via “reminiscences” that form a sort of amnesiac screen obstructing therapeutic remembering.

168 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Where Freud proposed a sexual causality for neurotic or dissociated behavior, Janet tried to understand the “economy” of psychic energy, its accesses, and tensions. Rejecting, like Janet, sex as the cause of dissociated behavior, Jung conceived of a “complex” as a group of associations in conflict or imbalance, an idea that owed much to the French theory of dissociation. But Jung’s later theory of universal archetypes appears to serve the etiological function lacking in the theory of dissociation, a lack that caused Freud to propose the sexual theory in the first place. For Jung, an analogous (if unexplained) amnesia attaches itself to the archetypes, which can “take over” in the absence of conscious acknowledgment of their place and power. Understanding the full phenomenology of forgetting entails a qualification, perhaps even a total rejection, of the causal role of repression, since amnesia manifests a variety of causes: “shell shock” or battlefield trauma, psychological trauma, the attrition of time, adjustments to one’s life narrative, stroke or other brain trauma, changes in the availability of retrieval cues, and the rare neurological diseases Oliver Sacks has studied. Repression, which we can define more broadly than Freud as keeping something out of consciousness for emotional reasons, is clearly not always the culprit. Playwrights from Pirandello on have explored these causes in all their variety, frequently exploiting amnesia as a symbol for the existential loss of identity and the discontinuity of the self, as well as taking sides in the “memory wars” over dissociative amnesia. Anouilh’s neglected Traveler Without Luggage (Le Voyageur Sans Bagage [1937])27 would richly repay more attention than it can be accorded here. It owes a debt, acknowledged by Anouilh (Weinrich, 164) to Giraudoux’s Siegfried (1928), virtually an allegory about an amnesiac World War I soldier who is repatriated to Germany when his identity is discovered. In Traveler Without Luggage the amnesiac veteran Gaston leaves for England after the mystery over his identity is drolly resolved in a coup de théâtre. But Anouilh’s play owes even more (unacknowledged, so far as I know) to As You Desire Me, even to the detail of an identifying mark on the amnesiac’s body exploited for ambiguous effect. The amnesiac Gaston has been in an asylum for the eighteen years since the end of the war, but his cause has now been taken up by the meddling duch*ess, who intends to negotiate among the several families claiming him (and his sizeable pension). Hypnosis and seventeen injections of pentothol have not yielded the “truth” of his past. The duch*ess snobbishly favors the wealthy Renauds, in whose mansion the action takes place. When Madame Renaud meets Gaston, she instantly identifies him as her missing “Jacques,” though he does not recognize her at all. In the second scene, we see the principals from the below-stairs perspective of the servants, who remember Jacques as the antithesis of the gentle, domestic Gaston. Jacques tortured animals as a child, raised his hand against his mother, crippled a childhood friend by throwing him down the stairs, engaged in financial fraud, and had a love affair with Valentine, his brother Georges’ wife. When, in the second act, Gaston becomes aware of some of these details, he has a glimmer of recognition. As the evidence that he is Jacques amasses, the revelations appear to be too much for Gaston. For a moment, he admits his identity, but recants (in an echo of Pirandello’s Henry IV) because “for a man without a memory, an entire past is too heavy to take on one’s back at one go” (159). Sadly, the mother and son

The “Memory Play” and After


reenact the stubborn emotional withdrawal they practiced in the past. Then, in a scene with Valentine, he rejects the past self who slept with his sister-in-law while his brother was off at the front. To her, as to his mother, he repeats four times: “I am not Jacques Renaud” (159–162). Valentine replies “It’s too easy to live without a memory. You have to accept yourself, Jacques” (163). In the closing moments of the second act, the competing families of the milkman and the lamplighter arrive, and Gaston inveighs against those who would identify him with his past, saddling him with “memories as cut and dried as crimes”; he feels himself “a monstrous hybrid creature, with a little bit of all your sons in it, and nothing of me. . . . Me! I exist, in spite of all your stories” (165). But, in the coup de théâtre ending the act, Gaston is privately revealed to be Jacques via a scar from the hatpin that Valentine had long ago attacked him with, on suspicion of his infidelity. The third act finds the Renauds trying another Pirandellian trick to jog Gaston’s memory: surrounding him in his bed as he sleeps with the stuffed animals and toys he was familiar with as a child. When this does not “work,” the attitude of his mother hardens: “He was such a bad-tempered boy. Lost memory or no lost memory, why should he be any different now?” (170). We then learn that Gaston is to kill “Jacques,” as he tells the Butler metaphorically, in order to live. Gaston denies to Valentine that he saw a scar in the mirror, telling her he is choosing to “be as new and unmarked as a child” (176). Embracing one of the Renauds’ competitors, an English family all wiped out but for a small child, Gaston colludes with the child’s ward to “prove” he is the family’s lost relative, ironically reverting to the unscrupulous persona of Jacques. Having convinced all but Valentine of the “truth” of his origins, he dismisses the others and settles down to chat with the Little Boy with the brazen command: “Leave me alone with my family. We have to compare our memories” (184). As in Siegfried, great parts of which Anouilh knew by heart (Thody 1968, 19), amnesia symbolizes France’s disposition to forget the less honorable aspects of her past. And like the Strange Lady in As You Desire Me, Gaston rejects his past and its impinging memories for an identity-founding act. But Anouilh handles these themes with an irony lacking in the other two works. Where the Strange Lady’s decision marks her courage and independence, Gaston’s has about it an aura of infantile regression. Gaston cunningly “recognizes” the Little Boy (who has utterly no memories of his family) as someone who can supply him with a blank slate of a past and who can render him as the unmarked child he would like to be. This false recognition is, I think, exactly what Lacan meant by “méconnaissance,” and the plot of Traveler Without Luggage is uncannily convergent with the ideas of “The Mirror Stage,” a paper presented the same year that Anouilh wrote the play (1936).28 For Lacan, the mirror stage, in which the child recognizes the image in the mirror as his own, is a moment of ego formation fraught with both tension and jubilation, the latter stemming from an illusory or imaginary mastery of the mirrored image effected through identification. Ego formation is thus a production of misunderstanding or false recognition, and Lacan seems eager to discredit the “pretention” of the existential psychoanalytic concept of the “self-sufficiency of consciousness”: “Our experience shows that we should start instead from the function of méconnaisance that characterizes the ego in all its structures” (6). That is, the ego is constructed as much from error, loss, and lack as from identification. In addition to establishing the

170 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard conflictual, dual relationship between ego and body, the mirror stage functions to “establish a relation between the organism and its reality” (4). Over the course of the mirror stage there occurs the “deflection of the specular I into the social I,” and the end of the mirror stage “inaugurates . . . the dialectic that will henceforth link the I to socially elaborated situations” (5). In Lacanian terms, the totally amnesiac Gaston at the beginning of the play is pre–mirror stage, an innocent, egoless child. Gradually and reluctantly he recognizes that he is, in fact, the Jacques who is mirrored back to him—literally, when Valentine forces him to look in the mirror at the scar only she knew of. His conflictual identification comes to a head when, “without taking his eyes off his reflection” (178), he throws an object at the mirror and shatters it. From there, his withdrawal from the Renauds is a reversal of the deflection from the specular I to the social I. Likewise, his embrace of the “family” of the Little Boy marks Gaston’s reinauguration of the mirror stage as an anamnesis on terms he can dominate—ignoring loss and constructing a sort of “truth” in exchange for historical reality. With an irony naturally absent from the clinician Lacan, Anouilh gives the falseness of Gaston’s méconnaissance the double meaning of both “wrong” and “deceptive.” Furthermore, while the use of an identifying mark (here, as in Pirandello and Giraudoux) gestures ironically toward boulevard melodrama, it also evokes Greek tragedy in propelling the resistant Gaston toward recognition. Contemporary critics recognized Travel Without Luggage as an Oedipal analogue (Thody, 20). More frequently, amnesia plays are disposed to stage the search for truth sans irony in a positivist or clinical context, where a functioning memory is deemed essential for negotiating reality. An early example is Arthur Laurents’ Home of the Brave (1945), which represents the therapeutic course taken by Coney, a World War II soldier suffering from “shell shock.” Coney has blocked out memories of what he has construed to be a failure of courage in attempting to rescue his friend from a torturous death at the hands of the Japanese army. Furthermore, as a Jew, Coney suffers from a sense of inferiority bred by the anti-Semitism of his army buddies. Through the injection of sodium pentothal and some talk therapy administered by a sympathetic army doctor, Coney returns to himself. We see what Coney is remembering in extended flashbacks scarcely more sophisticated than those employed by Elmer Rice thirty years earlier— though now put in the service of a cautionary tale of tolerance. David Lindsay-Abaire’s Fuddy Meers (1999), though distant in tone and technique from Home of the Brave, shares with it a case of psychogenic amnesia set off by trauma, whose mysterious cause the play’s action reveals. In Lindsay-Abaire’s black comedy, Claire (improbably) suffers from both retrograde and anterograde amnesia: she cannot remember who she is and her ability to form memories is so impaired that each morning her husband must remind her of the circ*mstances of her life. 29 Via an extravagantly complex plot, made deliberately more difficult to follow due to one character with a lisp and another with a speech impairment caused by a stroke, we learn the truth of her past: that Claire’s amnesia was caused by an associated series of violent acts, including repeated beatings by her first husband. As in a spate of films (Memento, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fifty First Dates—all of which Fuddy Meers anticipates), amnesia bears some metaphorical weight, here suggesting a domesticity and family life “forgotten” in contemporary American society.

The “Memory Play” and After


In memory plays, as in memory films, the same devices continually recur. Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy (1999) deploys both war-time trauma and severe amnesia. Set in 1972 in rural Canada, the play brings a young actor Miles, who is researching a documentary drama on farmers, to the homestead of two brothers, Morgan and Angus, World War II veterans. (Healey is drawing on the history of the Theatre Passe Muraille’s creation of The Farm Show.) Angus is the amnesiac, having received a brain injury during the bombing of London in 1941. Morgan and Angus’ relationship recalls that of George and Lenny in Of Mice and Men, particularly when Angus asks George to repeat the story of events leading up to his injury, a romantic tale of two brothers about to marry two sisters. Miles overhears the story and incorporates it into the documentary his company is creating. Though Angus’ memory loss was physically caused, the plot sentimentally and implausibly offers Angus a psychogenic cure: his memories partially return when he sees a rehearsal of the scene Miles has dramatized. In a final plot twist, Angus’ partial recovery allows him to realize that Morgan has been suppressing some elements of the story in order to protect his brother. It is the sensationalizing rather than the sentimentalizing of amnesia that is a feature of dramas directly addressing what are frequently called the “memory wars” of the 1980s and 1990s. The term refers to the fiercely contradictory contentions of individuals claiming to have “recovered memories” of childhood sexual abuse and those claiming that the accusers are subject to “false memory syndrome.” To highlight the normal malleability of memory, Elisabeth Loftus, an eminent contributor to this debate and frequent expert witness at trials where the reliability of recall is at issue, cites (1994, 38) the child’s definition of memory serving as the title of this section. Loftus’ anonymous child shares an understanding with Martin Heidegger that “remembering is possible only on [the basis] of forgetting, and not vice versa” (cited by Forty, 13, emphasis Forty’s). That is, forgetting does not necessarily mark the failure or absence of memory; nor does it necessarily imply repression; rather memory is the residue of constant and necessary forgetting. Just as there are many possible causes of amnesia, as we have seen, its manifestations require an interpretative position that allows for forgetting as multimodal. A meaningful distinction can be made between what is reserved for remembering, but forgotten (my PIN number), and what is assigned to oblivion (the old phone number of a friend who has moved). Likewise, it is not memory failure that causes the deliberate destruction of a memory (such as that of an embarrassing or shameful episode), but a kind of memorial iconoclasm (Forty, 8–11). Furthermore, a trauma victim may deploy defense mechanisms that can impair or alter memory, including “denial, blaming or scapegoating others (projection), avoidance, defining the trauma as a ‘valuable’ experience (reversal), displacing the threat to another source, and rationalizing” (Smelser 2004, 47). At issue, at least superficially, in the memory wars is whether this array of defense mechanisms can include a response in which a person “blacks out” a specific traumatic event only to retrieve it after an extended period of time—even decades later.30 Whether this response is called, after Freud, repression, or, after Janet, dissociative amnesia, it is difficult to confirm. Most victims of childhood trauma display evidence of the trauma in their behaviors, rather than appearing “normal” for years afterward; most victims of childhood sexual abuse never forgot the incidents in the

172 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard first place (Schacter 1996, 273, 257). Flashbacks associated with “recovered” memory of traumatic events are especially subject to fantasizing. Detailed visual memories of trauma have no guarantee of accuracy and seem to depend on a misguided concept of memory as like a “camcorder” (Schacter, 266). Accounts of repressed and recovered memory are virtually unknown before the nineteenth century, suggesting that, as Harvard psychologist Richard J. McNally has put it, recovered memory is a “culturally provided narrative to account for the fact that the memory is now retrospectively reappraised as traumatic” (quoted in Carey 2007).31 There are many documented cases of fabricated or implanted memory (Loftus 1994). Proponents of recovered memory appear to claim that traumatic memory both does and does not leave a more vivid impression than normal memory: does, in that a singular traumatic event is indelible, and does not, in that a pattern of trauma results in repression that can only be coaxed back to memory (Loftus, 58–59). In sum, “to invoke the concept of repression as a mechanism that seals memories intact to be recovered in full, accurate detail in adulthood goes beyond the available evidence” (Pezdek and Banks 1996, xiii). On the other hand, while most victims of child abuse remember the incidents, the reports of some who claim to have forgotten them have been corroborated (Schacter 1996, Schooler in Pezdek and Banks). This might be expected in light of the fact that stress has discrepant effects subject-to-subject; it variously enhances or degrades or makes no difference in remembering (Howe et al. in Pezdek and Banks). Emotional arousal, such as would likely accompany abuse, facilitates retention and accurate recall. Cues for retrieval of a memory may long have been absent; their sudden presence may cause a memory to seem “recovered,” though the prior inaccessibility of the memory is difficult to corroborate independently (Schooler, 1996). The recovery of dormant memories may be no different from remembering an acquaintance you had not seen in years and thus had to reason to recall.32 Escaping the horns of this dilemma entails relinquishing the oppositional terms that have turned the issue into a “war.” Feminist philosopher Sue Campbell suggests: “I do not want to be confined to the question of whether people can recover memories of childhood sexual abuse or whether they sometimes remember abuse that didn’t happen. Both of these positions seem to me beyond reasonable dispute and therefore suggest that the real issues are elsewhere” (14). The real issues for Campbell are the suppression of the social-narrative dimensions of memory; the way in which scientific, philosophical, and popular constructions of memory affect women’s status as moral agents; the false dichotomy between memories requiring interpretation, because they reflect multiple perspectives on the past, and those yielding “objective truth”; and the nature of memories, and more fundamentally, personhood as “essentially relational.” Such issues—engaged forcefully in the memory plays of Pinter, Adrienne Kennedy, Maria Irene Fornes, Charlotte Delbo, and others—are frequently sidetracked in the “memory wars” drama that has come to my attention. Mike Cullen’s Anna Weiss (1997) and Arnold Wesker’s Denial (2000) are polemics launched at recovered memory therapists and their gullible clients. Wesley Moore’s A Reckoning (2003) less melodramatically explores the shattering of a father-daughter relationship in the aftermath of recovered childhood memories. Neil LaBute’s Shepardian In a Dark Dark House

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(2007) uses memories of adolescent sex to pry open the complex relationship of two brothers. Though none takes up Campbell’s issues in full, together they display an illuminating range of attitudes on the “memory wars.” In Cullen’s play (initially produced at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh),33 Anna Weiss is a hypnotherapist in her late thirties. She is packing up her flat for a move with the distracted aid of Lynn, a decade younger, whom we soon recognize is Anna’s client and lover. For anyone alert to the ethics of the situation, a therapist’s having a romantic relationship with a client is immediately under suspicion, coloring all that follows. Lynn rummages for something in a chest, and there is lengthy, microscopically detailed, pseudo-Pinteresque conversation about searching for lost items. It turns out Lynn is looking for a picture of herself when she was nine with her Dad, and talk shifts to the part Anna has played, she tells Lynn, “in your recovery, your discovery” (12). Anna is affronted, however, when Lynn reveals she has invited her father to the flat, having not first consulted with Anna. Lynn is someone who doesn’t listen, and who can’t make up her mind as to whether she wants red or white wine. Yet, she–with difficulty against the torrent of Anna’s talk—asserts that she must see her father to tell him how she feels, not because of “the memories” or “doubts” as to whether things actually happened, but because “I want to look into his eyes, and see he understands, and see how much it hurts” (18–19). But Anna interprets her motivation for seeking pain as a repetition compulsion, though she doesn’t use the term. There are continued references to “the book,” obviously referring to any of the “survivor guides” for child abuse victims frequently published in the 1980s and 1990s, which offered instructions for confronting accused abusers.34 Anna interprets Lynn’s loss of items to a fear of finding: “What scares you? Discovery, finding the answers, confirmation, that it happened, that you’re right, that the memories are real” (23). When the picture is found in another box, the curtain comes down on uncertainty as to whether Lynn misplaced it or Anna hid it. The second act begins a little later with Anna sitting across from Lynn’s father David, Lynn being absent. The power struggle latent in the relationship of Anna and Lynn is immediately joined between Anna and David over the “conditions of the meeting” (33), as Anna puts it. We learn that David’s life has been ruined by the accusation; his wife has been hospitalized, his job lost. He drinks. Anna interprets: “You want all this to be swept away, buried, forgotten . . . you want to amputate your past,” while David insists “there are no events to remember” (39). When Anna attempts to explain David’s “forgetting” with “The human memory is a complex . . . thing,” David launches an extended defense of the details of his memory (“I remember every moment . . . every birthday, every Christmas”), as well as those of his own childhood (his blankets, his mattress, wetting the bed [39–41]). David’s insistence upon photographic recall might raise doubts in one knowledgeable about memory, but to him it proves “that my memory is clear” (43). By the time Anna responds “Nothing you can say can make any difference to [Lynn’s] belief, even if she was wrong, it wouldn’t matter” (43), we have come to doubt the reliability of any of the three. In the power struggle, Anna’s next move is to say that, right or wrong, true or false, Lynn needs her father to help “repair the damage”: “I want you to save your daughter’s life!” (45–46).


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

When Lynn finally enters, it is with a written “list of memories, recovered through hypnosis over the past year and a half ” (46). The list, including memories of sexual abuse, has been given to the police. Lynn starts to read the list over her father’s objections: her father took her into his bath when she was three and she had to hunt for his penis underwater. When David attempts to deny, Lynn threatens to leave and David capitulates: “Okay, I won’t deny it!” (49). But Lynn demands a full confession, not an acknowledgment that is motivated to “help” her, and she resumes her graphic account: fellati*, anal rape, and a memory of her father saying he had placed a bomb in her head that would go off if she told anyone (52). With these and other details of sexual encounters with a friend of her father’s in a hotel room, we lurch definitively toward disbelief. Unable to listen anymore, David becomes violent. He spews misogynist epithets at Anna (“Some f*cked up lonely old c*nt” [59], emphasis Cullen’s), shouts that the “list” must be Anna’s sexual fantasies, and grabs Anna by the hair. Sensationally, this triggers a “recovered memory” for Anna of four men coming to her in a hotel room—a “memory” that was supposedly Lynn’s: “No, this is . . . this is . . . it’s my memory, Anna” (64, ellipsis Cullen’s). This obviously can’t be a true memory for both of them, but we don’t know if Lynn suggested it to Anna or vice versa. When Lynn, focusing only on David’s manhandling of Anna, says “I don’t need the memories to know who you are” (67), David leaves, a wisp of suspicion still clinging to him. The two women embrace, their false memories (“How can we know . . . what’s yours, what’s mine?” [69]), the only thing that binds them together. Clearly, Anna Weiss relies heavily on the emotional dynamics of David Mamet’s Oleanna, substituting recovered memory therapy for sexual harassment charges as the object of polemic.35 As there, the man’s outburst does not balance or dispel the lingering impression of “hysterical” or suggestible women bound up in confabulation. Entirely different in emotional dynamics, if not in premise, is Wesker’s Denial, originally produced at the Bristol Old Vic. Wesker has said it wasn’t a subject, but a story that attracted him.36 A friend told him of a couple whose daughter made accusations after seeing a recovered memory therapist. Wesker met with the couple, recorded their story, and based his play on it, though he also researched the “memory wars” issues. Interestingly, he considers Denial of a piece with his earlier work, which he construes to be about the different kinds of prisons people are placed in by others who manipulate them. In keeping with this theme, the main element in the set of the original production was a revolving box open on one side, serving as the therapist’s office. Like Anna Weiss, Denial proceeds from an accusation of sexual abuse lodged by the daughter against her father (and grandfather) to a family confrontation “arbitrated” by the therapist. Also like Cullen, Wesker undermines the credibility of client and therapist at the outset, here by salting into the accusations “memories” of satanic rites and baby-killing and by raising suspicions about the therapist’s motives: she calls her client “pet.” Finally, both plays leave in grave doubt whether any objective truth has emerged that all can agree to and whether the families will ever heal themselves. The richer character array of Denial, however, enables Wesker to transcend the simplified antagonisms of Anna Weiss. Least assertive is the accused father Matthew who, though he firmly denies his daughter Jenny’s accusations, searches for their

The “Memory Play” and After


cause in the family dynamic: were they too argumentative, too careful, too close? His wife Karen sensibly and furiously rejects such pop psychological clichés. She is one of a trio of articulate and reasonable, professional women in the play. The other two are the lawyer Abigail, Jenny’s sister, who fiercely defends the family, and a television reporter Sandy, who has been covering the “memory wars.” In interviews with the therapist Valerie, Sandy carefully distinguishes the reality of child abuse from the reality of repressed memory. When Sandy challenges Valerie on whether repressed memory can be scientifically established, the therapist responds with graphic accounts of “gaping anuses” on little boys and distended vagin*s. A minor character–the family doctor and a Holocaust survivor—further undermines the “recovered memory” thesis by telling the family he has tried, but cannot repress any memories of the camp. Within the larger movement from accusation to confrontation, Wesker fragments the story line. The accusation resulting from therapeutic “recovery” and its effects on the family is revealed before we see the therapy sessions. The sequence of these is in turn interrupted by Sandy’s interviews of Valerie. The effect is that we think about how the case is being made, rather than being caught up in the melodrama, as with Anna Weiss. When the confrontation finally comes, with its formalized protocols of listening and speaking without interruption, the unreliability of Jenny’s “memories” has long been established. What is instead at issue is whether Karen’s articulate, comprehensive account of Jenny’s decline (failed marriage, lost jobs, promiscuity) and Matthew’s sweet and courageous and graphic “confession” of bathing and tickling his little daughter can displace the abuse scenario Jenny has embraced as an explanation for her failures. Wesker leaves this doubtful. In the therapy sessions we have seen Valerie plant the sex abuse suggestion that the script has prepped us to pick up. Valerie’s therapeutic approach evidently stems from a diagnosis of dissociative amnesia or dissociated identity disorder (formerly called multiple personality disorder). She asks Jenny to write down her different selves as they “emerge,” in effect offering various life narratives from which Jenny can choose, while advocating the abuse scenario: “Trust me and come out of denial.” More so than Cullen, then, Wesker is genuinely interested in how a story becomes a memory by virtue of serving a life narrative one can live with as the “truth.” Wesker makes a gesture toward separating this instance of implanted memory from the larger social problem of child abuse; in addition to the reporter’s comments, we learn that Valerie serves the underprivileged and her office is in a rundown area. But this dramaturgical tactic may have the kind of unintended consequence Sue Campbell worries about: that the skepticism encouraged about recovered memory may discourage the adduction of social and relational contexts in understanding the personal past. Attempts to interpret Jenny’s memories in a larger social dimension are twice parodied: in Matthew’s apologetics and Jenny’s own distorted “feminist” account of the abuse. Ultimately, Wesker’s story has the shape of its set: a brightly lit box revolving in a black void. Wesley Moore’s A Reckoning begins in the sort of private room that dominates the settings of its “memory wars” predecessors. At her father’s apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay Bridge, Irene (mid-twenties) bursts into tears as her father, Spencer, prepares tea in the next room. In the eight months since her mother’s death, Irene has been seeing a therapist. She’s been carrying “this albatross, this depression”

176 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard (25).37 Suddenly, she broaches the subject: she has a vivid memory of being locked in a closet, and another of her father with tweezers reaching for her crotch. Spencer reacts with vigorous, angry denial: “You come in here with your wacked-out fantasies . . . Get out!” (27). They struggle over a cup her mother favored for tea; it breaks. From here until the final scene, the action transpires in public: Spencer’s office (he’s an architect), Irene’s lawyer’s conference room, and the environs of the courthouse, where Irene has brought suit against her father. All of the meetings involve just the two of them, so there is the recurrent impression of public and private held in fragile balance. In these scenes, Irene reveals other haunting memories, though none with a distinctly sexual tenor: a torn-up paper doll house, her head pushed under water during a swimming lesson, being force-fed when she refused to eat, of her father having dinner in a restaurant with a redheaded woman. Her father denies some, interprets some as innocent, apologizes for others, but refuses to sign a legal complaint admitting to “continual emotional torment.” He rants that she should “take that goddamn therapist of yours and do some true self-analysis, not these trips down illusionary memory lane, look at the character traits and flaws, or is that out of fashion” (42). In the ensuing trial, Irene’s brother Ben testifies on her behalf, but Spencer’s lawyers succeed in undermining him, and Irene loses the trial. It becomes clearer in the interaction between father and daughter that the source of Irene’s rage at her father is that he was an adulterer and unscrupulous businessman, which he does not deny. Irene’s disillusionment with her father, then, is the cause of her haunting memories, which are neither distorted nor false, but require interpretation on both their parts to clarify their shared past. Irene’s memories were her way of sharing what she took to be her mother’s pain and powerlessness (locked in a closet, head under water, force-fed). When her father wonders whether what the trial was all about was Irene trying to prove Spencer “killed” her mother, Irene says “Well, that’s not what this was about. This was about justice. A reckoning, that’s all” (62). And, indeed, it has been, though a different sort of reckoning from what either of them expected—a reckoning based in old, Arthur Miller fashion on their “character traits and flaws.” The final scene, in Irene’s new apartment, offers a promise of life returning to normal. She has switched dwellings, jobs, boyfriends. Her father comes bearing gifts— old photos, her mother’s broken cup repaired, and an admission: “I want to talk to you about some of those memories” (68). He says her memory of being locked in a closet was from a time she locked herself in, fleeing an argument between her parents in which Spencer struck her mother. The tweezer memory originated in another unhappy family scene, when her father had to pull from her thighs water ticks she had attracted from inner-tubing in a lake. She disagrees, but not vigorously. Her father fears he has passed on to her his cold resolve and invulnerability; he wants her compassion. She says he took away her hands, but she now has them back, and is designing on her own. A rapprochement is sadly and subtly aborted when Irene catches him looking at her portfolio without asking, a violation of her fragile autonomy. Theirs is a reckoning without deliverance. A reckoning seems far from Neil LaBute’s intention in writing In a Dark Dark House. LaBute’s candid preface acknowledges the autobiographical nature of his story of childhood sex abuse, while seeming to shrug it off: “The specifics are of little use

The “Memory Play” and After


to you and best forgotten by me. . . . Was I ever abused? As a matter of fact, yes” (xiii– xiv).38 The play picks up threads from a hundred years of memory plays going back to The Burned House: brothers with discrepant memories of a troubled childhood; the conscious construction of a false memory for personal gain; estranged brothers, one much richer than the other, staking ethical claims to the past; the recovered memory debate; and even a hint of post-traumatic stress disorder. LaBute also knowingly alludes to the novel A Separate Peace (dangerous childhood memories), to Hardy Boys adventures, to Cain and Abel and, with the play’s dedication to Sam Shepard, to True West, where brothers seem to exchange identities. Though LaBute is clearly more interested in brotherhood and masculinity than anything else, the recovered memory theme does serve as more than a plot device to deliver one of the shocking endings that have come to seem formulaic in his work. In three deceptively sylvan settings (the lawn of a rehab center where older brother Terry comes to visit younger brother Drew, a miniature golf course, and Drew’s spacious back yard), the two brothers spar over the memory of Todd, a college-age drifter who stayed with the family during a summer when the brothers were in their teens. Drew, a wealthy, disbarred lawyer, has abused pills and alcohol, and in the course of therapy has brought up what Terry terms “these repressed memories and whatnot” (11, emphasis LaBute’s). If Terry can corroborate Drew’s memories, it might help him to get off easier on drunk-driving and narcotics-possession charges. Terry skeptically observes “it’s very useful for you to fall back on [that] now” (21, emphasis LaBute’s), claiming Drew has been a liar all his life, though agreeing that he had warned Drew about Todd. Drew counters: “They’ve even, you know—they asked if it could’ve been Dad, or, like, maybe . . . you” (24), which Drew quickly denies, though he continues as if reading from a “survivor guide” script: “They blame most all of my behavior in the last year or so on it. These memories that’re coming back up for me—the trauma. That it sorta . . . I dunno, froze me, I guess, kept me in this perpetual age . . . like a teenager . . . all acting out and sh*t, because of it” (27, ellipses LaBute’s). Terry persists in extracting from Drew the details that Todd forced him to perform fellati* in their tree house. Drew withdraws in tears, and Terry reacts violently, hurling his brother’s wheelchair into the bushes. In the creepy and mysterious Second Part at the miniature golf course, Terry engages in an erotic pas de deux with Lolita-like Jennifer, in her mid-teens. They flirt, and kiss, and she agrees to go for a ride with him. We are clearly meant to take this episode as an analogue for Todd’s seduction of Drew. The cascade of revelations in the Third Part, Drew’s “Welcome Home” party, begins with Terry informing Drew that he has been to visit Todd. His account allows us retrospectively to identify Jennifer as Todd’s daughter and to interpret Terry’s seduction of her as an act of revenge—in a way fulfilling Drew’s fantasy that if they ever found Todd, Terry would beat him up “like you did over there in Kuwait to people” (31). But our judgment of revenge is premature, as Terry reveals that he, too, was abused by Todd, but “I never once disliked it” (73). From here on, in the mode of True West, the play’s action shifts to uncover the details of Terry’s relationship with Todd, as Terry reveals that he warned Drew about him only because he wanted Todd for himself, because Todd “showed me a kindness, this sort of love” (74, emphasis LaBute’s). Crude jokes cracked earlier about Drew’s “fa*ggotry” and “gaydar” now

178 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard reflect on Terry, who has knowingly constructed a macho persona (veteran, security guard, Little League umpire) to discover whether he is gay or straight. His seduction of Jennifer, then, is simultaneously “proof ” of his heterosexuality and evidence of his longing for Todd, for whom Jennifer is an accessible surrogate. The reversal of roles is complete when Drew confesses he made up the story of abuse, though Terry had already figured it out, remembering that his father had torn down the tree house the summer before Todd arrived. Ironically, and with a glancing blow at recovered memory theory, Terry’s memory of the tree house belies rather than confirms Drew’s account of abuse. But the deeper irony is that Drew’s false memory of sex with Todd was a true memory for Terry and crucially formative of the person he has become. The trading of memories and roles between the two brothers and the status of their crucial memory as both true and false undermine the rigid dichotomies Sue Campbell wants to demolish. Changing perspectives on the past naturally entail the revision of memory, whose ownership is not so uniquely personal and private as we take it to be. Family relations, in particular, remind us how diversely memories can be shared. For LaBute, memory plays its role in an intricate puzzle of concealments and revelations, made metatheatrically pointed by his quasi-confessional and other ancillary material included with the published script. While he dedicates In a Dark Dark House to Sam Shepard, his autobiographical Preface, “The Darkness at the Top of My Stairs,” also alludes to the closeted gay playwright William Inge, and the short story he appends after the playscript takes its title, LaBute reveals (xi), from a phrase of Arthur Miller’s. The implication that Shepard, Inge, and Miller constitute LaBute’s “family” is suggestive, and it may be that the narrative paradigms represented by these three, and their contrasting mindscapes, overwhelm the play’s framework. In any case, among memographers drawn to the drama, LaBute is scarcely unique in discovering his memories are not solely his own.

5. Drama of Mnemic Signs THE MIND MADE FLESH The remembering narrator may be credible or unreliable. He may have the only perspective on the past, or only one among competing perspectives. His memorial project may seem fully accomplished, a work in progress, obstructed and repressed, or even entirely frustrated. His memory may be bound determinately to character or seem more free-floating, like a personality trait. He may imply one or another psychological models for how the mind works. She may appear to remember differently from “him.” But despite these and other differences, such narrative paradigms predominately convey the impression that memory is private and a matter of selfpossession. Narrative paradigms, however, may obscure memory’s porosity, autonomy, subversiveness, and relationality, blocking out the white noise of busy neural and social networks operating without conscious remembering and beyond a rememberer’s awareness or control. A trio of films bridging the 1950s epitomizes the profound changes of orientation in the representation of memory: if Kurosawa’s Rashom*on (1950) sparked intellectual interest in memory as story-telling, Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and Last Year at Marienbad (1961) recognized the values of broken and quasi-narratives shot through with contradiction and incompletion. As Michael Roth has put it, “The scandal of Hiroshima Mon Amour is that nothing is unforgettable and that, on the level of both collective memory and personal memory, to make the past into a narrative is to confront the past with the forces of forgetting” (208). While it would be fascinating to trace the impact of these films on the theatre, I mention them here only because they illustrate so starkly those features of memory that commonly eluded the narrative paradigms. In the later twentieth century, both playwrights and filmmakers join a varied group of memographers, including neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists, historians, and sociologists, in diversely exploring a set of related questions: How do neural networks and social networks determine individual memory? What analogies, contrasts, and comparisons may be made in how brains, selves, and societies remember? How may memory be said to exist outside the mind, both in the body and in the material life-world? These will be my concerns in the final two chapters. Several disciplines thus converge on a subject matter over which no one of them can make an exclusive claim. For example, between the time Samuel Beckett won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1969 and Cal Tech neuroscientist Roger Sperry won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981, each memographer was investigating in his own way how the self might survive dissociation. As the formal discipline of cognitive neuroscience was emerging in the 1970s (Zimmer 2005), Sperry was looking at


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

disconnection between the brain’s hemispheres (the area of research for which he won the prize), while Beckett was anatomizing the causes of dissociation in social isolation and emotional trauma. For another example, Oliver Sacks’s Awakenings (1973), an account of encephalitis lethargica patients reawakened by L-dopa, is bracketed by Harold Pinter’s Old Times (1971) and the playwright’s A Kind of Alaska (1982), inspired by Sacks’s book: all three works share a keen interest in the self as a memorytheatre in which scenes of identity are enacted and reenacted. The playwrights I consider here have frequently been arrayed by critics on the fault line of modernism/postmodernism. That familiar partition induces Jeanette R. Malkin to include in Memory-Theater and Postmodern Drama most of Beckett’s shorter memory pieces, some of Shepard’s, and none of Pinter’s. Such distinctions, I submit, have the effect of obscuring continuities both within an individual canon and among the playwrights, particularly as regards the common focus on memory as body-based and as active in constructing selfhood. The plays representing what I term drama of mnemic signs—based on Aristotle’s distinction between unconscious (mnemic) memory and conscious recall (anamnesia)—share other characteristics that appear to bridge the categories of “modern” and “postmodern”: they are cerebral more than psychological; they frequently embrace an aesthetic of fragmentation driven by the notion of memory trace or engram; they associate memory and writing; they reflect a connectionist rather than a storage model for memory function; and their characters are subject to a flow or surge of memories that threaten to engulf them. Beckett, who claimed to “have a clear memory of my own foetal existence” (Cronin 1996, 2), and Pinter will occupy a considerable amount of my attention here because of their lifelong engagement with memory. They, along with the likes of Sam Shepard in A Lie of the Mind and Dennis Potter in Cold Lazarus—its title referring to a frozen brain in which a flicker of selfhood still resides—share with other memographers a keen interest in the question neatly posed by the neurobiologist Gerald Edelman: “How can the firing of neurons give rise to subjective sensations, thoughts and emotions?” (2004, xii). Edelman brings impressive credentials to the study of consciousness, memory, and the embodied self. He is a Nobel Prize–winner in immunology, awarded to him in his early forties, and head of the prestigious Neurosciences Institute. He is by no means alone among contemporary thinkers focusing on the convergence of neuroscience, cognition, embodiment, and philosophy—perhaps his closest counterparts being George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, especially in their collaborative Philosophy in the Flesh (1999), and Merlin Donald (1991 and 2001).1 Edelman is particularly useful as a reference point for the correlation of memory studies because his theories are so comprehensive and reflective of insights drawn from many fields. Edelman’s conception of memory, inextricably bound up with his theory of consciousness, has precedents in William James’s notion of the specious present, an influence Edelman happily and frequently acknowledges (2004, 4–7 and 82–84). Edelman also reflects Bergson’s idea that “Consciousness signifies, before everything, memory” (1911, 235); Bartlett’s emphasis on memory as organized setting; and Husserl’s distinction between primary and secondary memory and his emphasis on memory as a present act of consciousness (see DeConcini, 38–47). A more distant precedent may be found in the emphasis of Sir William Hamilton on the unified

Drama of Mnemic Signs 181 activity of the mind. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Hamilton wrote against the associationists, who stressed serial order as a feature of memory by shifting attention to the retention of pattern rather than series. The development of the Gestalt theory of psychology under Max Wertheimer in Frankfurt in 1912 reflects the same tradition of concern over how we perceive organized wholes. In Gestalt terms, thought is characterized by continuous recentering or reconfiguring figure-ground organization, an ever-correcting contact with reality (Murphy and Kovach, 260). Similarly, some of Edelman’s ideas about how the mind is reconfigured through experience in the world were anticipated by Jean Piaget, whom Edelman mentions admiringly (1992, 40 and 260). Piaget, writing in the 1920s and espousing an operational theory of development, employs the terms assimilation and accommodation to explain how the incorporation of new knowledge is able to transform the developing child. As Murphy and Kovach formulate it, for Piaget “there is a continuous reciprocity—the mind taking its shape from interaction with the outer world, with which it carries on perpetual commerce” (412). Though Edelman’s concept of “reentry” or recategorization of sensory data thus resembles earlier ideas, it is grounded in far more sophisticated biochemistry and neurobiology. Recategorizing memory, for Edelman, has a biological basis that evolves out of the “memory” of DNA replication; the memory of the immune system in recognizing likes; and neural or reflex memory stemming from the spinal cord (1992, 204–205). Indeed, on the basis of the association of memory, thus broadly understood, with the very emergence of life, Edelman elevates memory to the status of “a new principle underlying the evolutionary development of mind” (203). Responsive to his intellectual forebears and to the many disciplines converging in consciousness research, Edelman’s objective is to construct a theory of consciousness and brain function that is ““uncompromisingly physical” (1989, 10) and thus avoids Cartesian dualism. Such a theory must also be consistent with the principles of evolution and individual morphological development. Finally, it must account for the intentionality of consciousness, its efficacy in regulating behavior, its “dependency on the activities of multiple parallel brain regions” (18), and its place in the transition from a primary to a higher-order state in individuals with a concept of self. Edelman agrees with many thinkers (e.g., Searle 1997) that a computational model is inadequate to describe brain functioning, chiefly because thinking brains are in constant, subjective interaction with the world, and such activities as the assertion of meaning are not “in the mind” but interactional with the environment (29–30). By contrast, an evolutionary model allows for such interaction. This mechanism operates in connection with value systems governing adaptive survival—that is, systems that satisfy “homeostatic, appetitive and consummatory needs” (1992, 100).2 Edelman names the evolutionary mechanism “neuronal group selection,” and his theory thereof is “above all . . . a theory of perceptual categorization” (1989, 41). It takes into account the extraordinary morphological development of the brain in embryo. It also includes a theory of how processes of perceptual categorization, including recognition and memory, interact to “mediate the continually changing relations between experience and novelty that lead to learning” (43). And it proposes a detailed model of how neuronal groups are formed and constantly reformed as maps via the reentry of new data that connect neuronal groups bidirectionally.3 A map of neuronal groups,

182 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard manifoldly interconnected, is akin to a species, though a single neuronal group is not to be thought of as an instance of the species. Rather, as William Clancey put it in a review of Edelman’s work in the journal Artificial Intelligence, a species is “a coherent collection of interacting individuals (here a map of neuronal groups). Thus, the connections define the population” (334, n. 3, emphasis Clancey’s). (“Population” is the technical term for the Darwinian selection of variant individuals comprising a species.) The firing of neurons in response to environmental stimulus leads to the wiring of neurons into groups: “Neurons that fire together wire together” (2004, 29). In this almost infinitely complex system of connectivity (there are a million billion connections or synapses in the human brain [16]), which copes with a world of almost infinitely complex interaction, memory is a system property that “depends upon specific neuro-anatomical connections” (22) and also “a system property exhibited as an enhanced ability to recognize and categorize objects in classes seen before” (1989, 60–61). Like Bernard Baars (viii), Edelman virtually identifies working memory with primary consciousness, which depends upon the operation of recategorizing as well as “the capability of temporal ordering and succession. . . . Indeed, metaphorically, one might say that the previous memories and current activities of the brain interact to yield primary consciousness as a form of ‘remembered present’” (1989, 105)—a quasi-Platonic position by which knowledge is identified with recollection. Similarly, Baars virtually identifies consciousness with working memory, offering a diagram in which the “spotlight” of attention is focused on the “theater stage” of working memory to produce “conscious experience” (42 and Figure 8.1 on 163). Edelman, too, relies on theatrical metaphor to explain memory-categorizing as “scene-making”: “the world can be correlated and bound into a scene . . . a spatiotemporally ordered set of categorizations of familiar and unfamiliar events” (1992, 118, emphasis Edelman’s). In Edelman’s understanding “scenes,” or “new perceptual categorizations[,] are reentrantly connected to memory systems before they themselves become part of an altered memory system” (2004, 55). The memory connection is made in a period of time ranging from hundreds of a millisecond to seconds, and thus “The ability to construct a conscious scene in the fraction of a second is the ability to create a remembered present” (57). Then, for humans, further “perceptual events and subsequent linguistic theorizing modify conceptual memory,” as Clancey (338) summarizes Edelman’s argument. Or, as Frederic Bartlett had put it earlier, the human organism developed “a way of turning around on its own ‘schemata’ and making them the object of its reactions” (Bartlett, 202). As Clancey concludes, in the conception of Edelman and other contemporary neuroscientists, the brain operates “only procedurally” (319). It is this procedural feature of cerebration, more than just the metaphorical frame of reference, that makes it like a musical or theatrical performance (325). To extend the metaphor, successful performance depends upon rehearsal, the reconstruction of relationships previously established but being remade—in-line, in-place—with reentered data. We don’t remember things; we remember relations. Because each brain has both a different set of experiences to process over a lifetime, and a different set of neuronal groups, either of which can trigger memory, my unique brain will determine what, or better, how I remember, as will yours. The synaptic firings my brain has experienced since seeing a phenomenon shared with you are different from your set of synaptic firings, but also different from my own previous sets of firings.

Drama of Mnemic Signs 183 Further, the brain has evolved a sort of redundancy—a feature Edelman calls, without the implication of decline, degeneracy—whereby “structurally different elements of a system . . . perform the same function” (2004, 43): brain features are selected for the ability to get to the same place by different routes.4 In terms of memory, Edelman’s concept of degeneracy compels the rejection of the ancient metaphor of representational inscription (in wax or stone), in favor of an environmental, nonrepresentational one: “A nonrepresentational memory would be like changes in a glacier influenced by changes in the weather, which are interpreted as signals. In the analogy, the melting and refreezing of the glacier represent changes in the synaptic response, the ensuing different rivulets descending the mountain represent the neural pathways, and the pond into which they feed represents the output. . . . Memory is a system property reflecting the effects of context and the associations of various degenerate circuits capable of yielding a similar output” (2004, 52–53).5 The differences in what we remember, then, are both biologically based and experientially (hence culturally) based. Along with the rejection of the metaphor of inscription, two other time-honored concepts of memory are untenable in Edelman’s system. Memory “trace” must give way6 before an incessant categorizing that continually transforms our personal, phenomenal history. Likewise, the idea of different memory functions “located” in parts of the brain must be displaced by a more dynamic conception of remapping among neuronal groups dispersed entirely throughout the brain. For Edelman, what we commonly call “memory”—that is, the retention of external data—is sufficiently descriptive only of “working” memory, which should in any case be thought of as primary consciousness. The brain doesn’t capture and reflect back the environment; it constructs a mental model of it that it can use. Thus, memories are not mirror images that external phenomena have left in the brain; rather, at inception or encoding, memories are constructed categories. At retrieval, they are instruments for dealing with the external world. The key idea is that memory does not depend upon perception in the sense of being secondary to it, that memory is not a copy, not a preservation of the past, nor even the preservation of a neurological correlate of the past founded in a response, but the present reaction by an organism that has used previous present responses to reconfigure itself continuously. Indeed, it would be more correct to say, physiologically, that memory precedes perception because perception depends upon previously established neuronal pathways—though, obviously, an event—either internal to the brain, external, or sensorimotor—both precedes and triggers whatever we might name the cognitive response. In line with Edelman’s idea that primary consciousness and working memory are virtually the same—a remembered present—he likewise conceives higher-order consciousness as evolutionarily “a new kind of memory” (2004, 101). “While the remembered present is, in fact, a reflection of true physical time, higher-order consciousness makes it possible to relate a socially constructed self to past recollections and future imaginations” (103). That is, higher-order consciousness evolved out of primary consciousness as a more sophisticated way to deal with the not-there, with absence. Edelman also argues that higher-order integrations of information are selected for on the basis of favored “cyclic and concatenated reentrant interactions” (122) (i.e., comprehensive, linked, neuronal remappings) and that the brain evolved


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

the tendency of filling in a coherent picture at all costs (124), even to the extent of constructively remodeling itself after severe injury (143). He contends that emotional responses evolved as constraints (both positive and negative) aiding the construction of subjectivity and point of view (131–133).7 He accounts for the fallibility of memory by suggesting that higher-order consciousness yields veridicality only sufficient for adaptation to an “econiche” (136). Finally, what memory’s associative scenariobuilding and pattern-recognition give up in precision to logic (according to Edelman the other human mode of thought) they gain in creative, imaginative power, which can serve both self- and species-preservation (135, 147). Edelman’s work suggests that the relationship of primary to higher-order consciousness redefines human psychology. Such a redefinition takes into consideration that selfhood is hallowed in the myriad remappings that characterize the brain; that meaning is not “in the mind,” but profoundly interactive with the environment; that factors impacting human morphological development are critically determinate; and that the present, as conceived, is altered by memory just as the present, as experienced, alters memory. The evolution of ever more sophisticated kinds of memory (or, the evolution from primary to higher-order consciousness) causes the profoundest change in the human being’s relationship to the world, as the . . . flux of categorizations in a selective system leading to memory and consciousness alters the ordinary relations of causation as described by physicists. A person, like a thing, exists on a world line in four-dimensional spacetime. But because individual human beings have intentionality, memory, and consciousness, they can sample patterns at one point on that line and on the basis of their personal histories subject them to plans at other points on that world line. They can enact these plans, altering the causal relations of objects in a definite way according to the structures of their memories. (1992, 169)

Memories are thus both products of and inputs to a system of neural, social, and historical coordinations. They are part of the continuous, ongoing process of selfcreation, making for beings who are unique, yet part of a free-willed species, determinate (by virtue of evolution and morphology), yet changeable: determined by, yet determined to. *



BECKETT’S MICROSCOPE Decades before Edelman brought his ideas to comprehensive expression in his consciousness trilogy, Beckett and Pinter had embarked on their own cerebral and corporeal investigation of memory’s role in self-creation. Memory is a system property of their dramatic constructions, fully embodied, degenerate, and determined to create a coherent picture of the self/nonself interaction at all costs. Of the two, Beckett shows a keener interest in the corporeality of memory and remains topographically engaged with memory as a feature of the mindscape throughout the long casting off of literary resources characterizing his development from the 1940s to the 1980s. As Beckett’s biographer Anthony Cronin (358–359) documents, Beckett had a crucial

Drama of Mnemic Signs 185 revelation in 1946 that he must relinquish “knowingness”—the illusion that writing entails sharing of the description of the outer world—in favor of the embrace of inner darkness and ignorance. Ten years before that, he saw Jung at a lecture draw a map of the mind as darkening concentric circles, the unconscious being the dark center (220–221)–an occasion he remembered and recounted very late in his life. Earlier still, in his critical essay, Proust (1931) Beckett appears to have focused on consciousness as his field of enquiry as categorically as would a scientist deciding on a specialization. And at this point in his career his language is drawn more from the operating theatre than the playhouse in announcing his subject: “Memory and Habit are attributes of the Time cancer” to which Proust (Beckett) applies “a scalpel and a compress” (Proust, 7). Beckett’s purpose in the essay is to anatomize and celebrate Proust’s use of involuntary memory as a device to recover the “only . . . real impression” (4) of the past. The center piece of the essay is given over to an analysis of Remembrance of Things Past driven by Beckett’s articulation of the eleven (or so) occasions Proust uses the device. Surrounding this analysis, however, is what amounts to a theory of consciousness that, remarkably like Edelman’s, features different kinds of memory; is body-based; takes into account the value systems satisfying appetitive needs; and even encompasses a rudimentary notion of neuronal remapping—emphasis added to register the fact that Beckett never succeeds in escaping a Cartesianism he obviously abhors. Beckett theorizes habit and memory as responses by the human organism to escape victimizing at the hands of time—an idea clearly derived from Bergson’s distinction between “spatial time” and human “duration.”8 Voluntary memory—what some cognitive scientists would call episodic memory—is of no use in reclaiming the past. “Voluntary memory (Proust repeats it ad nauseam) is of no value as an instrument of evocation, and provides an image as far removed from the real as the myth of our imagination or the caricature furnished by direct perception” (Proust, 4). The most successful evocative experiment can only project the echo of a past sensation, because, being an act of intellection, it is conditioned by the prejudices of the intelligence which abstracts from any given sensation, as being illogical and insignificant, a discordant and frivolous intruder, whatever word or gesture, sound or perfume, cannot be fitted into the puzzle of a concept. (53)

Furthermore, voluntary memory is dependent upon habit in the same way that (in Edelman’s terms) higher-order consciousness is dependent upon primary consciousness. “The laws of memory are subject to the more general laws of habit. Habit is the compromise effected between the individual and his environment or between the individual and his own organic eccentricities” (7–8). That is, habit is unconscious body memory, the continual categorizations that constitute what Edelman calls the remembered present. “Habit then is the generic term for the countless treaties concluded between the countless subjects that constitute the individual and their countless correlative objects” (17) is the way Beckett puts it. A good memory is one that is routinized, bound to habit, and “reminiscential needs” (17) are self-preservational: “the more interested our interest, the more indelible must be its record of impressions” (18).

186 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard For Beckett, only exceptionally, when the laws of habit are suspended and when the radius of voluntary memory is reduced, can a third feature of consciousness, involuntary memory, operate to identify “immediate [experience] with past experience” (55). That is, involuntary memory admits mnemic signs to consciousness. Such occasions times are “periods of transition that separate consecutive adaptations” (8)—what Edelman might call remappings. They “represent the perilous zones in the life of the individual . . . when for a moment the boredom of living is replaced by the suffering of being” (8). For an individual, at such times there is “provisional lucidity in the nervous system” (9), when “reality, intolerable, [is] absorbed feverishly by his consciousness at the extreme limit of its intensity, by his total consciousness organized to avert the disaster” (10)—the disaster being the death of the old ego constituted of all the old habits. True remembering, then, is born of forgetting, for “Strictly speaking we can only remember what has been registered by our extreme inattention and stored in that ultimate and inaccessible dungeon of our being to which Habit does not possess the key” (18). Beckett is struggling, unsuccessfully, to understand both how the present is “remembered,” for which he (after Bergson) conceptualizes “habit,” and how the past is actualized in us, by involuntary memory. What Beckett terms a “miracle of analogy” (54), however, Edelman would propose as the ordinary pattern-recognition mode of cognition. Throughout Proust, Beckett is constrained by older notions of memory as impression, as storage, and as record, as well as by dichotomies such as those “between the ideal and the real, imagination and direct apprehension, symbol and substance” (Proust, 55). Nevertheless, though Beckett may romanticize “rememoration in the highest sense” (18) as the “pure act of cognition” (55) that occurs in the unguarded mind, he posits it in a way that is compatible with embodied consciousness. This pure act of cognition is not merely associated with a stimulus “but centralised [sic] about it” (55). That is, it is not metaphoric but metonymic. Indeed, it relates to Lakoff and Johnson’s assertion (167) that one way of cognitively constructing time is “metonymic (based on correlations with events)” in contrast to the “metaphoric (based on motion and resources).” When Beckett buries Winnie in a rising mound of earth; when he builds Krapp’s life around the played-back event of his lover’s parting; or when the nameless characters in the late plays are crystallized about the granule of an event they each must replay, Beckett is making time stand still by constructing an “Event-for-Time Metonymy” (Lakoff and Johnson, 154). The event that Beckett makes stand in for time is always the pure act of cognition that both torments his characters and constitutes their way of being. The view of consciousness Beckett lays out in Proust is key in understanding his later characters. The ground of existence for some may be the remembered present of habit, the treaties our brains negotiate with objects; this is predominately the case with Gogo in Waiting for Godot, Clov, Nagg, and Nell in Endgame, Krapp (in Krapp’s Last Tape), and Winnie in the first act of Happy Days. But Krapp, Winnie (in the second act), Hamm in Endgame and Didi in Godot are also afflicted with the illusions and frustrations of voluntary memory, Winnie the more so as the zone where habit is breaking down becomes more perilous in the course of the play. All are struck erratically by the lightning bolt of involuntary memory, when the consolations of habit or reminiscence are withdrawn. Beckett ultimately condemns the nameless characters in

Drama of Mnemic Signs 187 the dramaticules to the feverish state when involuntary memory engulfs the subject and consciousness is at the extreme limit of its intensity. Beckett never relinquished that vision of consciousness, though his methods for realizing it vary in the pursuit. Monologue gradually, if not undeviatingly, overtakes dialogue in both the novels and the plays, and the external world is consistently reduced to what Beckett refers to, in the drolly ironic stage direction of Endgame, as “the without” (76).9 Catastrophe (1982), however, features a cigar-smoking Director and What Where (1983) is politically tinged and resonates with Pinter’s directly contemporary One for the Road. It may be tempting to set up a contrast between Krapp’s Last Tape and Beckett’s late dramaticules based on the modernist/postmodernist distinctions that constitute a “turf war” among Beckett critics, as Jeanette R. Malkin (39) does in her keen analysis of Beckett’s “postures of memory.” But such distinctions can obscure continuities. We must superimpose upon the perception of a casting-off a clinging-to and tendency toward literary fixations. It is as if Beckett—like Gogo and Didi, Hamm, Winnie, the ongoing voices of Not I, the Mother in Footfalls—always advances Zeno-like10 only halfway to a finish. Beckett’s postures of memory are remarkably fixed, as when Lucky’s compulsive, elliptical, recapitulative oration from 1952 returns in Mouth’s monologue of 1972 (That Time), or Murphy’s rocking chair from the eponymous 1938 novel serves Rockaby in 1981, or in the repeated phrase “Switch off,” which opens Rough for Theatre II (1950s) and closes Beckett’s last play What Where (1983)—in both cases accompanying the switching off of a lamp to register the fluctuation of consciousness or working memory. 11 Among Beckett’s earlier works, Act Without Words I12 demonstrates how memory is connected with value systems governing adaptive survival. The play, in fact, would appear to be a dramatization of the phrase in Proust: “periods of transition that separate consecutive adaptations” (8) of habit. When the Player is hurled from the wings out onto the desert environment, he is offered various tools for survival. A palm tree bestowing shade is dropped in and then flown out. A carafe of water dangled just out of reach becomes almost, but not quite, accessible from cubes dropped in from above. A length of rope can be climbed to reach the carafe, but drops the climber back onto the stage. The same length of rope is tried to no avail as a lariat. Parable this may be, but it is also a lesson in how the brain works: “remembering” the environment based on undertaken action is punctuated by the silent reflections of the Player between each episode; together they show us primary and higher-order consciousness in successive glimpses. It is not coincidental that the Player in Act Without Words I is the last character Beckett wrote to have such mobility, along with apparently unimpaired sight and hearing. From here on, Beckett’s characters are lame, immobilized, or restricted to robot-like pacing or plodding. Without insisting on a neat progression, I think the evidence of the canon suggests that as Beckett’s characters become less able-bodied, and as their external environment becomes less rich, they are forced ever more inward and ever more reliant on their subjectivity to provide self-maintenance—to chaotic effect. Such a “finding” would be compatible with Edelman and Sacks, who observe how basal-ganglia damage or constriction interrupts the feedback loop of self-formation. It becomes ever harder, as Gogo says, predicting the progression of Beckett’s characters, to find something to “give us the impression we exist” (44). Higher-order consciousness, unmoored from the sensorimotor feedback provided by

188 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard external contact, feeds off itself. The effort to bring the self to bear in the world, to alter “the causal relations of objects in a definitive way according to the structure of their memories” (Edelman 1992, 169), or simply to assert the self/nonself distinction appears at different times ludicrously inadequate (Krapp) or poignantly heroic (Winnie), and finally desperate and pathological (Not I, That Time). Though the environments of Waiting for Godot, Endgame, and Happy Days are scarcely rich, they are provocatively stimulating compared to the deprived milieux of Not I, That Time or Rockaby. But given the almost obsessive volubility of the characters of Godot, of Hamm, and of Winnie, it is remarkable how little they rely on remembering, and when they do, it is more to maintain the shred of social intercourse remaining to them than it is to understand who they are in light of who they have been. Didi unsuccessfully tries to engage Gogo in remembering Bible stories (8–9) reminiscing over the French countryside (39–40), recollecting that they tried to kill themselves (39). Gogo is resistant to, even infuriated by Didi’s higher-order remembering, exploding when Didi asks him if he recognizes where they are: “(suddenly furious) Recognize! What is there to recognize? All my lousy life I’ve crawled about in the mud!” (39). Focused instead on bones, radishes, and carrots, Gogo “remembers” only enough to maintain the systems that satisfy his physical needs. When Didi in the second act questions Pozzo about their previous meeting, Pozzo does not remember (56) and is provoked to rebuke Didi with “Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time!” To remember is a torment when time expires so relentlessly that it seems “one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second” (57). In Endgame, Hamm’s sporadic inclination to revisit the past is instantly discouraged by Clov:



Do you remember when you came here? No. Too small, you told me. Do you remember your father. Same answer. (38) Do you remember– No. (16)

In the first act of Happy Days, half-buried Winnie’s reminiscences of her youth are satirically undercut by Willie’s reading from the newspaper to interrupt them and by Beckett’s stage directions: WINNIE: My first ball! (Long pause.) My second ball! (Long pause. Closes eyes.) My first kiss! (Pause. WILLIE turns page.) (16)13

But in the second act of Happy Days, with Winnie now buried up to her neck in the mound of earth, she relies more on her memory of her past life for subject matter. What had been a rivulet of autobiographical memory in the earlier plays, and in the first act, here becomes a torrent. Within the first few seconds she fumbles for “that unforgettable line” (50) of poetry she cannot remember. From this point on, she is engaged in the construction of autobiographical memory, struggling to recognize herself in what is left of herself: “To have been always what I am—and so changed from what I was. (Pause.) I am the one, I say the one, then the other. (Pause.) Now

Drama of Mnemic Signs 189 the one, then the other.” (51) Scraps of memory continuously flutter into her consciousness: “ Charlie . . . kisses . . . ” (51, ellipses Beckett’s); “the sunshade you gave me . . . that day . . . ” (53, ellipses Beckett’s); “The pink fizz. (Pause.) The flute glasses. (Pause.) The last guest gone” (60). She returns to a memory of her youth and an incident with her dolly (59). She strives to remember a poem that ironically includes the line “go forget me” (57) and manages to remember a line from Yeats’s At the Hawk’s Well: “I call to the eye of the mind” (58). She is reminded of the day Willie came courting (61), and she finishes the play singing an old song. As the without gives way to the within, memory becomes more important in self-maintenance. For Winnie, as for Lakoff and Johnson (236), the mind is a body, and thinking is moving (as in reaching a conclusion, following an argument), and she understands that she cannot sustain her reasoning and thinking ability without motion: “I can do no more. (Pause.) Say no more. (Pause.). But I must say more. (Pause.) Problem here. (Pause.) No, something must move, in the world, I can’t any more” (60). The second act of Happy Days, Krapp’s Last Tape, Not I, That Time, and Rockaby are the places in Beckett’s canon where the impulse or reflex of autobiographical memory, as distinct from the remembered present, becomes the most prominent feature of consciousness. These plays all appear to be monologues of different sorts, and even when more than one figure is visible (Winnie and Willie, Mouth and Auditor in Not I) the subordinates (Willie, Auditor) in the pairs are each bound so closely to the main character as to seem part of her. “Monologue,” then, may be an inadequate term, for Beckett’s discourse of One is also a parody of colloquy, antireminiscent, and antisocial. Overwhelming in each play is the presence of One, yet a One who is pathologically divided or fragmented, like a “shut-in” driven mad by solitary confinement, or an individual suffering from brain trauma. The plays are not “about” such conditions any more than they are “about” memory (with the exception of Krapp’s Last Tape); rather, they stand metonymically for states of consciousness. One might say that together they form concentric circles of the mind, with Happy Days and Krapp’s Last Tape on the outer circumference and the three dramaticules in the darker center, as in the drawing by Jung that Beckett remembered all his life. Beckett’s exploration of memory in these plays feels simultaneously detached and painful; he is both surgeon and patient in memory’s dissection. While Didi, Hamm, and Winnie each approaches a moment of recognition, solitary Krapp fast-forwards. That is, he deliberately quashes the moment on the tape variously referred to by the recorded Krapp as “the vision at last,” “the belief I had been going on all my life,” “the dark I have always struggled to keep under,” and “the light of the understanding” (20–21). The contrast to the recognitions of the other characters (Didi’s vision of the gravedigger putting on forceps, Hamm’s “have done with losing”—[52]) is keen, deliberate, and comical. Whatever insight and attendant pain the vision yielded, Krapp will not revisit it. In one sense, Krapp is Proust (and Proust) defaced or erased. The petit madeleine has become the “large banana” (10), two of which Krapp consumes before beginning his birthday remembrance rite. By the same token, the tape-recorder is mock-memory, Proust’s ecstatic recall degraded into a sex toy and aid to masturbation. Beckett’s construction of sexual memory is a rendering of absence, like Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures of negative space.

190 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard But Krapp’s total absorption with his own memory has a further, and authorial, self-reference. As Beckett’s biographer Anthony Cronin reveals (105–107), Krapp is a highly self-referential document, reflecting Beckett’s memories of his affair with Peggy Sinclair, from whose lustiness he retreated, as well as the deaths of Beckett’s mother and father, though autobiographical details were “steadily reduced” in drafts. Cronin (358–359) also cites Beckett’s crucial admission that the vision Krapp skips over alludes to Beckett’s own revelation in 1946 that he must relinquish “knowingness” for introspection; Krapp thus instances Beckett’s envisioned inversion. Surgeon and patient, Beckett both coolly sets at arm’s length, yet embraces, his discovery that introspection is indistinguishable from retrospection. And part of the irony Beckett constructs is Proustian: Krapp’s deliberate (“voluntary”) remembering of his past leaves an unbridgeable gap between the rememberer and the remembered. Malkin sees the whole apparatus of Krapp’s Last Tape constructing an “objectification of memory” (45), but I’m not so sure. The play only appears to represent the mechanical storage-and-retrieval theory of memory while in reality discrediting it; the tape-recorder is a deliberately ridiculous analogy for human remembering, as the banana (which Krapp slips on) parodies the madeleine. Indeed, the play’s humor is virtually a demonstration of Bergson’s formula for the comic as the mechanical encrusted on the living. Krapp, “very near-sighted” and “hard of hearing” (s. d., 9),14 already suffers impairments to primary consciousness. His sensory deprivation is only exacerbated by his “den,” its surrounding darkness, and the numbing alcohol he continually resorts to. He is scarcely less cribbed, cabined, and confined than his counterparts in the dramaticules, and his story hardly more coherent than that of the Reader in Ohio Impromptu. Malkin argues strongly that, unlike the later plays, Krapp features a remembering self connected to a narrative frame, since Krapp makes recordings on his birthday. But I believe these features are quickly subsumed into a “retrospect” (Krapp, 16) so deprived of the sense of self-familiarity as to undermine their predication. Krapp cannot grasp the significance of notes in his ledger, has lost vocabulary he once knew, and deliberately skips past the transforming vision he once recorded (20–21). Our impression of a Krapp self-same over time derives not from the objectivity of his memories but from the “confined repertoire of fixations”15 that Krapp embodies: constipation, a fondness for bananas, drinking, and sex. He is a creature of habit, even to his remembering, which feels material and corporeal, though not objective. Krapp’s mechanical reproduction is not an act of remembering, and the tape-recorder is not the objectification of memory, but a sign of its absence—which Krapp certainly feels, if he does not understand, as the tape runs on at the curtain. The remembering that Krapp undertakes in the present of the play—the making of the “last tape”—is explicitly aborted, as Krapp stops the recorder, rips off the tape and discards it (27) in favor of the old tape he has been listening to. His way of connecting to Krapp in the past is to make a categorical break with Krapp in the present, in effect relinquishing the self-consistency of higher-order consciousness for a state that barely achieves primary consciousness. Krapp is neither fully present nor truly remembering himself, except in the parody of storage-and-retrieval memory the play’s title alludes to, which, if I read the puns correctly, Beckett is inclined to disparage as akin to constipation, just as he parodies autoreminiscing as a sort of playing

Drama of Mnemic Signs 191 with the mind’s feces. (I suspect that Krapp relishes the word “spool” [12] for its echo of stool.) For Krapp, memory is less an instrument of evocation than an act of elimination; from the perspective of the present looking back, this is Krapp’s last tape, but from the past looking forward it is tape’s last Krapp. Absence, the problem for which memory is the evolutionary solution, haunts all of Beckett’s characters, who all cope with it by different applications of habit and memory, Proustian and otherwise. These applications—whether it is Krapp seeking in his tape-recorder the “companion of his solitude”16 or the Auditor offering a gesture of “helpless compassion” in Not I (215)—the end is always to con-sole. Pursuing this goal in the later memory plays, Beckett employs a tactic of self-division so that the first, second, and third persons, those syntactical reference points that are basic to the self/nonself distinction, are dispersed as if they were literally separate persons. While one can, as Malkin does, reckon this dispersal and fragmentation a mark of Beckett’s postmodernism, one can also recognize in it the clinical interest in the dissection of consciousness already evident in Proust. In Not I, vocal (first person), auditory (second person), and cognitive (third person) functions are divided and presented in the dramatic equivalent of an isolation tank: a spot-lit Mouth spills out a torrent of words, in which autobiographical episodes seamlessly merge with the present situation of the narrator. The hooded Auditor gestures four times during the monologue. Sensory deprivation is keenest in the category of sight—no doubt reflecting Beckett’s own battle with glaucoma—as neither Mouth nor Auditor has visible eyes. Beckett’s own failing sight would have generated the need for self-reorganization that his characters are failing at, for a blind person loses not only sight but visual reference and can no longer “see” who he is.17 Thus dispossessed and isolated, the process of self-sustenance is like a “stream” (Not I, 219) of consciousness with the flow continually conditioned not by external stimuli but solely by the brain’s own neuronal firings and misfirings (“half the vowels wrong,” Mouth testifies, [222]). Here is consciousness, voiced in Mouth’s constant self-corrections, turning on its own schemata. Since, as Beckett specifies in the stage directions, the voice we hear precedes our ability to understand the words, the return of voice (a “buzzing” [219]) seems to restart the self. The presence of an isolated body part invites us to deduce that the bodily event involved is the reactivation of the special memory system that “categorized the vocal cord’s gestural patterns” (Edelman 1992, 112–113). “Words were coming . . . her lips moving!” declares Mouth (219), never admitting that she is describing her own experience. Thus microscopically fixed and exposed, memory is seen to loop back on itself, revealing nothing so much as its own neuronal networks: “can’t stop the stream . . . and the whole brain begging” (220, ellipsis Beckett’s). Precisely this revelation belies Mouth’s implied insistence that the subject of her story is “not I.” Her “vehement refusal to relinquish third person” (215), as Beckett himself puts it in a stage direction, is like Krapp’s return to his tapes. It is possible, though certainly difficult, to tease out a fragmentary narrative from the stream of words. The story picks up with the conception and birth of the speaker (“speechless infant”) and takes us through her life till the age of “coming up to seventy” (216). She recalls an incident in a field on an April morning; shopping with “an old black shopping bag” (219); “sitting staring at her hand” (220) and weeping; a court appearance (221). But these incidents are not what the piece represents.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Rather, what Beckett calls our attention to is the pure act of cognition itself, wherein primary and higher-order consciousness interfere with one another incoherently, like a radio dial set between two frequencies. We are seeing and hearing the words become flesh, Beckett’s answer to the question phrased by Edelman as “How can the firing of neurons give rise to subjective sensations, thoughts and emotions?” What Beckett in his youthful enthusiasm for Proust celebrated as a “miracle” is now a catastrophe, whereby a past “sensation itself annihilating every spatial and temporal restriction, comes in a rush to engulf the subject” (Proust, 54). The neuronal mode of Not I (the word “brain” appears at least nine times in the short text) stands in contrast to That Time (1975), which seems to reintroduce a Cartesian mind/body dualism in presenting us with an embodied Listener surrounded by disembodied Voices that are “moments of one and the same voice” (That Time, 227), the Listener’s own. That Time looks on the page and feels on the stage different from Not I; in the former, the subject is the Listener, whose audible breath is “slow and regular” (228), while in the latter the subject is the vehement Mouth, who periodically screams and is heard unintelligibly before and after the lights come up on stage. Mouth’s text is dotted with countless ellipses; the Voices of That Time have none. While Mouth seems caught between frequencies, the Voices “modulate back and forth without any break in general flow” (228). In comparison to Not I, the mind/ body divide in That Time feels like nothing so much as relief. Dualism has been a hallmark of Beckett’s character construction: Didi (mind) and Gogo (body), Pozzo and Lucky (respectively, blind and dumb in the second act of Waiting for Godot); in Endgame, Clov, who can’t sit, and Hamm, who can’t stand (“Every man his specialty” [10]); reflective Winnie and stolid Willie in Happy Days—all so dependent upon each other that they seem halves of one self. Somewhat unconvincingly, in view of this history and in view of Beckett’s note to That Time, Malkin argues that the Voices are instead autonomous, collective, and intersubjective, a case of memory separated from a body or source (Malkin, 57–59). She takes this position in order to contrast That Time with the earlier, modernist Play, wherein three actors in urns are bidden to speak via the “agency” (57) of a spotlight, and to reinforce what she construes to be Beckett’s break with modernism in the later plays. Laying aside the exaggeration of difference here, the independence of the Voices in That Time would not automatically mark them as postmodern, as the idea of involuntary memory returning unbidden and beyond the control of the rememberer is the very foundation of the Proustian, modernist aesthetic Beckett celebrated in his 1931 essay. Indeed, the three voices may even specifically recall the “cluster of three . . . shadowy, incomplete evocations” in which Proust’s narrator is taken back to “Balbec, Doncières and Combray by the twilight perceived above the curtains of his window” (Proust, 24). The larger difference between Play and That Time is that the former is a narrative of a love triangle with three distinct characters, the latter an interior monologue with three modulated voices. Play is less memorious than narrative, a play about word surviving flesh. By contrast, That Time revisits the psychological premise of Krapp’s Last Tape, namely that selfhood flows to and away from a defining moment, and the later play does so with a similar, if fainter, satirical intent. Beckett specifies that the three voices “relay one another without solution of continuity . . . . Yet the switch from one to another must be clearly faintly perceptible” (227). This

Drama of Mnemic Signs 193 description might aptly be termed synaptic, with the “switch” referring to changes in the scene-making of consciousness. Likewise, the three relayed voices, each pursuing its own narrative, might be taken as playing along their respective neural networks. Each narrative worries away at the creation of a scene, one associated with an old ruin and a childhood memory, one a glimpse of love lost on a stone bench at the edge of a wood, and one a scene of old age in a portrait gallery. Indeed, the word “scene” or “scenes” tolls through the text at least eight times. Each of the three scenes created by Voices A, B, and C lays claim to be a “turningpoint,” “that time” marking the “never the same but the same,” when a self might possibly be able to “say I to yourself ” (230). Though looming behind this scene-making is Beckett’s own 1946 transforming revelation (Cronin, 554), none of the scenes in That Time quite coalesces. In their fluidity, they put one in mind of Edelman’s image of the rivulets of memory running down a glacial mountain: “the melting and refreezing of the glacier represent[ing] changes in the synaptic response, the ensuing different rivulets descending the mountain represent[ing] the neural pathways. . . . “ (2004, 52–53). Drolly, I think, Beckett is suggesting that we can simultaneously hold onto different self-defining moments, that different pathways, however fluid and transient, can lead to a sense of self. While Krapp ends with dissociation between the Krapp that was and the Krapp that is, and Winnie reflects on such disconnection irresolutely (“To have been always what I am–and so changed from what I was. . . . Now the one, then the other” [51]), the Listener of That Time seems to take at least some relish in the finish of the failures his memories recount. He does not quarrel with what he will have been. Unlike Not I, which ends with Mouth droning on after the curtain falls, That Time ends with a speech that evokes a smile from old, white-haired Listener, a speech that brings a definitive end to the cycle of remembrance: “it said come and gone was that it something like that come and gone no one come and gone in no time gone in no time” (235). While it may be, as Malkin (59) suggests, that Listener smiles because he recognizes himself in the different selves of his memory, I think there is a grimmer humor operating, an appreciation of the mischief of Cartesian duality in distracting us from focusing on the physiological basis of self-conception. With profound irony, as death nears for the Listener (“gone in no time”) the appearance that the mind and body are separate becomes keener. As Edelman the neuroscientist observes with a dryness worthy of Beckett, “The dying patient says, ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ Because the mind is clear: ‘Why is my body letting me down?’” (quoted in Levy, 63). I think the Listener senses this, and smiles. Not quite the Proustian Paradiso to complement the Dantean Inferno of Not I, That Time does seem to grant a moment of respite from the syndrome of painful self-maintenance and self-dismissal that haunts Beckett’s remembering subject. Edelman links the ability to construct a scene with the ability to create a remembered present, a facility that both constitutes primary consciousness and enables higher-order consciousness to build upon it. Above all, for Edelman, the brain is constructive, a glorious adaptation that evolved memory to deal with absence, to make something out of nothing, to build a coherent picture of the once was and the could be. Beckett’s view almost seems to be the inverse, a devolutionary view in which higher-order consciousness is ever under threat of degradation to primary consciousness, itself so radically

194 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard disconnected from environment that Beckett’s characters appear fragmented like dissociated individuals or like patients suffering from the disconnection syndromes resulting from cutting off one part of the brain from another.18 Increasingly, Beckett withholds or withdraws the social coordinations that memories are both a product of and input to, leaving us with only the neural coordinations. I have the impression that Beckett undertakes this with a balance of clinical curiosity, detachment, intellectual enthusiasm, and abiding human interest and compassion. Beckett’s aching engagement with absence, the hallmark of his work, is not at all concealed behind an intellectual façade; in his work “Beckett . . . [,] constantly in an agony of remembrance, relived the things which caused him such depth of emotion,” his biographer testifies (Cronin, 407), thinking of Beckett’s revisiting his mother death in Krapp’s Last Tape and in the unbearably painful Rockaby. When asked by James Knowlson (1983, 16) about the recollections strewn throughout Happy Days, Beckett responded as a memographer: “I suppose all is reminiscence from womb to tomb.” His project was, to borrow a phrase from Pierre Nora, “the decipherment of what we are in light of what we are no longer” (19), and it sometimes feels as if Beckett is conducting an autopsy on the faculty humans have evolved to cope with absence. Like Edelman, Beckett has put brain, memory, and consciousness under a microscope. *



PINTER’S TELESCOPE By contrast, Harold Pinter looks at memory telescopically. A microscope makes something small appear bigger, as when the incidents Beckett’s characters remember loom larger for them—in the case of the later plays, taking over entirely what is left of their lives. A telescope makes something large appear smaller, bridging great distance and offering long-term perspective: when a telescope is trained on a distant galaxy, we are by virtue of the speed of light actually seeing the past. “What interests me a great deal is the mistiness of the past” Pinter said in his long conversation with Mel Gussow (1994, 16) prior to the New York opening of Old Times in December 1971, and in all of Pinter’s memory plays the visual field is dominated by the penumbra of bodies that seem only partially illuminated. If there is something neural about Beckett’s rendition of memory, there is something astral about Pinter’s; his characters are candidates for time travel. Pinter’s three “ruminescent” one-acters, Landscape, Silence, and Night; the fulllength Old Times, which amalgamates the three; and the screenplay of Remembrance of Things Past (1972) come chronologically between Beckett’s Play (1964) and the short memory plays commencing with Not I (1972). The memory content of all these plays includes sexual desire and frustrated, lost, adulterous, or unrequited love affairs, but Pinter engages their social more than their neural networks, though sharing Beckett’s interest in cerebral processes. In the early one-acters, Pinter displays a phenomenologist’s interest in the eidetic features of memory, which he displays in a bold departure from his signature comedy of menace: “after The Homecoming . . . I

Drama of Mnemic Signs 195 couldn’t any longer stay in the room with this bunch of people who opened doors and came in and went out. Landscape and Silence are in a very different form.”19 Indeed, there are no doors and no entrances or exits made by the actors in these two plays and their companion piece Night. Each character seems to inhabit a space that feels simultaneously inner (like consciousness) and outer, as if one body is pulled into the orbit of another (Old Times, Silence), or passes another at a great distance (Landscape). That Landscape, the first play in this series, was first presented on radio (as noted in the published script) seems entirely apt—its characters intimately close, yet distant. In the kitchen of their country home, Beth (late forties) and Duff (early fifties) sit and reminisce, virtually oblivious of each other. Though Duff addresses Beth, she never acknowledges or even looks at him (as specified in stage directions, [8]), and neither appears to hear the other. They may occupy the kitchen but, especially after Duff apparently abandons the attempt to reach Beth and succumbs to his inner rant, they inhabit only their memories. The situation is immediately disturbing because the social or communally discursive intention of reminiscing is deliberately frustrated. The autoreminiscing or musing, however, has the paradoxical effect of multiplying the population on stage: Duff muses to himself, Beth to herself, creating two communities of two. Furthermore, the Beth that Duff remembers (“you were a first-rate housekeeper when you were young” [18]) is not the Beth she remembers, a young woman who took a romantic lover on a desolate beach. We come to suspect that this lover is actually Duff at an earlier time—a man much different from the crude, present Duff, who swears like a sailor; indeed, in an inadvertently revealed letter, Pinter says that “the man on the beach is Duff ” (quoted in Esslin 1970, 187). The memory population is increased by one more, a Mr. Sykes (17), to whom Beth and Duff were servants; “I think there are elements of Mr. Sykes in her memory of this Duff,” Pinter wrote (ibid.). The past presences thus evoked blend with and quite suffuse the remembering subjects. This is more obviously the case with Beth, whose focus memorius is exclusively and totally on the remembered love-making. She is hardly “there” at all with Duff. In a paradox Pinter will explore further in Old Times, the Beth who is not there becomes more determinate and more present in her personhood than the Beth who is “there.” The situation is different with Duff. The louder, coarser, and more insistent he is in the present, the emptier he becomes. Or, more precisely, he becomes like the ullage barrel mentioned (26) in his long account of an argument over beer in a pub: he is gradually filled up with nothing but his own dregs. Duff ’s memories evacuate him, like Krapp’s. Beth and Duff are disjoined by the profoundly divergent content of their memories. But their disjunction is more subtly conveyed in differences of memory frame and aura. Duff ’s memory has an entirely different texture from Beth’s. His is coarse, ringing, and stubbly, punctuated by harsh consonants and punchy single syllables (dog, duck, pop, joke, shock, bung, spile, rock, dregs, sh*ts, bang, gong, f*ck, slam). Hers is silken, fine-grained, swinging: “So sweetly the sand over me. Tiny the sand on my skin. / So silent the sky in my eyes. Gently the sound of the tide” (30). Beth, the artist, has a visual memory that scans the horizon of sea and shore. In the first three pages of her dialogue “look” and its cognates appear eight times; in the next two pages variations of “watch,” “look,” and “see” make another eight appearances.

196 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Duff has an aural memory that recalls specific conversations, the sound of a gong (29) or the rain smacking on the glass (27). It is almost as if Beth remembers spatially and Duff temporally. Beth sketches-in a single scene with ever more detail; Duff constructs episodes ranging from the beginnings of their service to Mr. Sykes to “yesterday” (10). He recounts a walk in the park with their dog; the argument in the pub; a confession of adultery; a dinner party held by Sykes, who complimented Beth’s cooking. Beth’s memories are haptic; she remembers touches to the arm, back of the neck, hand, rib, stinging skin, cuddling, wetness, stroking. “So tender his touch on my neck. So softly his kiss on my cheek. (Pause) My hand on his rib” (29–30). Duff ’s memories are gustatory: he mentions feeding ducks, dinner, lunch, bread, beer, stew, pie, greens, bacon. The remembered so overwhelms the rememberers that their self-presence is pervaded and obscured with an aura of remembrance that fills the stage like mist, the mist of the past. The mnemonic mode of the play is entirely mentalistic; there are no physical reminders—no petit madeleine—and the social dimension is seemingly evoked only to be suppressed. Pinter does not explore how the sort of historical encounter represented by Beth is introjected to form the remembering Beth, who says “when I’m older I won’t be the same as I am, I won’t be what I am” (24). By contrast, the first monologues of Rumsey, Ellen, and Bates in Silence interrelate but do not correlate, alerting us that Pinter will here address the invasiveness of contrasting memories. While Beth and Duff never leave their respective and separated chairs, the three characters of Silence enter into and recede from each other’s space (or “area,” in Pinter’s minimal description) like orbiting bodies.20 Stephen Martineau observes that while in Landscape past takes over present via memory, in Silence “because of the easy drifting [in time], there is no tension set up between past and present” (1973, 292). But this description doesn’t seem to capture the centripetal and entropic pressure the script generates. Rather than drifting, time seems to collapse into itself. And because the play is so completely unoccasioned, the differentiation of time foregrounded when memory functions as recollection is less important to Pinter than delineating the memory place in which the characters dwell. The “when” of the play is both unspecified and inscrutable, and its characters do not even seem to occupy the same time scheme. Rumsey (“a man of forty”) and Ellen (“in her twenties”) both use the historical present in recounting their memories (“I walk with my girl,” “I tell him what I know” [33]), while Bates (“middle thirties”) noticeably and forcefully uses the past tense for the most part (“Brought her into this place. . . . Kicked open the door” [34]). The first shift from reminiscence to reenactment, signaled by Bates’s movement into Ellen’s area (37), hardly seems to me like “easy drifting,” as it apparently represents the conversational prelude (37–39) to a sexual encounter between Bates and Ellen, an encounter that, in Bates’s previous telling, is edged with threat (“Cars barking. . . . She with me, clutching. . . . Undressed her, placed my hand” [34]). Ellen twice moves to Rumsey, signaling the only two other times characters speak directly to one another. But it is not possible to deduce a sequence from these encounters. It is possible neither to piece together a linear narrative that joins the three characters nor even to say with certainty they are three separate characters. There are signs that Bates and Rumsey are one. First Rumsey speaks of horses (39), then Bates does

Drama of Mnemic Signs 197 (44). First Bates mentions a little girl (40), then Rumsey (41). Then, when Bates and Rumsey each appears to converge on a remembered scene with Ellen, the continuity of the dialogue implies a single male in the encounter: RUMSEY: She was looking down. I couldn’t hear what she said. BATES: I can’t hear you. Yes you can, I said. RUMSEY: What are you saying? Look at me, she said. BATES: I didn’t. I didn’t hear you, she said. I didn’t hear what you said. RUMSEY: But I am looking at you. It’s your head that’s bent. (43–44)

The inchoateness and indefiniteness of this scene are typical. It is not possible to connect definitively the grammatical first, second, and third persons here with the persons of the play or to reconcile them with a coherent point of view. The feeling of memory as an unfinished journey, as a place approached but not arrived at, is reinforced through the mesmerizing repetition of “walk” (six times on the first page of dialogue and frequently throughout) dissociated from any reference to destination. That the play begins with Rumsey’s “I walk” (33) and virtually ends with Ellen’s and Rumsey’s repetition of the same phrase (50–51) alerts us to the connection between this play and its companion piece, Landscape, and suggests that the titles could easily have been exchanged. But while Beth has embarked upon a selffashioning reminiscence, the characters of Silence develop no biography. The most one can do with them is to register their memory pathways and to observe where they intersect. The “where,” however, is not a memory of place, which remains as vague as time in the play, but a place of memory. Whatever “took place” among the characters, impels them reluctantly and imperfectly, to retrace their steps to it on the footpaths of memory. This is not the forced march of recovered memory previously buried in trauma, nor the endless Inferno-like recapitulations of Beckett’s dramaticules. The mnemonic mode is a species of aimless anamnesia, in which the characters are sent to wander the memory landscape without a map. Indeed, the characters seem contained in their memories (not vice versa) like figures in a landscape. Isolated lines of dialogue return fragmented, reinforcing the autonomy of memory. The silences that increasingly punctuate the text like gathering dusk suggest not the forgotten but the darkly (un)remembered; it is the landscape of Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name. Silence ultimately envelopes its characters in darkness and silence; in the first six pages of dialogue there is one stage direction for silence and three for pause, while in the last six pages there are seventeen for silence and one for long silence. It seems to me less like past, present, and future drifting together than a draining of time down a black hole. “Around me sits the night,” Ellen repeats (43, 49), making the racing clouds and “lights far far away a long long way away” (45) seem astral, the wind solar, and the “dust drain[ing] out” (41, 48) cosmic—Pinter in the mode of Stephen Hawking or Carl Sagan. When Ellen says “I go up with the milk. The sky hits me. I walk in this wind to collide with them waiting” (45, 50), it sounds nothing less than galactic, a space walk. Though the play ends with Bates, the character who insistently uses the past tense, repeating “Caught a bus to the town. Crowds. Lights round the market” (51), his line is followed by the final “long silence,” undermining certainty and surrounding the lights with a black void.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Night virtually begins with a similar evocation: “It was night. There were lamps lit on the towpath” (55). Though the line might easily come from Silence, Night is a far more conventional piece in which a Man and a Woman quietly share over coffee their differing memories of their first encounter, on a bridge after a party. He remembers touching her breasts; she demurs: “Another night perhaps. Another girl” (59). But very near the end of this short piece, the reminiscence abruptly shifts rhythm. Though six of the seven pages focus on the one quietly contested memory, the last page compresses the rest of their lives into a fable, bringing the couple in a flash to the current situation of their reminiscence: “And you had me and you told me you had fallen in love with me. . . . ” says the Woman, “And then we had children and we sat and talked and you remembered women on bridges . . . ” (60–61). “And you remembered . . . men holding your hands and men looking into your eyes . . . ,” he replies (61). WOMAN: And they said I will adore you always. MAN: Saying I will adore you always. (61)

The allusion to fairy-tale formula (“And they lived happily ever after”) is deeply disorienting, in that we are suddenly compelled to evaluate their reminiscence in light of an ambiguous willingness to merge their memories. Furthermore, the shift in number from singular to plural (“you remembered women . . . , you remembered men”) puts us in mind of the burgeoning memory populace of Landscape, wherein the remembered selves stand in contrast to the remembering subjects. But while Beth and Duff finish in utter isolation from each other, the couple in Night arrive at a simulated “happy ending” difficult to interpret. Are they being mocked for their pro forma agreement to give up their individual memories of the incident or is Pinter hinting that memories lack the singularity we would impute to them? The encounter on the bridge seems to be anagogical or connectionist, an occasion through which many memories (all their memories?) flow—or flood. Taken together (they were published together), the dramaturgy of Pinter’s three one-acters pulls them in opposite directions, both toward gender politics thoroughly grounded in domesticity (two of the plays have husband and wife sitting at table) and toward a more lyrical and abstract mode that allows the ideas to float free of the characters. Pinter’s plays of this period are tugged by the gravity of something definitive, even traumatic, that has happened, yet lifted by a buoyancy offering transcendence. Beth’s memory of the sea billowing around her prior to her sexual encounter on the beach (16); Rumsey’s “She floats . . . under me. Floating . . . under me” (40, ellipses Pinter’s); and Anna’s description of Kate’s emergence from the bath as “a kind of floating” in Old Times (54)21 express a lightness associated both with forgetting and with the sense that memory frees us from our material time/space coordinates. This imagery has its dystopic counterpart in the tensions of sexual politics and the habits of domesticity, as Pinter appears to embrace the paradox that memory frees us from time and space even as it traffics in their reality. Many scraps of incident, imagery, and device from the one-acters recirculate through Old Times: the persistence of memory; a country house setting; the coarsening of a male character; the recurring image of one figure standing over another;

Drama of Mnemic Signs 199 sexy talk among women; the touching of breasts and an ambiguous, vaguely menacing sexual incident; and the blurring of character lines to the extent that we are not sure whether we are seeing two or three. As with the shorter pieces, the experience of the play entails threading a way through the labyrinthine story, which stands in such stark contrast to the simple plot: a married couple, Kate and Deeley, play host to Anna, an old friend of Kate, with whom they talk about the past. But in a crucial change, the male-dominated triangle of Silence becomes female at two vertices in Old Times. This shift of the sexual balance of power removes a woman from the victim’s role and invites us to look beyond the domestic triangle for the source of the tension that crackles through the play. Why are the characters so urgently insistent about how and whether their memories collate? What, other than the jealousies born of conflicting desires, is at stake? Critical commentary on the play has focused on character psychology, frequently attempting to identify the consciousness of one character or another as dominant. Elizabeth Sakellandou (1988, 165–167) laid out various scenarios in which the play may be interpreted as taking place in Deeley’s mind, or that Kate and Anna are part of the same woman, or that everything is in Kate’s and Anna’s minds. Walter Kerr’s New York Times review suggested that all three characters were one person. 22 Stephen Martineau held that Anna “is Kate’s passionate self,” her “inner self,” “the embodiment of a powerful sexual passion” (293). If Silence echoes Bergman’s film of the same name, Old Times is Pinter’s Persona. Memory and the manipulation of time in the play have been a theme of the criticism since Harold Hobson’s review in the London Sunday Times, titled “Remembrance of Things Past” (cited Homan 1993, 20). Alan Hughes says that Anna “can abstract Kate from the present and make her live in the past” (1974, 472). Anna may be the “past incarnate” (Ganz 1972, 171), a notion that may or may not be compatible with the idea that she “does not ‘exist’ until she is sufficiently remembered” (Braunmuller 1979, 61). Such commentary offers much to contemplate, but to the extent that its end is to construct the psychology or psychologies of the characters, it slights what I take to be Pinter’s focal point: the morphology of memory and its startling autonomy. Of course, just as in most social and intimate situations, the relationship Pinter portrays is informed, reformed, and deformed by memories and fantasies of other encounters. But following the labyrinthine story will not yield a linear narrative for any of the characters, any more than was the case in Landscape, Silence, and Night. Rather, from the beginning of the play when Anna stands in Kate’s and Deeley’s presence unacknowledged by them, to the end in which Kate simultaneously remembers (“I remember you dead” [71]) and dis(re)members Anna (“Your bones were breaking through your face” [72]) Pinter directs us to confront the utterly paradoxical there/ not there, present/past of memory itself. Pinter has said as much in interviews about the play. In 1979 he told Mel Gussow: “I wrote Landscape and Silence and Old Times before I wrote the Proust screenplay, and it is certainly true that those plays concern themselves with memory and the past” (Gussow, 52). Eight years earlier, on the occasion of the Broadway premiere of Old Times, he had been even more forthcoming: “The whole question of time and all its reverberations and possible meanings really does seem to absorb me more and


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

more” (39). He clearly enjoyed asserting that “It’s true that in Old Times the woman is there, but not there” (18); responded to Gussow’s attempt to probe what actually happened among the characters with “I think it’s a waste of time” (17); and said that discussing the past “seems to me to recreate the time” (17), irrespective of whether what is discussed took place. Yet, he insisted in response to Gussow’s “I can see with Old Times people will say, did it happen or didn’t it happen?” “I’ll tell you one thing about Old Times. It happens. It all happens [Silence.]” (43). These paradoxes and abstract ideas (time, memory, the past) drive the form of the play, as the relations among the characters drive its matter. At a site the playwright identifies as a converted farmhouse, three characters are discerned amidst spare modern furniture. From the initial dialogue, we glean that Deeley and Kate are married to each other and are expecting a visit from Kate’s old friend Anna, whom she has not seen for a long time. On one level, it may be said that the play is “about” Anna’s visit and the memories it generates—memories of an old movie, of an incident in a tavern, and of an elusive, recurring image of one figure bent over another. But our attempts to discern a linear narrative are confuted at every turn. At different junctures, it is asserted that Deeley never saw Anna before (14) and that they had met years ago in the Wayfarers Tavern (48ff., 69); that Anna was a thief who stole Kate’s underwear (10) and that Kate insisted Anna borrow her underwear and report her adventures wearing it (65); that Deeley attended a filming of Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out where he met (possibly) Kate,23 she being the only other person in the theatre (29–30), and that Kate and Anna attended a showing of the film together (38). Also, the recurring image of one figure looking down on another applies to Deeley looking down on Anna (32); Kate on Anna (in the present [34–35]); a crowd of men looking down on Deeley (51); Kate on Anna (in the past [71–72]); and Kate on Deeley (72). It is impossible to say how many incidents are represented in this image, and what characters were involved, inviting us to a more abstract interpretation: the gestus is the physical expression of each character’s attempt to establish a superior perspective on their shared past. Nor is the play anchored in any of its characters’ present time; at different moments various configurations of the characters appear to “be” “back” in the past or excluded from the presence of the others: Anna excluded from Kate and Deeley (7–17); Kate from Anna and Deeley (“You talk of me as if I were dead,” she finally says [34]); Deeley from Kate and Anna (43–46 and 62–63). As observed by Thomas Pender, an actor who played Deeley (see Homan, 129), the difficulty of constructing a linear narrative frustrates actors, whose inclination to write a character’s biography is here doomed to failure. It is through Deeley’s struggles to mark the perforation between past and present by pursuing the facts in the manner of a documentarian that we recognize the entirely different milieu de mémoire the play constructs, a milieu folded on that hypothetical perforation so that time planes overlap. Though Old Times veers away from the astral abstraction of Silence, Pinter would appear to agree with Einstein that the distinction among past, present, and future is a “stubborn illusion” (quoted in Overbye 2005). Indeed, the paradoxes of theoretical physics and time travel are at hand, as all of the play’s characters are travelers in an antisequential memory-time. Most strikingly, the detailed memory Anna recounts of

Drama of Mnemic Signs 201 a man in the room she shared with Kate, slumped in an armchair sobbing, and then rising to come to her and look down upon her (32) predicts the silent action at the end of the play—a “remembrance of things future.” The identities of Kate and Anna appear to combine and separate at different points in the action, graphically and provocatively symbolized by the convoluted story of Anna borrowing Kate’s underwear and wearing them to a party, at which Deeley met Anna (or Kate or both) and looked up her (whose?) skirt (51, 65, 69, 71). Deeley in the second act insists he has met Anna before (50ff.), thereby temporarily endorsing her separate existence, but his recollections culminate in his weakening assertions to Kate “She was pretending to be you at the time. . . . Maybe she was you. Maybe it was you having coffee with me” (69). Thus, when at the end of the play Anna holds the position on a divan that Kate held at the beginning, we may reasonably surmise that the palindromically named Anna “is” the returned memory of Kate twenty years ago—a memory over which Deeley and Kate are engaged. “Returned,” however, is not exactly the word, since Anna is there at the beginning and does not leave at the end. As Pinter told Gussow, in a remark that could easily refer to Anna, sometimes an image of the past “is not actually forgotten. It exists—because it has not simply gone. I carry it with me” (Gussow, 39). Not a “recovered memory,” Anna is more like a “discovered” memory, preferable for its association with the theatrical term referring to the revelation of a character already on stage when the lights go up and because the term “maintains agnosticity regarding whether the memory was truly forgotten or, indeed, whether the discovered event even occurred” (Schooler 2000, 385). But this more “psychological” interpretation of the play is, in turn, troubled with more puzzling details. If Anna is a memory of Kate, whose memory is she: Deeley’s or Kate’s? And what sense does it make for Anna, if she is a memory, to remember Kate and Deeley, as the characters agree that she does, and she constantly lays claim to, from her first sentence (“Queuing all night, the rain, do you remember?” [17]) to her last (“I remember you well” [71])? Indeed, why is remembering deployed in association with maneuvers of dominance, as when Deeley contends he remembers Anna over her objections (49–50); when Anna “coldly” (71) declares she remembers Deeley looking up her skirt; or when Kate exerts control over Anna by insisting: “I remember you dead” (71)? And, finally, what are we to make of the fact that twice during the play Deeley and Anna break into song, exchanging lyrics from old standards redolent with reminiscence (“Oh no they can’t take that away from me,” “Oh, how the ghost of you clings,” etc., 27ff. and 57ff.). Answering these questions will entail noticing how sexual tension and sexual politics impact the theme of memory; how Pinter undermines a notion of self founded on individualistic psychology; and how the characters defend themselves against the encroachments and introjections of states of memory threatening their sovereignty. The most obvious, and perhaps superficial, sexual tension in the play is that between Deeley and Anna over the possession of Kate. While Pinter condemned an Italian production that overemphasized a lesbian attraction between Kate and Anna (cited by Homan, 20), surely the episodes of Anna wearing Kate’s underwear—whether we credit Kate’s version of Anna as a thief or Anna’s version of Kate vicariously, perhaps fetishistically, enjoying accounts of Anna’s escapades (65–66)— are meant to rouse our curiosity, as they do Deeley’s, over the women’s sexual


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

relationship. In this context, the song snippets launched by Deeley and Anna are both a sparring match and an attempted seduction of Kate. They are in the same category as Kate’s underwear—objects for achieving excitement, and also talismanic in their magical power to evoke the past. There is a notable difference between the first and second act song cycles, however; in the second act the exchange becomes mechanical, the lyrics delivered “faster on cue, and more perfunctorily” (58). The second exchange signals a diminishment in Deeley’s and Anna’s attempts to control Kate by possessing her past, and a shift of focus to Kate in the present: the exchange segues directly into Kate’s first extended speech in the play. Notably, she uses only the present tense in the speech, expressing views, desires, and preferences of which we have had no previous hint (59). It is as if a process of self-formation has suddenly been activated. This assertiveness expands into a Kate who looms far larger at the end of the play than at the beginning. How can Anna be both a memory of Kate yet engaged with Deeley in a struggle to control and possess her? We might understand Anna, who both symbolizes and embodies memory, herself remembering Kate as an instance of what Edelman calls reentry, the procedure by which memory processes continually reorganize the remembering subjectivities that “created” them. That is, Anna is the memory of Kate that both Kate and Deeley must account for in establishing Kate’s identity. At the same time, qua memory, Anna can expect to be revised, reorganized, and reinterpreted by the neural and social coordinations of Deeley and Kate. When Pinter’s characters remember, they are not retrieving and reciting the contents of memory, but are engaged in a dynamic process of establishing relations to their present selves. They are undertaking a memorial reorganization for the sake of self-identity in the face of an incursion from the past. That the incursion is both neural (Anna as discovered memory) and social (Anna as embodied other person) is true to the phenomenology of memory and true to Pinter’s assertion that Anna is both there and not there. Anna can be neither banished from nor relegated to memory—though Kate attempts both—because she continues to play such an active role in Kate’s and Deeley’s global reorganizations of their complex relationship. Reminiscent of the message one may see on a computer screen–“this file may not be put away because it is still active”— Anna is what the phenomenologist Casey (265–266) has termed a “remenance” or residue of the remembered past circulating in the present. The situation of the play, then, may be restated as follows: twenty years ago, Anna and Kate were one in that “Anna” was the device Kate used to mask herself: when Kate went to parties and flaunted her fancy underwear, she was Anna. But the ghost that is Anna clings to Kate; in some sense, Anna was and still is Kate’s underwear, concealing her most private self while masquerading flirtatiously. Upon meeting Deeley, however, Kate gave up Anna, her untamed self, for Deeley: “He suggested a wedding instead, and a change of environment,” but, “Neither mattered” Kate reports (73). That is, in some deep sense things did not change for Kate, whose true self remained hidden from Deeley, to judge by their present lack of affection and disinterest in one another. Nor was Anna ever really “put away.” She remained as a memory, a ghost still operant in Kate’s self-conception and in Deeley’s conception of her: they both see Anna and are more engaged with her than with each other. Like a déjà vu experience, she comes unbidden, for reasons we cannot grasp.

Drama of Mnemic Signs 203 Thus framed as an action to control and possess Kate, a woman who has exchanged an untamed version of herself for a husband, Old Times is oddly reminiscent of A Taming of the Shrew. Petruchio’s technique of controlling Kate’s mind by denying her reality (especially in 4.6, the scene on the road), of proposing marriage and wrenching her away to an unfamiliar environment are all echoed in Deeley’s tactics—though he is now manifestly losing control. Pinter’s play appears to begin, however, where Shakespeare’s ends—with a domesticated, married Kate. But Old Times does not end simply with the restoration of the untamed Kate in the person of Anna. Anna does not displace Kate, who neither leaves like Ibsen’s Nora, nor remains quiescent and pliant, nor banishes Anna and Deeley. As in Shrew, Kate’s final speech is key; it has everything to do with establishing Kate’s relation to her former self and to her husband and exerts great explanatory power over the social situation at the end of the play. In imagery distinctly recollective of Katherine’s representation of beauty blotted by a frown and countenance muddied like a troubled fountain (5.2, 145 and 148), Kate remembers Anna dead, her face scrawled with dirt and “unblotted” (72), and then recalls inviting Deeley to Anna’s bed and “plaster[ing] his face with dirt” (73). Whether these remembered incidents actually happened is irrelevant. As Anna says, “There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened. There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them so they take place” (31–32, emphasis mine). That is, whatever happened “then,” Kate is “now” remembering Anna and Deeley covered with dirt, and that memory is happening and must be reckoned with. Here and throughout, Pinter implicitly holds to the “reconstructivist” model of memory (Campbell, 85), which allows for changes of memory over time, acknowledges that memory plays an active and creative role in selfreorganization and frequently requires interpretation, particularly when “memory processes [are placed] in the contexts of narratives and personal relationships” (Haaken, 43). Kate’s self-formation, noticeably activated in the second act after her emergence from the bath, thus culminates in Kate’s effort to put Deeley in his place (does Deeley end up “Kated,” as Gremio says of Petruchio [3.3, 117]?) and Anna in hers. What we can readily see as Kate’s attempt to “bury” Anna and Deeley fails to put them to rest, however. Granted, the bodies of the slumping Deeley and recumbent Anna at the end of the play register their pastness (Cave 2001, 122); the characters seem evacuated, as if the souls have left their bodies. Consequently, the “relief ” (72) Kate claims she felt in having a male body in her bed is ironic, for in exchanging Anna for Deeley (as Kate in Shrew exchanges her untamed self for Petruchio), Kate achieved at best an ambiguous sovereignty over herself. She seems to admit as much when she says of the wedding and change of environment: “Neither mattered” (73). Though both Deeley and Anna make a move to leave, they remain. Kate’s reactivated self-formation is unfinished and must continue to account for what Kate remembers herself to be and what Deeley may continue to insist she was. She is closeted with her present and her past. Embodying Anna as a memory of Kate who intrudes upon the relationship of Kate and Deeley allows Pinter to advance the way memory is represented onstage in a remarkable fashion. First, Anna as a separate and persistent character is per se a demonstration of what Casey call’s “the thick autonomy of memory” (262). Thickness or thickening connotes the “mutual contamination” of the world in-flowing on the

204 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard memorialist and the remembering flowing out to the world (264). It is similar to Casey’s concept of the “heaviness” or gravity that links memory to past actualizations, as opposed to the “splendid lightness” (after Kundera) of forgetting (3–4). Casey goes on to gloss “thick” as possessing depth that does not easily admit the direct light of consciousness, familiar (“thick as thieves”), and compressed (265–266). Autonomy is explained as the empowerment of re-minding, putting my own mind together (266). But it also connotes the fact that memory is tied to an individual’s set of past actualizations (281–282). Without question, the dialectic of Old Times is between the autonomous, pellucid, cerebral nature of memory and its thickening, adumbrating materialization, a contrast embodied in Kate’s floating emergence from her bath to deal with the inscrutable memory of herself—not wholly her own memory of herself, nor Deeley’s, but the astonishingly autonomous Anna. Simply put, Kate must deal with Anna in order to make up her own mind. The flash of “very bright” light followed by blackout specified in Pinter’s final stage direction (75) is designed to create an after-image in the spectator’s eye—which is just how the sovereign appearance of Anna lingers for Deeley and Kate. A second advance in the dramatic representation of memory in Old Times is Pinter’s marked success in conveying the morphology of memory. If memory is “an active affair of dense involvement with a massive past” (Casey, 285) and if the neural network of the remembering subject has been continuously altered by contact with the environment, then it is the norm that “we get a different past every time” (ibid., emphasis Casey’s) we remember. The return of a past element in “pristine format” (ibid.) is a marvel, not a standard. The marvel of encountering someone who is you and yet not you, there and yet not there (as Pinter says of Anna) is what Husserl (1970, 185) called “de-presentation.” Paradoxically, one must imagine oneself removed from the present in order to posit a perduring self. While the I in the now is responsible for positing the primordial I, that I in the past is a mental construct which then autonomously impinges upon and affects the conceiving I in the present. As Casey puts it, “What I shall have been, my eventual personal identity, is very much a function of what I remember myself to be—which is in turn a function of what I now remember myself to have been” (291). We are close to the proposed time traveler of quantum physics who goes back in time to kill his grandfather and thus extinguish himself. I do not think it too far-fetched to imagine that Kate is doing something like that in declaring to Anna “I remember you dead.” The constitution of our temporally disparate selves into one self, then, is a dialectic of representation and de-presentation. This dialectic is what Pinter’s dramaturgy constructs, just as the fluid, continuously revised autobiographical narratives of Deeley, Anna, and Kate track the continuously remapped neural networks that sustain the ongoing morphology of memory. The memorious power of the others’ autobiographical narratives also suffuses each of the remembering subjects. Not only do Anna and Kate flow into each other, but both are susceptible to the suggestiveness of Deeley, who offers his own version of key historical encounters among the three (?). The third advance in the dramatic representation of memory, then, is Pinter’s ability to link memory to intersubjectivity and what might be termed a porosity of personhood. The positing of an intersubjective self established via introjection of remembered encounters with individuals (especially parents) is, as we have seen, a familiar motif in modern drama and a tenet of

Drama of Mnemic Signs 205 Freudian psychology. Pinter’s innovation is to relinquish the domination of a single remembering I and, in contrast to, say, Glass Menagerie or Da, to abandon a parental reference point in exchange for an expanded field of key introjective encounters that more directly acknowledges the way in which relationships are arrayed “along multiple axes of social power” (Campbell, 165), such as in Old Times, the axes of male-female and husband-wife. When the withdrawal of the remembering I is linked to the porosity of personhood, what emerges is an alternative to the classic, liberal concept of individuality. As Campbell (32, after Annette Baier 1985, 84) puts it, “persons are socially constituted”: “A person, perhaps, is best seen as one who was long enough dependent on other persons to acquire the essential arts of personhood. Persons essentially are second persons” (emphasis Baier’s). Quite literally, Anna as memory of Kate is her second person, whom Kate released into social circulation to learn the arts of personhood, impersonating her even as Anna did when wearing her “borrowed” underwear. Freed from the tyranny of a single consciousness, the characters of Old Times share an epistemic community open to democracy. I am not sure that Pinter may be enlisted in the cause, embraced by feminists and articulated by Sue Campbell and Janice Haaken, of affirming that objective truth in memory can be the product of a democratized epistemic community allowing for outlaw or marginalized perspectives based in relationships of trust and respect (Campbell, 150). But Pinter renders memory in the person of Anna ipso facto female without feminizing memory as an unruly child, rhetoric Campbell finds embedded in Elizabeth Loftus’ research on false and “recovered” memory (116). Rather, though Old Times is suffused with doubt over the literal truth of memory, rejecting literal truth does not mean for Pinter rejecting the truth that “something happened, no matter how much interpretation is required to determine what” (Campbell, 86–7, after Haaken). For Kate, as for Campbell (186) reinterpreting memories is a sign of taking responsibility for our actions, because a moral being reviews past actions in terms of new or discovered norms. The activist, transformational function of memory, as distinct from its recollective function, thus passes from Pinter’s Anna, who shimmers between past and present and between actuality and virtuality, to Kate, who takes charge of her present self to a degree she has previously resisted. Just as the brain undertakes both a conscious and unconscious effort at restructuring after physical injury, Pinter’s characters attempt to overcome psychological trauma by reconstituting themselves for the sake of self-image. They re-member. Oddly when Pinter deals with issues of self-sameness, memory and identity in the actual cases of grievous memory loss reported by Oliver Sacks, the resulting piece does not transcend its clinical setting, though it shows no cooling of Pinter’s ardor for the memory theme almost a dozen years after Old Times. A Kind of Alaska (1982) opens on an institutional bedside scene just as a Dr. Hornby has injected Deborah, suffering from encephalitis lethargica, with the drug L-dopa.24 Deborah’s younger sister Pauline (early forties) stands just out of sight. The play’s action compresses into a real-time half-hour what Sack’s patients experienced over a period of weeks or months: eruption from a totally debilitating torpor to assume the vivid personhood prevailing at the onset of the disease decades before, and then reversion back to “an almost cadaveric state” (Sacks, xxv). While Pinter all but eliminates the episodes of


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Parkinsonian symptoms typically provoked by the drug (Deborah flicks her cheek compulsively toward the end), he captures the joy, hope, and painful bewilderment of patients restored to a body and world they have never known. The compressed action of A Kind of Alaska suggests a dramatic version of time lapse photography. Because she has “been asleep for a very long time” (as Dr. Hornby tells her [11]), Deborah has been deprived of primary consciousness, and her first attempts to reorient herself entail trying to make sense of unexpected sensory-motor signals (her body has changed) and perceptual signals (her external world has changed) by drawing on her ability to make correlations between these categorizations: she struggles in slow motion to make connections between previous memories and current perceptions to render her present “remembered.” At the same time, she labors to reconstitute her social and historical self-concept in the face of the apparently contradictory testimony of her own body and that of her sister: “You’ve grown breasts!” Deborah marvels, and then looks down at herself (20). Deborah denies she has been asleep any more than normal. She fumbles in trying to establish her age (12, 16, 7) and finally settles on “lovely fifteen” (12) though she is in her mid-forties. When asked if she remembers what has happened to her she initially rejects the question: “Nothing has happened to me. I’ve been nowhere” (15). Her interaction with the Doctor has hints of a prior relationship (“I think I love you” [15]), and it turns out that the Dr. Hornby, who awakened her, must be the Jack who was Deborah’s boyfriend but eventually married her sister–perhaps to be near Deborah. Thus, not just the configuration of characters (two women and a man) recalls Old Times, but so does the dramatic circ*mstance: a man uncertainly situated between two intimately related women, one of whom may be a surrogate for the other. The way Pinter initially brings on Pauline, who comes forward out of the dark before the Doctor calls upon her (18), echoes the scene Pirandello’s alienist stages for “Henry IV”: an element of the past brought forward in order to effect the patient’s transition to the present. The outcome is similarly unsuccessful, if not so melodramatically disastrous, as Deborah soon enough experiences the return of Parkinsonian symptoms, imagines the walls closing in, and retreats to her fifteen-year-old self: “It’ll be my birthday soon” (22). Though Deborah regains consciousness, she misses the mark of selfhood Husserl called de-presentation—that is, the ability to recognize herself in disparate selves at different times—in the sense that the self she recognizes (the fifteen-year-old) is not recognized as a past self. Though she wants to know and is told what happened to her and is also given details of what has happened to her family in the intervening years, she cannot reconcile these facts with the feeling of being a fifteen-year-old now. The domestic scenes she describes as looking forward to (“I’ll bake apples. . . . We’ll have kids” [16]) are in fact irrevocably in the past, though they seem present and future to her. Physiologically, like the other encephalitis lethargica patients Sacks described, she is basal-ganglia damaged. Because, as Edelman proposed and Sacks’s observations confirm, consciousness and memory depend upon free and orderly body movement as part of a feedback loop with perception, self-formation is exactly what has been suspended, in a deep-freeze or “kind of Alaska” (21). Deborah is missing the current frame of reference, which is needed for the recategorizations that are socially adaptive,

Drama of Mnemic Signs 207 and also neurologically frozen—unable to experience the “melting and refreezing” that yield the innumerable “rivulets” of neural pathways that constitute the self. In contrast to the dispirited A Kind of Alaska, a muted, Proustian sort of ecstasy suffuses Pinter’s screenplay of Remembrance of Things Past, which he was thinking about while still working on Old Times. Decades later (2000), Pinter collaborated with National Theatre director Di Trevis on a stage adaptation—evidence enough of the persistence of memory in Pinter’s artistic consciousness. The adaptation deserves more attention than the small notice I can give it here, for it represents a further experiment in capturing the cerebral, corporeal, and social memory scenes. Unlike those of Deborah in A Kind of Alaska, the childhood recollections of Marcel (the writer) are not debilitatingly isolated from his present self, but coalescent, culminating, and climactic. This “movement . . . towards revelation, rising to where time that was lost is found” (Pinter 2000, viii) is capped in a “transcendent moment for MARCEL” (Pinter/Trevis, 111), when his “ecstasy” at hearing a piece of music echoes that of Swann many years previous and when, upon meeting Swann’s granddaughter, Marcel recognizes himself in her: “formed from the very years which I myself had lost. She was like my own youth. Time, colourless and inapprehensible, time, so that I was almost able to see it and touch it, had materialised itself into this girl” (137). Memory is thus the instrument of both self-conception and artistic achievement for Marcel, and his relation to memory entails both participation and observation. Michael Billington (2000) saw the duality operating in the original production: “Even when Sebastian Harcombe’s Marcel is not physically engaged in a scene, you are aware of him as a silent watcher—as if everything is leading to the play’s climactic line: ‘It was time to begin.’” For my purposes here, the construction of Marcel’s subjectivity as a writer is less interesting than the way Marcel’s patchwork of memories from the late 1880s to the early 1920s constructs a sordid representation of a decadent society, which in turn reinforms the way he remembers himself. For along with the movement towards revelation is another movement “chiefly narrative, towards disillusion” (Pinter 2000, viii), composed predominately from Marcel’s sexual recollections, both participatory and observant. Sexuality is the most characteristic expression of memory’s thick autonomy in the play, sometimes seeming to engulf Marcel in the lava-like viscosity of the in-flowing life-world. Marcel either observes, is told about, or experiences a gallery of sexual exhibits: from a painful interrogation by his admired Swann of Swann’s wife Odette about her lesbian proclivities; to overheard sex between Charlus and a male whor*; to sexual teasing and taunting by his lover Albertine, whom he subsequently interrogates as Swann had Odette; to rough sex at a gay club. Many of the characters involved in these sexual connections recombine with others to suggest a network that stretches beyond our ken. Billington observed in his review that Marcel’s sexual insecurity is a carryover from Old Times. But here, as there, Pinter’s interest is not merely psychological, but social. Pinter (after Proust) places Marcel among characters whose sexual connections also map a social structure. For Pinter, sexual connection demonstrates that what the classic text (McClelland and Rumelhart 1986) on “connectionism” asserts about neural cognition is also true of social (re)cognition: “each memory trace is distributed over many different connections, and each connection participates in many different

208 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard memory traces” (176), as when Marcel, having observed Swann interrogating Odette over her lesbian activities, subsequently repeats the scene with his lover Albertine. For Marcel, sexual threat is bound up with social intimidation, and sexual memories vividly trace the complex effects that social beings actually have on one another. Pinter’s treatment of sexual material may be productively compared with Beckett’s as a means for reckoning how the playwrights differ in their construction of the memory scene. Krapp’s tape-recorder is a “masturbatory agent,” as Beckett himself termed it (Knowlton, 181), reinforcing Krapp’s social isolation and playing a key role in his attempt to sustain a first-personhood. By contrast, Kate’s underwear, when worn by Anna, facilitates their circulation in a party “scene,” serves as a recurring focus of the memory-cum-fantasy involving the two women and Deeley, and affirms our dependency on others to learn the arts of personhood. Constructive remembering in Pinter is predominately social: individuals and society are alike continuously constructed by remembering relations, that is, by recategorizing what and whom we know. The branching sexual connections that form the social network of Remembrance of Things Past stand in stark contrast to the characters such as the half-buried Winnie, the urn-encased characters in Play, or Nagg and Nell in their ashcans—all physically precluded from sexual contact. The prominence of social coordinates in Pinter’s construction of the memory scene makes Beckett’s look all the more monastic. *



WRITING FROM MEMORY: MALE/FEMALE Beckett more than Pinter wants us to see the writing process itself as part of a mnemonic presentation, a tactic that both reinforces the constructive nature of memory and the recalcitrant autonomy of its constituent parts or traces. The playwrights that follow herein are Beckett’s heirs in making the writer visible in the memory frame, but Pinter’s in rendering the social nature of the frameworks. Neither as extensive as Pinter’s nor as resolutely experimental as Beckett’s, the canon of Edward Albee does not equal theirs in memoriousness. Yet, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Three Tall Women (1991–1994) can not only instructively represent Albee’s memory work, but it is thematically transfusive, channeling the flow-through of the dramas of mnemic signs both preceding and following it. Like Beckett’s That Time, Three Tall Women features characters designated A, B, and C who are aspects of one self, along with a bedridden listener; like Pinter’s Old Times, it reincarnates a woman’s past, placing it in tension with her present. And like all the plays considered in the remainder of this chapter, it eschews psychological realism for cerebral theatricalism. Somewhat coyly, Three Tall Women begins like a conventional memory play, though the alphabetical character names and the stage direction that the three are to resemble each other tip us off that Albee will be up to something. In a rich-looking bedroom a very old woman (A) in a dressing gown, is attended by a middle-aged assistant (B) and a young lawyer (C). In the face of A’s deteriorating condition, C has come to help straighten out her financial affairs, but the focus is less on such mundane matters

Drama of Mnemic Signs 209 than on the poignant contrast between the aged, incontinent, frail woman and the memories she shares—of horseback riding, of an affair, of a sexual disappointment with her husband—and on the increasing fragility of these memories. The conversation proceeds with striking intimacy, mounting desperation, and ever sharper focus on issues of remembering and forgetting. In a key passage toward the end of the first act, A’s frantically repeating “I can’t remember” generates responses from the others that are designed to mollify her, but they also lay out a philosophical premise for what follows. B tells her “I think you remember everything; I think you just can’t bring it to mind all the time,” while C, by contrast, wonders “Isn’t salvation in forgetting? Lethe, and all?” (344–345).25 Subsequently, B and C exchange views on being able to empathize with A’s plight: C: B: C: B:

I can’t project. Well, think of it this way: if you live long enough, you won’t have to; you’ll be there. Thanks. And since it’s the far past we’re supposed to recall best–if we get to the future–you’ll remember not being able to project. (349)

Such exchanges plant several key ideas: that recollection can be distinguished from the presence of mnemic signs, which are not under willful control; that gaps in our autobiographical memory can be a blessing; that past selves may not easily be evaded; and that subjectivity itself is a fragile construction. B’s and C’s observations, and the first act, are brought to an abrupt end with the realization that A has had a stroke. What is thought about in the first act is enacted in the second: A is propped up in bed with a breathing mask, as B provocatively and C reluctantly think forward to their own deaths. B imagines being killed by intruders, addressing the younger C in a manner suggesting that B and C are the same women at different ages: “Or I hear them . . . you hear them, turn around, see them—how many?” As first and third person become almost interchangeable, the suggestion becomes stronger: B: C: B: C: B:

All that blood on the Chinese rug. My, my. Chinese rug? Yes, beige, with rose embroidery all around the edges. We got it at auction. I wouldn’t know. No; of course not; you wouldn’t. You will, though. (353)

With the entrance of a completely rational A in a lavender dress, while the stroke victim A (or a mannequin with a life mask, we now realize) lies in bed, the three take up a conversation that definitely establishes the convention: they are three tall, differently aged versions of the same woman. While what physicians term a cerebral vascular event (the stroke) could provide a naturalistic “explanation” that we are now inside A’s head, where mnemic signs flow out of control, Albee insists on such an explanation no more than does Beckett. The second act is less a narrative sequel to the first act than its inversion, as the focus shifts from a retrospective A looking backward, to C full of dread, looking forward, with B as a mediator.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Within this clever inversion are divergent perspectives that complicate it. Like so many dramatists dealing in mnemic signs, Albee is determined to engage the dual reality of the self that memory brings home: that we appear to ourselves both synchronous (I am still the person I was then) and successive (I am a different person now). Going Pinter one better, so to speak, Albee gives us three incarnations of his female protagonist. Superficially, A and B have a perspective superior to C, who insists to the audience she won’t become either one of them. Together, the three remember her/their deflowering, about which they mainly agree. When A and B remember getting married, they seek perspective from each other on a marriage eventually fraught with boredom and infidelity, though it initially brought fun and fortune. When they remember having a son, he appears on cue, to remain a speechless presence until the end. Years earlier, The Boy had left home at age twenty-three, driven out by his mother’s intolerance of his hom*osexuality, and has remained completely out of contact.26 He returned only upon word of his mother’s heart attack, when his mother was in her seventies and he in his early forties. The three tall women have different attitudes toward “The Boy.” C is aghast: “Did we . . . drive him away? Did I change so?” (371). B hates him still, even after she learns that “He comes back? He comes back to me—to me? I let him?” (370). But The Boy comes back not aged forty-three but as a twenty-three-year old—when B was fiftytwo, her age “now,” indicating the women are remembering him as he was when he left, not when he returned. The point is telling: The Boy’s leaving froze his mother (B) and him at a self-definitive moment, in which he will always be, via memory, The Boy who left, and she will always be the mother left behind. Mother and son have never fully reconciled (A: “We never . . . reminisce”), but maintain a formal relationship that occasionally allows A to “talk about when he was a little boy” (371). The play ends ironically, with each of the three arguing that now is the happiest moment—at twenty-six, at fifty-two, and at the end of life. But A, sounding Beckettian, has the last word. She welcomes “the waves [that] cause the greatest woes to subside” and faces fearlessly “the point where you can think about yourself in the third person without being crazy.” Like many of Beckett’s characters, but especially, the Listener of That Time, A looks forward to “When it’s all done. When we stop. When we can stop” (384). But then Albee allows A what would be for Beckett an almost unimaginable gesture: she joins hands with her former selves before the blackout. Anxiety over settling and squaring how the parts of a self fit together over time remains the predominant impression left by Three Tall Women. In effect, Albee creates a scene wherein the self aggressively assigns the status of Other to its own aspects. For all its female presence, this scene appears, from a feminist perspective, to be phallocentric in its rigidity, alienation, and hierarchy. Writing against the construction of subjectivity that craves order and progression may be termed écriture féminine, after Hélène Cixous, who is far more relaxed than Albee with the idea of plural subjectivity. “A subject is at least a thousand people. . . . Who can say who I are, how many I are, which I is the most of my I’s?” Cixous (1999, xvii) declares, explicitly challenging both the foundations of conventional psychology and the objectives of the psychoanalytic encounter. In 1976, Cixous dramatized her views in Portrait of Dora, which

Drama of Mnemic Signs 211 interrogates Freudian assumptions about feminine subjectivity and, consequently, memory. Cixous’ play is based on Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (1905), perhaps the most commented on of all Freud’s cases.27 Erikson, Lacan, Cixous, and others took Freud to task for turning “Dora” (Ida Bauer)—the object of sexual advances from a middle-aged friend of the family, Mr. K, when she was fourteen–from victim to perpetrator, for identifying with Mr. K, and for failing to see countertransference operating in his analysis of Dora. The play was shaped by its first director, Simone Benmussa,28 who describes a disjunctive, chiaroscuro, yet fluid performance using projections and shifts of tone by the actors to convey shifts of perspective and different time schemes—techniques for rendering “readable” four levels of the play: of memory, of the real, of the dream, of fantasy (12–13). As with other marvelously complex plays considered herein, Portrait of Dora can only partly be illuminated by the narrow focus of memory studies, and it engages many other concepts key to Cixous, such as love, fidelity, bisexuality, the feminine, sexual difference, and the Other. Yet the play is centrally memorious and cerebral, as Benmussa tried to emphasize in her production: “Every gesture the characters make must call up a memory for the others. It is as if they are thinking each other, not seeing each other” (16). The memories and thoughts of the characters engulf each other intersubjectively, so that we cannot distinguish who is thinking whom. Dora is particularly susceptible to deep identification with others. She identifies with Mrs. K to the point of taking her name when phoning her, and also identifies with the men, even wondering if she isn’t herself Mr. K. This fluidity is enhanced by the way the narrative proceeds. There are flashbacks that run concurrently with the narrative, rather than arresting the narrative, as when a crucial scene from Dora’s memory—at fourteen, she was passionately kissed by Mr. K—is enacted as she is remembering it (32–33). Consequently, to Freud, who like us is seated watching the entire performance, the past time of the experiences narrated merges with the present time(s) of their narration. Similarly, competing versions of events are simultaneously interwoven and, while dream, reality, fantasy, and memory are all legible, one mode of knowing is not privileged over another. Not only this fluid form but also the social and sexual situations of the play put one in mind of Pinter’s dramatization of Proust. The precipitating incident is Dora’s claim that Mr. K made sexual advances to her when she was sixteen, advances she rejected with a slap. This assertion may be a screen memory of the incident two years earlier, when she was kissed by Mr. K, who denies that anything untoward took place. Dora’s father Mr. B and Mr. and Mrs. K all have an interest in belying Dora, for Mr. B. has long been carrying on an affair with Mrs. K. As Freud was a friend of the B family, he supports B’s opinion that Mr. K was incapable of the behavior Dora describes and is disposed to conclude that, whether or not Dora was actually kissed by Mr. K, she was aroused at the thought, punishment for which is evident in her hysterical symptoms (most prominently aphonia). While the different characters thus have different versions of the past at stake for their own reasons (which they share with us/ Freud in the first person), there arises a critical mass of her elders posed insidiously against Dora. Dora’s relationship with Mrs. K, whom she idolizes and with whom at one point she “change[s] places, as if in a ballet” (s. d., 41), may appear to be a happy


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

exception. While certain critics celebrate and idealize the “sexuality as pleasure and joy” (Dobson, 29) of the women’s relationship, what strikes me about these rapturous passages is the poignant infatuation of the fourteen-year-old, her fragile self and sense of betrayal, and the “enigmatic and sinister serenity” (s. d., 40) that suggests a darker, harmful purpose from this older woman, who has both slept with Dora’s father and stolen her affections.29 As in Remembrance of Things Past, the expanding sexual grid (there are also two governesses involved) is both disillusioning and revelatory to the remembering protagonist; in Dora’s case, she musters the courage to terminate the analysis, to Freud’s great distress, realizing that “her portrait as constructed by the others is but the scribblings of their need on her body” (Evans 1982, 69). Evans argues (66–67) that Cixous’ portrait of Dora successfully subverts the pejorative meaning of “hysterical” to admit contradictions (memory/fantasy, dream/reality) that the “sane” world of Freud would banish. Certainly, Dora emerges by the end as a vivacious, if vulnerable, young woman, possessing both an intellectual and a “bodily articulated knowing of the world.”30 Dora dominates the others not only by insisting upon the reality of the clandestine and destructive relationships that swirl about her (To Mr. K: “Do you deny ever having kissed me?” and to Mrs. K: “I know you are having an affair with Papa” [66]) but through her physical presence. She dances, mimics, laughs loudly, overdramatizes, shifts character abruptly, and weaves spells with her voice, variously described as alert, dreamy, shattering, faraway, staccato, as if coming from a great height, and so on. Most characteristically, Dora preserves in her use of language the fluidity and uncertainty of meaning that écriture féminine embraces. Cixous further undermines the possibility of a definitive, singular account of the situation with her device of a commenting Voice of the Play, Hanrahan argues: “By dramatizing the play’s place of enunciation, Cixous avoids the universalizing effect of the narrative standpoint adopted by Freud in his text” (1998, 52). Where does all this leave memory? Individual readers or spectators will decide whether Portrait of Dora manages both to validate Dora’s memory of events that traumatized her and to stake out a claim for a kind of memory that “involves a reflective and creative engagement with the past, a past that is understood to be modified through shifting, emerging capacities for ‘holding’ more valences of self and other representations than was formerly possible” (Haaken, 106). In the play, the engagement includes dream, fantasy, and “hysteria.” Both in Freud’s case history and in the play, Dora’s story ends too soon for us to know whether her remembering is what Haaken calls transformative, referring “to the recollection of an event that serves as a psychological marker from an earlier to a later form of self-knowledge” (14). But when Haaken asserts that transformative remembering entails “the creative use of the past in redefining the self, with emotional and bodily states of arousal serving as motivational impetus for this process of discovery” (15), one can’t help but think of Dora. Further, if Portrait of Dora dramatizes not just her “case” but the paternalistic scene of psychoanalysis (as Dobson 2002, 33, argues), then “Remembering is, most defiantly, understood as transformative in that the most determinative moments of the past resist the sharp outlines imposed by scientific discourse” (Haaken, 104). Or, in the sexually knowing imagery of the play, not just one key opens the door and not just one person may hold or withhold it.

Drama of Mnemic Signs 213 That memory is imbricated with dream and fantasy, impinged upon by the subjectivities of others, and that women are more penalized than men for admitting such possibilities is forcefully argued in the feminist epistemology of Sue Campbell and in the feminist psychology of Haaken, Irigaray, Chodorow, and many others. That such motifs also receive intriguing dramatic expression at the hands of Cixous/ Benmussa, Maria Irene Fornes, Adrienne Kennedy, Paula Vogel, and Suzan-Lori Parks suggests that a category of “women’s memory plays” (what Vogel hilariously calls “mammary plays”) may be noticed here, without making claims for a formal cause based exclusively in sexual or gendered difference. Though women’s experiences frequently differ from men’s, and men and women display different cognitive patterns, including differences in memory, based on differences in brain development and social conditioning,31 both immense male/female similarities and the free and freeing nature of dramatic form suggest the porosity of such borders. Even so, that female brains have more connections between the two hemispheres than male brains32 might provide a physiological basis for the idea, supported by the evidence of female-authored memory plays, that women’s memories are more accommodating of social stimulus and more fluidly linked to imagination. If Albee is anxious about and Cixous more tolerant of the possibility that the parts of oneself may not make up a centered whole, in The Danube (1982–1984), Fornes explores the darker side of the Halbwachsian notion that in some deep sense, our memories are not our own, but dictated to us under social and political pressure. Fornes, William Gruber (1993) has suggested, creates a new type of character that is communal rather than individuated. Though she does not discuss the play, Jeanette Malkin’s depiction of postmodern memory as not self-sourced, but making its appearance “as though emanating from a culturally determined collective subconscious” (8) well describes The Danube. In the play, set in an unhistoricized Budapest, many lines are audiotaped in English, then Hungarian, and then spoken live by characters unaware that they are repeating anything, in order to underline the “characters’ lack of autonomy” (Gruber, 181). The dialogue echoes the rhythms, phraseology, and mundanity of a language lesson. Where the memory plays of Cixous and Adrienne Kennedy are oneiric in suggesting that, since memory registers unconsciously all the time, the freeform construction of memory in dream is not confined to the dream state, Fornes’ “play of echoes” (183) is robotic, sci-fi and puppet-like, oddly evoking all at once Six Characters, The Bald Soprano, and the disembodied voice of Hal the computer in 2001. Written in the early Reagan years, the play is a Cold War parable of nuclear holocaust. When in scene 6, one of the characters falls ill, it signals a spreading sickness accompanied by puffs of smoke from the stage floor and registered in contortions that become more extreme among the characters as the action advances. As the signs of radiation multiply, the characters put on goggles, their clothes are covered with ash, their skin becomes blotched. The language tapes play on. All this culminates in scene 13, where the live actors operate puppets of themselves repeating scene 12 word for word. Then scene 14 is performed by the puppets, only to be repeated by the live actors prior to an added coda and a flash of bright light ending the play. The society destroyed is thus one in which, as Gruber (183) has noted, all distinctions between original and copy have already been obliterated.33


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

The Danube is chilling not only because it is about nuclear war “but because the replays and repetitions enact a life that looks dead because it is never more than a memory, a trace, or a dream” (185). There is some unarticulated, noncausal, but palpable link between the nuclear holocaust that engulfs the characters and their utter lack of awareness that they are awash in a river of traces, engrams, mnemic signs giving off a destructive and undetectable “mnemic energy”34 like irradiation. The scripted language tapes and repetitions also suggest a dying neural network, in which the new connections needed to deal with changing reality cannot be made. Abandoning the primal family scene of psychoanalysis, Fornes installs decaying and intersubjective character in “its ancient public context,” Gruber (193) suggests. The Danube is choric, oracular, and engaged with civic issues, even though its characters are oblivious and thus precluded from the transformative remembering Aristotle called anagnorisis. In the dramas of mnemic signs we have been considering the playwright herself or himself is prominently a part of the memory frame. Indeed, the writing of the play, while not necessarily autobiographical in content, is evidence for a memorious consciousness that may elude its characters. In the case of Adrienne Kennedy, however, the mnemonic presentation is not just framed by but centered in the writing process, and autobiographical content fills her work. Further, her nonlinear, disjunctive, and ruminescent style is constant across media, so that stage play, radio play, monologue, novel, diary, and memoir are sometimes indistinguishable, but always memorious. For Kennedy, as for Bernard Baars (42), the spotlight of consciousness (in her case operated by the writer) illuminates the stage of memory, while other parts of the “theater of consciousness” remain partly or wholly in the dark. One gets the feeling from her work that consciousness is a production of will exerted upon memory and thus an ongoing accomplishment. The Alexander Plays, which take their name from their protagonist Suzanne Alexander, a stand-in for Kennedy, draw on Kennedy’s trip to Africa with her husband (She Talks to Beethoven), Kennedy’s enthusiasm for film (The Film Club and Dramatic Circle), and her student years at Ohio State University (The Ohio State Murders). Onto these autobiographical situations she grafts totally fictionalized events (the disappearance of Suzanne’s husband, the murder of her children) representing Kennedy’s inner turmoil and anxiety. Similarly, Sleep Deprivation Chamber is based on a traumatizing encounter between Kennedy’s son Adam and the police, while June and Jean in Concert remembers and reinvents hurtful family history. In all of these plays Kennedy is interested as much in how memories are made as in their memorial content. And in all these plays Kennedy is haunted, often literally, by “the narrative structures of white, male-dominated culture,”35 which she repeats, resists, and reinvents. In She Talks to Beethoven (1989) Suzanne writes in a shuttered room in Accra, Ghana, 1961. She pauses to read excerpts from diaries about the circ*mstances leading to Beethoven’s composition of Fidelio; hears her missing husband David’s recorded voice on the radio reading from Frantz Fanon; and is visited by Beethoven. His music alternates with Ghanaian string music, and Kennedy specifies the music selections should equal the length of the spoken text (4). We learn that her husband may have been murdered for political reasons, and that David and she had argued over

Drama of Mnemic Signs 215 Beethoven and the play she was writing about him—David wanting a scene in which Beethoven argued over money. Beethoven and Suzanne chat domestically, and they embrace. Suzanne’s room opens out onto Beethoven’s, and they converse with each other across time, space, and cultures. Her arm has been recently operated on, and her disability and Beethoven’s deafness make for a bond between them. When Suzanne discovers David’s writing in Beethoven’s conversation books, we begin to understand that Beethoven is a version of David. The identity is complete at the end when, after the light fades on Beethoven conducting Fidelio, Suzanne hears “DAVID’S VOICE: (Not unlike Beethoven’s.) I knew he would console you while I was absent” (23). The play’s sophisticated soundscape may put one in mind of Beckett’s Words and Music (1962), though it more obviously and deliberately evokes Fidelio as the story of a woman whose faith somehow frees her husband (Kolin 2005, 123–125). The encounter with Beethoven conjured by Suzanne is, in effect, a successful attempt to recall David, who is associated with emergent Africa. But since Beethoven also represents Kennedy, he is a memory of the white, male artistic inspiration Kennedy must both acknowledge and supplant, even as this play is her own version of Fidelio. Film Club (1990) is a monologue by Suzanne Alexander, and Dramatic Circle (1991) is a radio play. Both cover some of the same time period as She Talks to Beethoven and they also refer to characters we meet or hear about in The Ohio State Murders, though Kennedy is not interested in reconciling these various accounts. Film Club feels like a reverie: “Often when I’m despondent, I watch Bette Davis’s movies. Yesterday I started to make a list of them. While I wrote I found myself remembering when my husband, David, was detained in West Africa the winter of 1961” (66). She also remembers David’s sister Alice, who used to create acting scripts from old Bette Davis movies: “I looked at one of Alice’s movies today. In remembrance” (67). Alice’s death “last week” has triggered these memories, which thus revisit events from the perspective of thirty years later. Now, David’s return is not suffused with the heroic optimism of Fidelio, but the bloody-mindedness of Dracula, acted out by the theatrical group Suzanne belongs to, led by a mysterious Dr. Freudenberger. Though David returns, as he did in She Talks to Beethoven, we learn that he has been poisoned; the end of the monologue is dominated by dark excerpts from Bram Stoker and Frantz Fanon. Does the joking reference to the mysterious Dr. Freudenberger suggest that the account of David’s return in Beethoven was a screen memory hiding the more difficult account Suzanne is now able to recall? Dramatic Circle dramatizes the events of the previous monologue, but Alice is now the Narrator, who tells us that Suzanne is suffering from breathlessness, sleepwalking, and delirium. These symptoms, which resemble those David saw in tortured soldiers when he was traveling in West Africa with Fanon, were the reasons she consulted Dr. Freudenberger and joined his theatrical group. The Dracula reading now includes an account of a child who has been bitten, which we associate with the child we know Suzanne will lose. But when Freudenberger appears as a white-haired apparition in the garden, and it turns out that he is something of a protective angel for Suzanne, we recognize his kinship with Beethoven and hence with David, for when David returns his hair has turned white and he looks like the apparition of Freudenberger. These two quasi-dramatic sketches feel less like memories than mnemonics— jottings to cue memories. They are less memorious than The Ohio State Murders


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

(1992), which revisits Suzanne and David Alexander, moving back and forth between the present and 1949–1952. In the present, the writer has returned to her alma mater OSU to give a lecture on violence in her work, and the play takes place in the library, classroom, offices, and adjoining housing. Library stacks dominate the set. Direct audience address punctuates flashbacks, and the older Suzanne shares the stage with her younger counterpart, though they do not interact. The older Suzanne offers commentary that interrupts the scenes happening in the past. The campus strikes her as “a series of disparate dark landscapes just as it had in 1949” (27). She remembers black students not being encouraged to take English courses on the grounds they couldn’t master the program (30) and she fills in vignettes of campus life for the dozen Negro women enrolled, rehearsing in her mind the topography of the campus and environs—the blocks where Negroes couldn’t walk, the ravine where her murdered child was found. This last detail, as is Kennedy’s wont, is revealed casually, almost glancingly, and free of melodrama. As with the other Alexander plays, the memory scene is as much literary as social. Here passages from Tess of the D’Urbervilles parallel, in their passion and violence, the personal story of the Alexanders. When Professor Hampshire lectures “Hardy absorbs Tess’s personal situation into a vast system of causation” (32), we realize this is Kennedy’s strategy, too. Similarly allusive to the violence that will befall Suzanne is an account of seeing Battleship Potemkin, with its endangered child in the Odessa Steps sequence. Laconically, she reveals her affair with Hampshire and the resulting pregnancy: “I became pregnant the following Christmas, 1950. . . . I had come back to Columbus and spent two days with Bobby [i.e., Professor Hampshire] above the ravine” (41). She is expelled for her pregnancy, the dorm monitor having seen her diaries and “the maps I had made likening my stay here to that of Tess’s life at the Vale of Blackmoor” (43). Almost studiedly, the retrospective narrative proceeds in jerks and starts, doubling back on itself. We learn of Suzanne’s pregnancy and delivery of twins before the details of her relationship with Hampshire are filled in, and the account of her student life is intermixed with the period after she had the twins in New York and brought them back to Columbus. Upon her return, she goes to hear a Hampshire lecture on King Arthur titled “Arthur Vows Revenge” (48). Another violent excerpt is read, immediately after which young Suzanne reveals her conviction that “Near the beginning of March, Robert Hampshire kidnapped and murdered our daughter. She was the one called Cathi. He drowned her in the ravine” (49). But the surety of this statement is immediately undermined: the police are convinced the murderer was a man called Thurman, who was a convict and seen on campus posing as a student; Suzanne reveals she considered enlisting Hampshire’s help in finding the murderer; then she says she suspects a band of teasing women students. She goes again to hear Hampshire lecture on King Arthur. The theme is the abyss, and the “abyss of water” (56), into which Arthur’s sword is thrown, symbolizes both the ravine where Cathi was drowned and the “disparate dark landscapes” of Suzanne’s memory. Then, the abyss opens again and swallows her other child Carol, who is stabbed by Hampshire in her rooming house. He also kills himself. But this “true” story is not the one known to the public: in the play’s final speech the older Suzanne reveals that Hampshire’s father and her father conspired to keep it a secret, in which the university readily complied.

Drama of Mnemic Signs 217 Is this last revelation what really happened? The play discourages the question, for Kennedy’s interest is not in the veridicality of memory but its eidetic features and its metamorphosis into a story. The play’s studied allusiveness diminishes the rawness associated with traumatic or recovered memory, just as its fractured narrativity undermines the finishedness of remembered actuality. But Kennedy has caught memory “on the wing,” in its quasi-narrative state of becoming. Here and elsewhere, Kennedy’s work tracks feature by feature with Casey’s phenomenology (23–47): the elusive and fluctuating sense of self in the memory, sometimes primary sometimes subordinate; the feeling of visual montage, and silence; the quasi-linear structure of the remembrance and the simultaneous pastness and present of the remembering; a specific emotional tonality blended with a general one of reverie or ruminescence; the manifestation of both search and display phases; the fluctuation between actuality (finished remembering) and virtuality (readiness for remembering); schematicalness (a memory that is sketchy but not indistinct); and the sense that the remembering narrator is not certain where the story is going. This last feature, which Casey sees as distinguishing remembering from straight story-telling, is manifest in the framing device of Suzanne rehearsing a speech on the source of violence in her work, which eventuates in a deeply personal disclosure, her “speak[ing] publicly of my dead daughters” for the first time (62). Sleep Deprivation Chamber (1996), which Kennedy coauthored with her son Adam P. Kennedy, continues the powerful autobiographical vector of her work, though it departs even more radically from linear narration. Based on an actual incident in which Kennedy’s son was beaten and arrested by a racist police officer in front of his father’s home (he was pulled over for a burned-out taillight), the play incorporates literary allusions to Hamlet, a college production of which “Suzanne’s” son “Teddy” is rehearsing. As with the Alexander plays, it foregrounds Suzanne writing and narrating—this time, though, what she narrates veers between apparently factual accounts of the incident and “Dream Sequences,” so noted in the text. Suzanne’s son and the Hamlet actors act out these sequences; sometimes they are clearly demarcated (“Light on Teddy. He remembers as Suzanne writes” [8]),36 but sometimes it is not clear if we are in memory or dream, or even who may be remembering or dreaming. A documentary component, in which the dialogue feels as if it comes from transcripts of depositions, increases as the story proceeds to the trial, and the play begins to look more conventional: a melodrama dressed in poetic allusions to Hamlet and wispy, dream memories. Strikingly, the play ends, after the dismissal of the charge against Teddy, with the family watching a dim videotape of the beating, inescapably evoking the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles four years earlier. Manifestly, Kennedy’s memory of the whole episode is like a sleep deprivation chamber, a representation of a “where” and “when” that do not extend but envelope, in which past/present, dream/reality are indistinguishable, and where the spotlight of consciousness flickers uncertainly. Like Adrienne Kennedy, Sam Shepard benefited both from early productions by Albee’s Playwright’s Unit in the mid-1960s and from the adventuresome Off-OffBroadway scene in general. Both, too, early on explored ways to convey the workings of a writer’s consciousness and sought a solution in a jazz-inspired, musical collage technique (Bottoms 1998, 27–38). Unlike Kennedy, however, Shepard has largely abandoned his early, most experimental dramaturgy or, perhaps more accurately,


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

has retrofitted it with a savage, ironic, and unstable naturalism. This stylistic shift causes Malkin, in her book on postmodern memory plays, to reject consideration of Shepard’s later plays where memory becomes increasingly important because they “abandon . . . a postmodern dramatic aesthetic” (116). Whether one accepts this division or not, memory figures significantly in Buried Child (1978), Fool for Love (1983), A Lie of the Mind (1985), When the World Was Green (1996), and The Late Henry Moss (2000). Of these, A Lie of the Mind stands out as a focus memorius for Shepard’s longstanding preoccupations with the American past, with family history, and with consciousness itself. Shepard has said that “the idea of consciousness” is “the single most important idea” (quoted in Bigsby 2000, 177) that connects his early hallucinogenic work to his later work. He has called memory an “inner library” and likened the act of writing to “the method-acting technique called ‘recall’” (Shepard 1981, in Marranca, 215). In 1996 he observed to an interviewer “The past is a memory. I mean, what is the past? Of course, as you grow older, the past looms a lot larger. . . . [N]ow it becomes important to me to understand the way my stuff is interconnected, the way it’s the result of the past. I’m beginning to understand that I’m the direct product of something wild and woolly” (Coen 1996, 28). Though one can find evidence of these preoccupations throughout the Shepard canon, prior to A Lie of the Mind they come together provocatively in Fool for Love and Buried Child. In Fool for Love the motel room on the edge of the Mojave desert is both a compression chamber for the American past and a “motel of the mind,” in Felicia Londré’s phrase (1993, 215), where one character exists only as a mental construct. In Buried Child, to quote Carol Rosen (2004, 155), “the family stories, secrets, and memorabilia are demystified, purged of their power to hold people together. . . . The yearning to unearth the past, to belong to some place, to recognize the self behind the face, dr[ives] Vince to that vision-in-the-windshield of himself disappearing into all that possessed him.” In that speech, Vince is explaining why he has decided to return to claim his inheritance. As he was fleeing the night before toward the Iowa border, he saw his face reflected in the windshield, but it was “As though I was looking at another man. As though I could see his whole race behind him. . . . And then his face changed. His face became his father’s face. Same bones. Same eyes. Same nose. Same breath. And his father’s face changed to his Grandfather’s face. And it went on like that. Changing. Clear on back to faces I’d never seen before but still recognized. Still recognized the bones underneath.”37 Vince’s mental image immediately takes bodily form in the child Tilden unearths, incarnating one of the play’s key questions: how can one remember the past without being buried in it? I agree with Stephen J. Bottoms (176) that the characters have no answer for this, and instead retreat into nostalgia or denial. While in Buried Child Shepard is consumed with the construction and contradiction of myth structures, in A Lie of the Mind the relationship of individual memory to American history, and to the collective memory enforced in the domains of “manhood” and family, is centrally significant. In one line of the plot, Beth, who has been so profoundly beaten by her husband Jake that she is brain-injured and amnesiac, struggles to reclaim her memory, including the memory of her love for her abusive husband. In another line of plot, Jake attempts to recover and rehabilitate the memory of his war-hero father, whose fiery death in a drunk-driving accident Jake has forgotten. The plotlines converge as Jake, literally wrapped in the flag, and his distinctly

Drama of Mnemic Signs 219 saner brother Frankie travel separately from Southern California to Beth’s home in Montana, where the men in her family mete out their revenge. Paralleling these lines, Jake’s mother Lorraine and sister Sally embark upon what most would consider a healthy forgetting, an attempt to disencumber themselves from male-dominated memories that are interleaved with an Old West mythology fraught with violence. The many references to “brain,” “mind,” “head,” and “skull” in A Lie of the Mind never permit us to lose sight of the physiology of mentation. Brain-injured Beth is the focal point for this theme, as she tears at the bandages around her head, shows Frankie a nonexistent scar and claims they took her brain out. She tries to insist that her brain, her consciousness, her identity, and her loving memory of Jake are all one: “Nobody stop my head. My head is me. Heez in me” (19).38 Jake carries the theme almost as intensely. His mother Lorraine says he was dropped on his head as a child (22); he insists that his wife’s imagined adultery is not “all in my head” (8); and he falls to the ground during a conversation with Frankie, victim of a dizzy spell—this just after Frankie reminds him of his brutal attack on their pet goat (13). Beth’s memory loss is only the most severe; virtually every character is engaged in a dance of remembering and forgetting. “In A Lie of the Mind the role of historian is splintered so that each member of each family remembers some aspect of family behavior and history, though some can’t remember whether events happened to them or others” (Kane 2002, 148). Lorraine says she doesn’t remember Beth (22). Meg claims not to remember Jake’s wedding or even that he is married to Beth (28–29). Jake has blotted out all memory of his father’s death in a fiery truck crash, the result of a binge he and his father went on (64). Most disorienting and disturbing, as Beth’s memory returns, she appears to mistake Frankie for Jake: “I—I live inside this. Remember. Remembering,” she says to Frankie, “You. You—were one. I know you. I know—love. I know what love is. I can never forget. That. Never” (57). Subsequently, Beth comes to distinguish Frankie from Jake, when Mike drags him on, tethered with the American flag, but it is unclear where her affections ultimately lie. Late in the play, Beth enters in a bizarre outfit to declare she will marry Frankie (111), only to be confronted later by Jake, who relinquishes her and gently declares his enduring love, evoking the following final speech from her: “I remember now. The first time I saw you. The very first time I ever saw you. Do you remember that too?” (129). The question goes unanswered. Despite the ambiguity over Beth’s state of mind, it is clear that her amnesia is metonymic of the family’s fractured collective memory, itself signifying cultural and historical amnesia. The setting of the play symbolizes both the American West and a fluid, gappy consciousness, both the lay of the land and the lie of the mind. Realistically, we know that Beth’s family has a ranch in Billings, Montana, and that Jake’s people are Okies from Southern California. Also, in the stage directions Shepard insists that the play requires live music “with an American backbone,” thereby identifying the American imaginary as the particular “lie” of the play—lie understood as the specific physical environment of an object, as when we use the word to describe the resting place of a golf ball that will affect the ease or difficulty of putting it into play. On the other hand, time and place are left deliberately vague. The set consists of partially constructed rooms in different locales surrounded by voids of darkness.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Walls do not separate one place from another and sometimes we see simultaneously what is happening in California and Montana. When in the final scene, Lorraine lights a fire to burn family memorabilia, it is mysteriously visible to Meg 1500 miles away. In moments of deliverance, perhaps, we can see from a point of view inside the head of another, as if sharing a brain. Brain-damaged subjects have historically been the source of new knowledge on the “lie of the mind,” but Shepard had more than an intellectual interest in this subject, as he had just collaborated with Joe Chaikin, recently rendered aphasic by a stroke (Bottoms, 227). For most of the twentieth century, neuroscientists collected and interpreted data from brain-impaired patients that modeled the brain according to principles of localization and modularity. For example, neurologists and anatomists such as Wernicke and Broca lent their names to areas of the brain that appeared to control different facets of speech production and comprehension. According to this model of the brain, Beth in A Lie of the Mind would be diagnosed with injury to Broca’s area, because her speech is telegraphic and dominated by content words, while her Wernicke’s area is apparently unharmed, as she has no impairment in comprehension. But new research spurred by Roger Sperry’s work on brain hemispheres encouraged a reinterpretation of earlier studies of brain-damaged patients and inspired a reconception of the brain’s procedures, in which context (i.e., the life-world environment) and connectionism replaced localization and modularity as explanatory models. As Israel Rosenfield explained it in The Invention of Memory: A New View of the Brain (1988) and The Strange, Familiar, and Forgotten: An Anatomy of Consciousness (1992), the basic notion that memory entails the matching of “new” perceptions with stored images had not been previously questioned, causing localization theories to take hold at the expense of an idea of memory as a procedure engaging the whole brain. The new theory held that recollection is a kind of perception, “and that therefore every context will alter the nature of what is recalled” (Rosenfield 1988, 89). As we have seen, the theory recasts the memory trace as a map rather than a stored item, and sees memory as a procedure of continuous categorization causing the brain constantly to reorganize itself. By this theory, Beth’s altered speech patterns are evidence of her brain’s holistic reorganization to compensate for her injury and heal itself. The analogical construction of A Lie of the Mind, then, depicts an American panorama in which personal, collective, and national identities interpenetrate one another like a vast neural network, in which mnemic signs are distributed in parallel fashion along multiple pathways. In line with both evolutionary and neuroanatomical theory, Shepard suggests that we know who we are through context (history and the lay of the land) and connectionism (the lie of the mind). The dynamics of memory, history, and self-formation are, I believe, condensed in the play’s gnomic title. In the most obvious but by no means superficial sense, the title refers to Beth’s mental state: the mind is hers and the lie is her self-deception that her love for Jake can survive the violence he has perpetrated upon her. The same lie occupies Jake’s mind. But the mind is also America’s, and the lie is the myth we have constructed to erase from our memory the violence by which we got to be who we are, as Beth tries to forget the violence she suffered and remember the first time she saw Jake, and as Jake claims to have forgotten that he “kicked the sh*t out of ” the family goat. In the imagery of the play, the myth is the lie of those who wrap themselves in the flag, who inhabit an America that may never have existed anywhere but in their, our, minds. “Lie” also bears the

Drama of Mnemic Signs 221 connotation of recumbency and flatness, and Felicia Londré (1993, 220) has noticed the high number of reclining figures in the play. I suspect that Shepard, like Fornes writing at the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s second term, was registering a sort of lethargy or national prostration, an unwillingness to rouse ourselves. A lie also means the haunt or covert of an animal. Beth’s uncertainty over whether her brain “iz hiding in there,” that is, in her skull, thus suggests that her identity has found a place to hide while her brain heals. But Shepard’s title also suggests that the American myth is the place where we hide out: the lie may be of the mind, but the mind is also positioned defensively in the camouflage39 of the American lie. This does not feel like the nostalgia for a machismo-saturated American past Shepard has been accused of. To my thinking, Shepard has always kept an ironic perspective on his own cowboy mouthings. Certainly, the complex ending of A Lie of the Mind demands a response that rejects the simplifying effects of nostalgia. In the end, as when brain-damaged patients reorient themselves by rerouting brain functions through different circuitry, Beth manages to restore a part of herself not by taking Jake back but by transferring her affection ambiguously to his brother Frankie. Jake’s reach for his father’s memory has gone no farther than a sort of burial ritual in which he covers himself with his father’s medals and wraps himself in the flag, which he is stripped of before he exits the play. Lorraine and Sally set fire to the paraphernalia of the men in their lives, destroying one myth even as they pour over maps of Ireland to find their ancestral town and seeking a new myth to replace the one they are burning. Beth’s parents Baylor and Meg meticulously fold the flag according to the proper protocol, and he kisses her for the first time in twenty years. What are we to make of all this? Like Beth, Americans have tried to reconstruct a battered myth with a degraded set of mnemic signs, such as the postcard memory of staged “Frontier Days” burned along with other trashy memorabilia by Lorraine; Baylor’s laughable proclamation that hunting is an art or “way a’ life” (103); the failed Okie dream Jake’s family harbored of a new start in California; the flag itself; and Jake’s juvenile idealization (model airplanes hang in his room) of his father’s World War II heroism. It is not for any of these that Shepard is nostalgic. Rather, he sees American memory as procedural, engaged in an ongoing attempt to rebuild consciousness in the face of trauma—to heal itself. Shepard holds out the possibility that we will remember how to fold the flag properly, which I take to mean the hope that we can reenter a time (if it ever existed) when American identity and individual identity were somehow neatly folded in with each other, “stars on the outside and all the stripes tucked in” (130), as Baylor says. In the most optimistic reading, Beth’s transfer of affection to Frankie is transformative in that, though it incorporates elements of fantasy, it helps a traumatized individual from one level of knowledge to another, and the stripping of the flag from Jake neutralizes its fetishistic power. In such a reading, the journey of the play is from a male consciousness idealizing rugged individualism to a manifold, interconnected, female one (Bottoms, 16–18 and 242–242; Haaken 2005, 13; and Rosen, 169–170). *




Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

CONNECTIONISM ASCENDANT Rethinking memory as a constructive, whole-brain procedure, rather than a passive storage unit, has indirectly provided a new foundation for the concept of selfhood. That the integrity of self may be inferred from the compensation of brain-damaged patients to repair gaps and discontinuities resulting from their injuries; that selfalienating syndromes accompanied by anesthesias and amnesias are recognized as pathologies diverging from a norm; and that access to memory meaningfully identifiable as one’s own implies something like the existence of an “empirical” self—such points have been argued by William James, Oliver Sacks, and Bernard J. Baars, among others.40 Though they differ on the fine points of neurobiology, Edelman and Antonio Damasio (1994) posit a neural self that negotiates between external contexts and the autobiography inscribed on an individual’s cerebral connections. In the following chapter, I will describe further how playwrights construct selfhood through frameworks of memory that are not just neural but also social, political, and historical. Here, two final examples will serve to demonstrate how the drama has represented the workings of memory inside what Damasio (223) has called “the body-minded brain.” Were this book to engage memographers working with the moving image, Dennis Potter might hold pride of place, for “memory is a thread that runs through, indeed structures the majority” (Lippard 2000, 122) of his more than forty teleplays and screenplays. But only one of his plays, Sufficient Carbohydrate, was originally written for the stage; fewer than a handful have been adapted for live theatre, and these do not include his most interesting memory teleplays, the six-part The Singing Detective and the paired series, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus. That a burgeoning bibliography covers his work may excuse the short shrift he is given here. Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, however, merit attention for their likely influence on that capstone of twentiethcentury memory drama, the Theatre de Complicite’s Mnemonic (1999). Like Potter’s masterwork The Singing Detective (1986), a work of Proustian and Joycean complexity, the story of Karaoke and Cold Lazarus (both 1994) coincides with so much of Potter’s autobiography (his skin disorder and pancreatic cancer, his profession, his childhood era, and experience of sexual abuse) that the main character Daniel Feeld seems both a conscious rememberer writing and an unconscious one written upon, both composing and composed of mnemic signs. The series form the excruciating, heroic, and worthy coda to Potter’s career: he wrote them both in two months of obsessive work as he was dying of pancreatic cancer, a period during which his wife was dying of breast cancer. With an extraordinary cast featuring Albert Finney as Feeld, Julie Christie, Diane Ladd, and Ciaran Hinds, the two series aired in 1996 to uncomprehending and, I would judge, unconscionably mixed-to-poor reviews (Carpenter 1998, 584–588). Superficially, Karaoke repeats many of the motifs and devices of The Singing Detective, notably an ailing protagonist writing a story in his head that intersects with his life; a noirish murder plot; a penchant for linking sexual memories with violent death; and segues employing the lip-synching of pop music. Like the language tapes of The Danube, the commanding metaphor of karaoke serves Potter’s Feeld (I suspect the pun is deliberate) for the way in which “the song or the story of our lives is

Drama of Mnemic Signs 223 sort of already made up for us” (95), but it also conveys the feeling that memory is both alienated from a remembering subject yet somehow programs the subject. What Feeld says will be his next project takes alienation a step further: “I want to write about cryogenics. Want to write about a frozen head, Ben [his agent]. A deeply frozen brain iced-up with frozen memories” (107). And that is ostensibly the subject of Cold Lazarus, which centers on a cadre of researchers in the year 2368 attempting to recapture the memories of Feeld, whose head has been frozen upon his death. (The medical solution to recovering the memories involves the intracranial infusion of neuropeptides.) In Potter’s Baudrillardian vision of a completely mediated future, memories providing access to an authentic past experience are commercially valuable, so research has been privatized and is controlled on short purse strings by the plutocrat Martina Masdon from Beverly Hills. Opposing such experiments and their exploitation are the RONs (Reality or Nothings), a Luddite-like band of guerillas. Potter thus has a good premise for his characters to speculate with some demonstrated scientific authority about the nature of memory. Emma Porlock, the Principal Investigator, conducts experiments to convert Feeld’s memories into images that can either be broadcast or downloaded to a personalized projection unit. Potter puts into the mouth of Luanda, a sort of medical ethicist, observations about the relationship of memory, imagination, and self-construction, occasioned by a discussion about the degree of awareness the cryogenized Feeld may experience. Luanda justifies further experimentation on the grounds that Feeld has no awareness, and hence no identity, basing her argument on the kinship of memory and dream: “Feeld . . . is not any more aware that he has a partly functioning brain than a dreamer is that he is asleep” (226). “I know very well as a cortexbiochemist,” she lectures the others, “who has been working at the deepest levels of nanotechnology applied to injured brain cells, that much memory most of the time is involuntary. We don’t summon it up, so to speak. It, the memory, beckons to us” (227, emphasis Potter’s). Studying Feeld’s memories projected onto a huge computer screen, Emma and Luanda observe that while fear or sex can be localized to certain parts of the brain “memory is held by differing groups of cells in a way that suggests ‘memory’ itself cannot be located as such” and “‘memory,’ in quotes, escapes this labeling” (238, emphasis Potter’s). Potter knows his connectionism. By the end of the first part, Potter has not only established the premise for Cold Lazarus, he has explained the principles of what I have here called the drama of mnemic signs. In the following three parts, the ability of the researchers to sort out the evidence of Daniel’s memory—what is real and what distorted—is devilishly and comically complicated by the fact that Daniel has an identical twin brother Chris. So when Daniel is remembering Chris, that is, seeing him from the rememberer’s, Daniel’s, viewpoint (a field memory) such a memory is almost impossible to distinguish from an observer memory of Daniel himself (a “Feeld” memory). Furthermore, as the researchers discover that Feeld was a writer, it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish his memories from what he made up. At the climax, Feeld’s brain blends a memory of young Daniel stumbling into a chapel after being raped, with a scene from Karaoke and a memory of his hospitalization. The researchers gloss this for us: “That scene mixed up his meeting a girl who was at his deathbed with the girl he had been due to marry, and with a hom*osexual


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

assault Daniel had endured as a boy” (370). “And with what seems to me,” a researcher comments, “to be a lot of self-hatred—or certainly a sense of unworthiness. He must have been difficult to know or to like if that is what he felt about himself.” Another adds: “And of course he was disguising his own condition from himself by the fact that he was a writer” (370). These coldly clinical observations, mockingly turned by Potter against himself, clash with the agonies we know Feeld and Potter faced, and one of the scientists thus may speak for us before mercifully destroying the head and putting Potter’s Feeld to rest: “We are his torturers” (377). The exploded head leaves in its wake a trickle of childhood memories leading to the image of an angelic child and Feeld’s triumphant cry of release: “Ye-e-e-e-e-es! Ye-e-e-e-e-es! Ye-e-e-e-e-es! Ye-ee-e-e-es!” (392). Potter was as adventurous in dealing with memory as any contemporary playwright working for the stage. His closest theatrical counterpart, in terms of commitment to push the boundaries of the medium and a fascination for the neuroanatomy of memory, is Mnemonic, conceived and directed by Simon McBurney. Doubtless, McBurney knew Potter’s work intimately, as he appeared in the last film made from a Potter screenplay, Mesmer (1994). Furthermore, not only does Mnemonic manage multiple, interpenetrating narratives, but characters and even props slip easily from one sphere to another or metamorphose before our eyes. Finally, like, Cold Lazarus, it posits a brain as a metonym for connection among people widely dispersed in time and space. Onto a stage empty but for a front cloth and a downstage stone, steps the deviser and director Simon McBurney, who addresses the audience with a straightforward exposition of the new concepts of memory, emphasizing remapping of patterns, connectionism (“these connections are being made and remade. Constantly”) and how the developing of new synaptic connections (which he terms “sprouting”) is an “act of imagination” (3–4).41 Then Simon proceeds to demonstrate remapping with a chain of associations, letting memory take him where it will, from his father, to a cab ride, to a chair, and back to the brain and its mechanisms. This is mixed with a vaudevillian turn as the chair collapses, which he identifies as a mnemonic (6). An audience participation episode follows, in which the audience members put on a blindfold and finger a leaf provided on each chair. The ribs of the leaf represent lines of generation leading to each audience member and demonstrating that, if you go back far enough, everyone is related to everyone else (7). Since he has told us at the outset “this show . . . is as much about origins as it is about memory” (3), we readily understand that putting back together or reconstructing human origins is an act of remembering, and the leaf is a mnemonic for what we share. In personalizing the idea by asking each audience member to imagine his/her own line of descent (“now look back again and behind your grandparents are their parents” [7]), he recalls Vince’s vision from A Lie of the Mind. As it turns out, like Shepard’s, McBurney’s connectionism includes nationality, with the initials E. U. replacing U. S. A. With the first of the Open Theater–style metamorphoses that will characterize the production idiom, in a blackout Simon’s live voice morphs undetectably into a recorded voice, which Simon—now named Virgil and presumed to be an audience member—hears. Virgil then receives a cell phone call and proceeds to narrate to the caller what we have all just seen and heard (the leaf, etc.), as if he has just seen and

Drama of Mnemic Signs 225 heard it. But his call itself soon becomes that which Virgil now “receives,” as his live phone voice becomes recorded, again undetectably: “He is no longer talking on the phone. He is listening. As if he is remembering it” (s. d., 10). In a stroke, McBurney has demonstrated reentry, how we both make and are made by our memories in endless reciprocity. Though the audience may not initially “get” this, the ensuing barrage of cell phone calls, recorded messages repeated and deleted, TV channel surfing, and press conferences convey another idea that is canonical to new memory theory: memory is the constant recategorization that helps us sort the chaos. This seemingly “abstract” prologue begins to focus emotionally on a personal crisis for Virgil, whose girlfriend Alice left him with a phone message: “You have to wait now and this time you follow me” (14), presumably an allusion to Virgil’s role of guide in The Divine Comedy, reversed. Virgil’s remembering the details leading to the disappearance of Alice (she left to go to her mother’s funeral and never returned) is intermixed with the discovery of a body in the Alps determined to be that of an ice age man. These episodes are predominantly voiceovers, as what we largely see is Virgil in his room trying to sleep, so the effect is always ruminative, dreamlike, a mix of memory and imagination (“He is caught between two worlds”—s. d., 17). In a marvelous sequence of transformations, the pieces of the broken chair are arranged to represent the skeletal frame of the found body. Then, when the body is “dehumanized by becoming public property” (s. d., 30) it is reassembled into the chair. Virgil is and is not in the midst of the scientific and political conflicts over the Iceman, smoking in his room and sometimes interacting and sometimes becoming himself the body of the Iceman, with tattoos projected and then drawn on him. In the course of the action, the downstage stone, which triggers memories when Virgil touches it, becomes the Alpine peak and thus another mnemonic for origins. Alice finally recontacts Virgil by phone and explains that after her mother’s funeral she went on a quest to find her father, whom her mother had always said was dead. All she has of him is an old broken watch. Like the broken stick found on the Iceman, it is a memory trace, one of many fragments that, like the skeleton, must be put together to make sense of. Her purse is stolen in East Berlin. The watch, when it drops from her bed in a hotel room, serves as a mnemonic of a cab ride with an immigrant driver, itself a mnemonic of a snippet of a scene from earlier in the play and also recalling Simon’s brief mention of his cab ride at the outset. In episodes like this, the dramaturgy is as close to that of Dennis Potter as any theatre piece I know. The exquisite shaping of the piece heaves into view, as we recall that Simon’s initial evocation of his father followed from his mother’s presence in the audience. Likewise, Alice’s memory of her mother leads to her father. The search for the identity of the Iceman and Alice’s search for her father somehow converge on Virgil, though he is an extremely passive participant. As we learn her father may be Jewish, and that the Ice Man was traveling North, having been in Italy at harvest time, we begin to recognize the social resonance of Mnemonic as an account of diaspora, rootlessness, and loss of origins. This in turn seems to connect with Virgil’s dissociation, itself apparently provoked by what he imagines, or remembers, as an affair that Alice had with a man she met while seeking her father. In any case, Virgil’s metamorphosis into the Iceman’s body (he is naked for most of the play) reinforces that he is emotionally frozen or stuck in the time that Alice left him. Like


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Pirandello’s characters immured in a traumatic moment, or even more, like Potter’s paralytics, Virgil/Iceman is a cold Lazarus, “freeze-dried like a bag of peas,” as one of the scientists says of the body (28). Virgil’s purgatory, Alice’s search for her father, the European diaspora, and the paleontology of the Iceman come together at the end in what one critic said “could best be described as a sizzle of connections across the collective synapses.”42 In perhaps the only forced element of this play, it indulges itself in a staged debate among scientists as to who the Iceman was and what he was doing. This debate is a little comic and a little strained, representing contemporary European tensions. Clearly, the possibility the Iceman had been fleeing a pogrom is meant to be associated with Jewish refugees (including Alice’s father?) and with contemporary immigrants fleeing their home countries for a better life. Alice arrives in Bolzano where the Iceman is housed. As she looks into his freezer case with a group of others, one by one the observers empathically take the place of the Iceman, who is then reembodied in Virgil (naked as he has been throughout). The moment demonstrates as well as any what Helen Freshwater (2001) astutely observed of Mnemonic: The emphasis of the performance upon the physicality of the performers on stage shifts our attention away from conventional narrative patterns of conscious memory towards the unconscious and instinctive knowledge that seems to be present in our feet when we walk or dance, or our fingers when we type. The work highlights procedural memory, which enables us to learn skills through practice and repetition, as opposed to episodic memory, which captures specific moments from our pasts, or semantic memory, which regulates the network of association forming our general knowledge of the world. (216, emphasis Freshwater’s)

The Iceman is thus the most powerful mnemic sign that embodiment itself unites us. In contrast to, and perhaps in answer to Cold Lazarus, where what is left of the writer’s body is isolated in cryogenic isolation, the naked actor’s body signals “the thawing of his objectification” (Freshwater, 217) and reminds us of our interconnectedness.

6. Confrontation or Convergence: Staging the Encounter of History and Memory


he emphasis in Mnemonic on the cultural and historical context of remembering adds a cautionary note to the brain-centric account of memory that dominated the previous chapter. I do not want memory to slip away into the abstraction of pattern recognition or recategorization on the one hand, and neural or chemical or electrical pulsing on the other. If memory is “nothing but” recategorization, how is memory connected to the already actualized? How can connectionism account for the feeling we have that a memory is “mine,” a reflection of something “I” have been through (as William James insisted was a marker of memory)? If there is no evidence for psychophysical isomorphism (the purported conformity of physiological process and phenomenological experience) in neural networks (Edelman 2004, 63), if the implication in “trace” of “mirroring” or “copying” is rejected, then what is the causal connection between event and trace? If it is as true to say that the developmental, social, and historical contexts and environments are mnemogenic as it is to say that the brain is mnemogenic, how do playwrights represent such a proposition? Only the last question is answerable within the scope of this book. Over the course of the twentieth century, the enormities of history challenged anew, and relentlessly, the capacity of memory to frame or contain them. Scenes of almost unspeakable and unimaginable brutality characteristically burden the rememberer with an impossible imperative: to remember for the sake of (or, contrarily, in the face of ) amnesiac history and to forget in order to live unbound to the past. This paradoxical obligation is only emphasized by the paradoxical premises of contemporary memory studies: recognition of the urgency of giving veridical testimony to a horrendous remembered scene runs into the caution that memory is pressured by circ*mstances of social traditionalism, as much a communal construction site as a personal containment site. Traumatic suffering, particularly when associated with cataclysmic world events, political ideology and/or nation-building, must be processed through a congeries of memorative activities and occasions frequently in conflict or contradiction: autobiographical archiving; reminiscence; nostalgia; public commemoration; the influence of memory milieux such as family, state, class, or religion; historical consciousness as reflected in public or academic scholarship; memory sites such as museums, heritage societies, and public archives. The content or even viability of memory is caught up in such systems, “which either support, suppress, distort or even destroy the

228 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard potential of other collectives and of individuals to remember” (Domansky 1997, 238). “Memory work,” such as might be undertaken in the construction of a memory play, may involve the negotiation of a complex infrastructure consisting of “all the different spaces, objects, ‘texts’ that make an engagement with the past possible” (Irwin-Zarecka 1994, 13). Further, history and memory may be seen to take different paths of engagement with the past. Historians aim to capture the synchronicity of a past moment so that conditions and interpretation match, attempting to bridge temporal distance in a sort of intellectual leap. Rememberers encounter the past in a manner that is inescapably diachronic and relational, connecting past to present and bridging temporal distance via the stepping stones of a lived life. What grammarians call the “historical present”—that is, the shift to the present tense in an account of the past—signals the interaction of these modes of thinking. At the same time, both historians and rememberers construct narratives, subjecting accounts of the past to a degradation Cathy Caruth (1995, vii) warns of: “The difficulty of listening and responding to traumatic stories in a way that does not lose their impact, that does not reduce them to clichés or turn them all into versions of the same story, is a problem that remains central to the task of therapists, literary critics, neurobiologists, and filmmakers alike.” The difficulty is only compounded by recognizing the “lack of registration” (6), the hole or void surrounding the traumatic event, as when the Holocaust is seen to have involved a “collapse of witnessing” (Laub 1995, 65). Such expressions may help us to understand how the sense of personal loss that associates memory and mourning in playwrights as diverse as Miller and Beckett virtually implodes upon a remembering subject caught up in historical trauma; such conditions are explicitly dramatized by playwrights as different as Suzan-Lori Parks and Charlotte Delbo. The self-contradictions of aporia again intrude: memory simultaneously deals in the verifiable and the immaterial, the there and not-there; it is a dwelling-with and a passing-away. But where some see an aporia, others may sense a counterpoint. When Claude Lanzmann, director of Shoah, insists that “not to understand was my iron law during all the eleven years of production” (quoted by Caruth, 155), he is not embracing ignorance, amnesia, and denial but maintaining “an active resistance to the platitudes of knowledge” (ibid.) that would relegate the Holocaust story to the familiar contours of narrative memory. From such resistance true commemoration may be born. The narratives that shape traumatic memory are frequently contested and provocative, and they sometimes deliberately construe to hold a trauma culturally unintegrated and unassimilated. (This is the intention, e.g., of George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H., dramatized by Christopher Hampton.) Other traumatic encounters, in the telling, assume a more comforting and recognized narrative and may play a role in the construction of social attitudes and values surrounding the trauma. (This is arguably the effect of the Goodrich/Hackett dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank.) Occasionally, disputes over how trauma is remembered break into the arena of popular culture, as when President Ronald Reagan placed a wreath in the cemetery in Bitburg, where Waffen S. S. members were buried. For another example, the controversy over the Enola Gay component of the Smithsonian exhibit marking the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II framed the trauma of the dropping of the atomic bomb as a fundamental memory/history encounter. Curator

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Tom Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum put it in these words: “Do you want an exhibit intended to make veterans feel good, or do you want an exhibition that will lead our visitors to think about the consequences of the atomic bombing of Japan. Frankly, I don’t think we can do both.”1 Vigorously contested by curators and historians on the one hand and veterans on the other, the Enola Gay controversy reminds us how competing commemorative domains may evince widely divergent objectives and characteristics. Dramaturgical strategies reflect these differences. Memory-oriented plays may bear ethnic markers, not only of historical content but of form, as a call-and-response motif animates the work of August Wilson or Suzan-Lori Parks. The commemorative domain of the Native American in Black Elk Speaks deemphasizes the individual so that the rememberer becomes more a receptor than a witness. Many Holocaust plays may be placed in a Jewish testamentary tradition. Commemorative domains constructed or implied in a drama may display differing memory modes, as reminiscence (The Steward of Christendom), recognizing (Conversations With My Father) or reminding (Inquest). Memorial perspectives may range from the commemorative (Wilson) to the anticommemorative (Colored Museum). Finally, playwrights often dramatize an individual rememberer as in some way resisting the group demand to “carry the words,” thereby setting individual memory off against collective memory, as in plays by Herb Gardner, Charlotte Delbo, and Sebastian Barry. Toward the end of the twentieth century, then, the memory/history encounter has more frequently been performed on a plain where three factions are encamped: individual memory, history, and collective memory. While these factions share common interests (the preservation of the past), they are often not in harmony. Individual memory claims a uniqueness of experience bound up with selfhood and bolstered with eyewitness credibility. History presents itself as a reasoned, evidentiary, objective, veridical, and orderly encounter with the past. Collective memory acknowledges that the individual can be absorbed into a community of rememberers whose perpetuation depends upon the performance of tradition, commemoration, and ritual. These factions are “dialectically related” (Samuel 1994, 8) and intermingle in the ensemble of public and private memorative activities discussed herein. As part of this ensemble, theatrical history-tellings can illuminate such dialectical relations, allowing us to supplant a strict and simple dichotomy of memory versus. history—constructed (according to Klein 2000) on the twin supports of Yosef Yerushalmi”s Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (1982) and Pierre Nora’s “Between Memory and History” (1984)—with a continuum whose features range from individual-centered to group-centered, from fact-based to fictionalized, from univocality to multivocality, and from self-assertion to self-transcendence. In chapter 2, I introduced the idea of the history-telling as a capacious genre, inclusive of orality-driven historians and certain historical dramatists whose work tends toward the commemorative. Here I want to reemphasize that drama representing a commemorative domain is as much involved in constructing an imagined future as in preserving the domain’s collective memory—particularly when that domain has a history of oppression. August Wilson put it succinctly in response to a question (by Richard Pettengill in Bryer and Hartig 2006, 170) about his intentions in The Piano Lesson: “ . . . raising questions: What do we do with our legacy? . . . What is our future?”


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

What Hernadi asserts of historical dramatists writing in the tragicomic vein is equally true of the dramatic defenders of the Jewish, African American, gay, Irish, Native American, and many other commemorative domains: they construct “a dialogue that a still present past and an already passing present do not so much enter into as, indeed, emerge from. As part of that dialogue, historytelling [sic] is not a matter of correlating two preexisting spheres of existence in which, respectively, they were and I am. It is, rather, what speech-act theoreticians might well call a ‘performative’ enactment of that which, thereby, we will have become” (219, emphasis mine). Even more than the “historical present,” this “future perfect” tense of historical memory captures the time-condensing nature of perdurance. *



DRAMA OF THE HOLOCAUST REMEMBERED: “NEVER AGAIN”2 The axiom commonly adopted by the unchosen community of Holocaust survivors sums up in two words the future orientation of past recollection. “This past [i.e., the Holocaust] in particular,” Alvin H. Rosenfeld (1997, xiii) observes, is being constantly made present, and its chroniclers are frequently bent upon “a strengthening of both the means and the will to remember.” When C. P. Taylor (1983, 4) declares his play Good to be in the service not only of reviving in our consciousness the memory of the slain Six Million but of warning against a nuclear Final Solution, he is expressing the hope that a community of rememberers may avert a future disaster.3 Precisely such hopes and assumptions are scrutinized from a sociological perspective by Jeffrey C. Alexander in “On the Social Construction of Moral Universals: The ‘Holocaust’ from War Crime to Trauma Drama” (2004). Alexander investigates how a “specific and situated historic event” became “a generalized symbol of human suffering and moral evil,” as well as an instrument for justice and recognition on a global scale (197). Consequently, his work is useful in understanding how Holocaust drama remembers. He is attempting to document a complex process by which, first, group-specific memories become universalized into an episode of history and, second, how history is in turn transformed into an expanded collective memory by which the suffering of the Jews becomes metonymic for the trauma of all humankind. Alexander notes that the discovery of the death camps was initially labeled “atrocity” and “horror,” as with other barbarities of war, and that the Jewishness of the victims initially mitigated against transformation via identification into a symbol (198–200). In attempting to reckon how the cultural grid mediates the acceptance of facts, Alexander suggests the epistemology of the Holocaust was influenced by the happenstance that Americans (rather than our Allies) for the most part discovered the camps and released information about them. Embracing a progressive master narrative, the Americans were inclined to read the “evil” not as ontological but as contingent and able to be ameliorated. Though the anti-Semitic nature of Nazi

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war crimes was well known in the United States during the war, it receded into the catalogue of Nazi horrors, making it “impossible to denormalize the mass killings, to make the Holocaust into the ‘Holocaust’” (210). Even the Nuremberg trials, popularizing the terms “genocide” and “crimes against humanity,” postponed the formation of a trauma for the postwar audience by linking mass killings to Nazism, now defeated and “behind us” (213). With the decline of this progressive narrative in the 1960s came the rise of the acceptance of the Holocaust as a proper noun and its identification as an evil separable from Nazism. Alexander uses Aristotle to identify (via the concept of magnitude) the gathering weight attaching to the Holocaust and its placement at the end rather than the beginning of a narrative, where it had been placed in the progressive account (225). Placing the Holocaust at the end of what Alexander calls the tragic narrative makes the Holocaust into an archetype and hence situates it outside time; it also allows for identification and catharsis, which Alexander interprets as “clarification.” “The creation of this cultural form allows the psychological activity of internalization rather than projection, acceptance rather than displacement” (227). The Holocaust thus became a “trauma drama” the “audience” keeps returning to, so as to prevent it from reoccurring. Interestingly, Ralph Appelbaum, designer of the museum component of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, writes in terms similar to Alexander’s that he designed the exhibit as “a play in three acts”: “Nazi Assault—1933–1939,” “Final Solution—1940–1945,” and “Last Chapter” (quoted by Linenthal 1995, 250). It is actually Applebaum’s formulation that is more “Aristotelian,” in that locating the Holocaust in the “middle” of a narrative allows for a “Last Chapter” in which recognition, often the instrument of catharsis, can find a place. Alexander sees the abandonment of the progressive narrative and the embrace of the tragic narrative of the Holocaust instancing the rise of postmodern disquiet, yet contributing “to a moral remaking of the (post)modern (Western) world. The Holocaust story has been told and retold in response not only to an emotional need but a moral ambition. Its characters, its plot, and its pitiable denouement have been transformed into a less nationally bound, less temporally specific, and more universal drama” (228). In Alexander’s account, a single stage drama plays a major role: the Goodrich/Hackett adaptation of Diary of Anne Frank (1955).4 Alexander judges that the “psychological identification and symbolic extension on a mass scale” (233) effected by the Anne Frank phenomenon yielded moral dividends in accepting the lessons of the Holocaust. This opinion stands in contrast with that of Edward Linenthal, whose account of the memorialization of the Holocaust in American culture ignores the play, as well as with that of Cynthia Ozick (1997, 76), who condemns the adaptation as perpetuating a story of Anne that has been “bowdlerized, distorted, transmuted, traduced, reduced; it has been infantilized, Americanized, hom*ogenized, sentimentalized; falsified, kitchified, and, in fact, denied.” I call attention to this dispute less to resolve it than to recognize it as an episode in the politics of collective memory. Cynthia Ozick’s polemic foregrounds the issue of commemorative domain and implicitly answers the question it raises—“Who Owns Anne Frank?”—with “the Jewish community.” Relying on Alvin Rosenfeld (1995), Ozick recounts the purging of Jewishness from the story at the hands of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, whose Hollywood credits included Father of the Bride


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

and It’s a Wonderful Life, with the concurrence of producer Kermit Bloomgarden and director Garson Kanin, as well as the anti-Zionist play doctor Lillian Hellman. Kanin cast Gusti Huber, who had been a member of the Nazi Actors Guild, as Anne’s mother (86). Such insensitivities, Ozick argues, make the play, which parades itself as remembered, into an act of morally reprehensible forgetting. She cites the reception of the play in Germany as causing tears, but with Rosenfeld concludes this was because the Germans sentimentally recast themselves as victims: as a German critic put it, “We see in Anne Frank’s fate our own fate—the tragedy of human existence per se,” leading Ozick to conclude that “A decade after the fall of Nazism, the spirited and sanitized young girl of the play became a vehicle for German communal identification—with the victim, not the persecutor—and, according to Rosenfeld, a continuing ‘symbol of moral and intellectual convenience’” (Ozick, 86). All this leads Ozick to speculate that a “more salvational outcome” for Anne’s story would have been for the diary to have been lost, “saved from a world that made of it all things, some of them true, while floating lightly over the heavier truth of named and inhabited evil” (87). Rosenfeld’s own essay documents that the overwhelming reaction of critics was to see the play as positive, inspiring and life-affirming (125). Brooks Atkinson’s introduction emphasizes Anne’s “will to survive” (in Goodrich and Hackett, viii), citing her “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”— perhaps not the literary highpoint of the diary. There is little enough in the script to focus attention on the Jewish experience: Dussel, the dentist who joins the family in hiding, reports Jews are disappearing from Amsterdam daily (65), and there is a Hanukah celebration (84). By domesticating the Holocaust and virtually placing it on the outer limits of the memory frame, where it slips from history and blends into aura, the perspective predicament of the play is eerily not unlike the Nazi Halder’s in C. P. Taylor’s Good. Equally dubious, some tactics of the adapters are clearly designed to appropriate the eyewitness credibility of the diary. The play begins with Anne’s father Otto returning to the building where the family found asylum, declaring that Amsterdam “has too many memories for me,” and reading from the diary as a segue to Anne’s narration in her own voice. The subsequent voiceovers that appear to be diary entries, complete with precise dates, are in fact inventions, as Christopher Bigsby has noted (2006, 231). Tellingly, the 1997 Broadway revival of the play, in an adaptation by Wendy Kesselman of the Goodrich/Hackett adaptation, addressed, if ambivalently, the memory/history problem. Kesselman eliminated the flashback memorial framework and amplified the historical content by quoting more extensively from the newly released and unexpurgated diaries. Equally interesting, critics were divided on the success of this ploy. Ben Brantley (1997) of the New York Times opined that “This new interpretation never relaxes its awareness of the hostile world beyond the attic that was the Franks’ sanctuary and prison for two claustrophobic years, nor of the religious identity that made them a quarry,” and that this version “offers no treacly consolations about the triumph of the spirit.” By contrast, Brantley’s much older colleague Vincent Canby (1997) headlined his review in the Sunday Times “A New ‘Anne Frank’ Still Stuck in the ‘50s,” concluding: “This production will be of interest mainly to those who have never before encountered ‘The Diary,’ like the woman in

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her 20s who sat in front of me the night I saw the play. As her escort was whispering in her ear just before the performance began, she suddenly drew back and stared at him in surprise. ‘You mean,’ she said, ‘she dies at the end?’” On the one hand, it could be argued that the play will retain its usefulness in remembering the Holocaust so long as there are audiences who do not know Anne dies in the end. On the other hand, the play seems historically bound to the “hom*ogenized” era of its creation. Rather than being “quarried from the memory of other places,”5 Diary of Anne Frank feels crafted from the timbers of old Broadway. Able and articulate defenders of the Jewish commemorative domain like Ozick and Rosenfeld are not so much at odds with the play’s apologists such as Atkinson and Alexander as they are, in current argot, “coming from a different place.” It is precisely Alexander’s point that until the Holocaust could be owned by a larger, non-Jewish commemorative domain its lessons could not realize their use-value. From this position, Alexander also defends the much-maligned NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978), which, when shown in Germany the following year, “put a stop to a burgeoning ‘Hitler Revival’ and quelled long-standing partisan demands for ‘balance’ in the presentation of Jewish mass murder” (234). In a similar vein, Andreas Huyssen (1986) defends the TV drama as clearing away distrust of emotional appeal and individual subjectivity, a legacy of the cultural agenda of the Third Reich, which was based on the exploitation of collective memories associated with an exclusive “Volk” and “Vaterland.” The tragic narrative, Alexander proposes, paves the way for the Holocaust to become “engorged” with evil, which bursts its confines and pollutes everything it touches, so that a much broader population—in Germany, Europe, and beyond, into the bystander community—could be touched with guilt by “metonymic association” (242–244). Guilt invites retrospection, which may lead to (but does not guarantee) the clarification/purification of catharsis (244). It is illuminating to contrast the popularity of the Anne Frank material in America and Germany in the 1950s with the popularity of the Hannah Szenes story in Israel at the same time, offering us a clear example of how different commemorative needs drive the selection and treatment of dramatic material. Szenes was a Hungarian Jew who joined the Resistance, parachuted into Yugoslavia in 1944 to aid her fellow Jews, and traveled back into Hungary shortly after the Nazi occupation to do the same for her Jewish countrymen. She was caught, tortured, and executed by the Nazis at the age of twenty-three. Her diary and poetry became the source for many dramatic treatments in Israel during the 1950s, culminating in a Habimacommissioned play by the respected Aharon Megged in 1958. It was wildly popular. As Dan Laor (1998) reports, Hannah Szenes told the heroic story in flashbacks from the Budapest jail where she was imprisoned and “was the right play at the right time, interpreting the Holocaust in a way which would perfectly fit into the Israeli ethos” (100). Just as Anne Frank suited American progressivism and belief that “people are really good at heart,” the imperiled Israeli state preferred the heroics of one who took action on behalf of her country. But, as the burning enthusiasm following the formation of the Israeli state faded, the Szenes myth was deconstructed in other dramatic versions of her story, and was ultimately succeeded on Israeli stages by treatments of the accused Hungarian Jewish collaborator Israel Kasztner. The moral ambiguities associated with his case now suited Israeli introspection over the


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Judenräte (Jewish councils in the ghettos) and also over the conduct of Israel’s wars with its Arab neighbors. The politics of memory in Israeli from the 1950s to the 1980s thus shifted focus from hero to antihero. Kasztner, who had been controversially condemned as a collaborator by an Israeli court in the 1950s was by the 1990s celebrated—not as a hero but as “the negotiator, the manipulator . . . a man who ‘cooperated’ (though not ‘collaborated’) with the Nazis in order to rescue as many Jews as he could . . . through acts of diplomacy; this kind of human breed, incarnated by Kasztner, turned out to be the legitimate representative of the Holocaust in the texture of Jewish memory” (Laor, 108). Morally ambiguous Jews who cooperated with their Nazi oppressors also figure in the drama of Israeli playwright Joshua Sobol. Ghetto (1984) recounts the workings of the Judenrat in the Vilna Ghetto, as remembered by Srulik, a ventriloquist and the only member of the ghetto acting troupe who survived. Meticulously researched, daringly theatrical, and excruciating in the ethical quandaries it probes, Ghetto places its Jewish characters under a moral microscope, detecting and discriminating collaboration by degrees. The memory frame, however, is not revisited after the initial brief scene in the present in Srulik’s Tel Aviv apartment, and seems pro forma; this is memory in the positivist mode, as we are meant simply to accept what Srulik remembers as history. But Freddie Rokem (1995, 259), with access to many more of Sobol’s plays than are available in English, sees memory at the center of Sobol’s aesthetic: “The basic hermeneutical principle of Sobol’s theater is that history does not exist as objective truth, separated from an individual and the mechanisms of memory. History instead depends on individual recollection, and the implicit claim is that if we do not remember and confront even the most controversial aspects of our past, our present will become distorted.” Rokem suggests that the play in its premiere was designed to remind Israeli audiences of the dubious ethics of the Lebanon occupation, which had begun two years earlier. He goes on to describe how Sobol added a scene for the Vienna production in which parallels were drawn, not to Lebanon, but to the Nazi past of the Austrian president, Kurt Waldheim, concluding “For Sobol the theater even functions as a collective psychoanalytic process bringing the spectators back to their collective past and investigating its relevance and significance in the present” (269). It appears, then, that the commemorative domain comprising Sobol’s target audience would appreciate more readily how Sobol activates the memory/history dialectic. His conviction that history becomes real only through the instrumentality of memory is understandable in view of the fact that the individuality of Holocaust atrocities is in danger of losing “registration” in the innumerability of such atrocities—except for the testimony of memory. The cases just considered demonstrate that the Americanization of the Holocaust, whether reckoned as a positive or a negative, was neither universal nor definitive. Observing how post-Vietnam America lost control of the symbolic transmission of Holocaust memory, Alexander is himself aware of variations in the tragic narrative of the Holocaust, and other critics have warned of its manipulation to serve the agendas of conflicting commemorative domains. Alexander recognizes that literature of testimony may be changing the narrative to deromanticize the theme of “liberation” from the camps and to create a cadre of depersonalized, antiheroic “survivors” (259).

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He holds, however, that literature of testimony remains within the tragic narrative, as the deromanticizing still occasions an affective human community and allows an ever-wider audience to feel redeemed (259–260). By contrast, Ilan Avisar (1997) is less sanguine about how representational strategies determine the remembrance of the Holocaust in his essay “Holocaust Movies and the Politics of Collective Memory,” wherein he explores the relationships among memory modes, aesthetic choices, and ideology. Though he attends to film exclusively, Avisar’s rough taxonomy of how victims, perpetrators, and bystanders differentially remember the Holocaust is useful for examining the drama, for plays and films alike cultivate or exploit memoriousness in the service of both veracity and veridicality. Generally, according to Avisar, Holocaust films from the victims’ perspective emphasize the moral imperative to give testimony; perpetrator perspectives indulge in kitsch, formal experimentation, and vaguery; and bystanders shift the focus memorius to saviors and survivors. Avisar places Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah in the first category; films by Fassbinder, Wenders, Schlöndorf, Syberberg, and other German or Austrian filmmakers in the second; and Diary of Anne Frank, Young Lions, Sophie’s Choice, and Schindler’s List in the third. Granted that such classifications are subject to argument and to the objection of oversimplification, they nevertheless afford reference points for identifying memorative strategies and points of departure for interpreting more complex examples. Among stage plays, one can readily place Ghetto in the first category and Anne Frank, Annulla, I Love You, I Love You Not, A Shayna Maidel, and The Substance of Fire in the third.6 Significantly, plays in this category are both literally and figuratively “small”—compressed domestic dramas open to the objection that they trivialize the Holocaust. Heinar Kipphardt’s Bruder Eichmann (1983) might be placed in the second category. The play interjects a set of controversial scenes amidst extended documentary material involving interviews with Eichmann, excerpts from his letters, and other historical sources. The interjected material foregrounds political injustices after the end of World War II and since Eichmann’s execution in 1962. Whatever Kipphardt’s intent—his title implies he hoped to compel his audience to recognize kinship with Eichmann—the effect was to diminish the Holocaust when placing it, as he does, next to recent accounts of political prisoners abused in Italy and Germany, interview excerpts of a U.S. fighter pilot in Vietnam, or a police officer in the American South shooting tear gas to disperse black schoolchildren during riots. There are more complex examples of how perpetrator and victim perspectives are reflected in the politics of collective memory. Wolfgang Borchert’s Draussen vor den Tür (The Man Outside—[1947]) on the one hand conforms to Avisar’s model of perpetrator remembrance by indulging in formal experimentation and by putting at the center of the drama a ruined Germany, incarnated in the returning solider Beckmann. Wearing a tattered uniform and declaring himself “yesterday’s ghost” (88),7 Beckmann frequently gives vent to feelings of victimization. Manifestly, Borchert constructs his hero as an Everyman, who encounters figures representing Death, God, Authority, Art, and even the Elbe river. Stephen Spender’s Introduction to Borchert’s works in English suggests that Borchert was completely consumed and circ*mscribed by his war experiences on the Russian front (v), confirming the impression left by the play that the author’s remembering universalizes victimization, making the suffering

236 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard of the German soldier stand in for all who suffered in the war. On the other hand, Beckmann is an outsider precisely because he chooses to remember the war dead, represented by the allegorical figure of a one-legged man, and because he suffers guilt from his participation in the war machine. Borchert also includes the detail that Beckmann’s father was an enthusiastic Nazi too avid in his pursuit of Jews; the father and mother committed suicide before Beckmann’s return. Further, as Hiroko Harada (2000, 43) suggests, “The message to remember the past contrasts with the overall tenor of the people Beckmann visits, who all want to forget.” Beckmann’s last words to the one-legged man are “I won’t forget you” (126). The Man Outside is a good example of the German tendency both to obsess about World War II and to try to forget it, making it difficult to classify the play’s perspective as that of victim or perpetrator. A similar ambiguity surrounds George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H. (1983),8 adapted from Steiner’s novel by Christopher Hampton, which also refocuses attention on the history/memory binary in a particularly provocative fashion. As Nick White (2002, 67) avers, Steiner “had been practically the sole voice to be heard in British critical discourse urging attention be paid to the Holocaust” for three decades prior to the staging of the play in 1982. Yet, both the novel and the play (more so the latter) subjected Steiner to relentless criticism both from the Jewish and non-Jewish communities for appearing to espouse the anti-Semitic distortions he places in the mouth of his character Hitler (played in the original Mermaid Theatre production by Alec McCowen). In the plot, Lieber, veteran Nazi hunter, oversees by radio instruction the capture of Hitler in the Amazon jungle. To bolster the antipathy of the captors to the mesmerizing Hitler and to strengthen their determination to return him to justice alive, Lieber’s transmissions recount in graphic detail a litany of the Nazi horrors. A series of interior scenes set in world capitals, demonstrating how national interests drove responses to the Holocaust, historicize the play, which otherwise threatens to descend into suspense melodrama involving an international plot to prevent the Jewish captors and Hitler from escaping the Amazon. Appealing to history, in the course of a subtly sinister scene, a German lawyer begs for understanding: “You young people have no idea what it was really like,” to which his daughter responds “First you blame us for remembering, then you blame us for not remembering” (44–45). These interjected scenes, like those of Kipphardt’s Bruder Eichmann, disseminate guilt throughout the allied political community. In an absolutely chilling episode, a bedraggled Hitler sits in the jungle, while Lieber’s crackling voice over a short-wave radio begins a harrowing account of atrocities with “I want you to remember / tell me you remember” (19). Lieber’s long recital continues in several subsequent scenes, and it clearly takes on a memoryladen documentary voice. “At Maidenek ten thousand a day, unimaginable because innumerable, in one corner of Treblinka, seven hundred thousand bodies. I will count them now. Aaron, Aaronowich, Aaronson . . . ” (36). Then, out of the millions of stories, Lieber picks out one after another in brief, horrific detail: “The one being Belin the tanner whose face they sprinkled with acid and who was dragged through the streets of Kershon behind a dung cart but sang / The one being Georges Walter who . . . still asked why why through his smashed teeth when the shower door closed

Confrontation or Convergence


and the whisper began in the ceiling / The one being all because unnumbered hence unrememberable” (37). When it appears that his captors will die and not be able to bring Hitler out, they decide to put him on trial. Hitler, who until this point has said only three words, launches into a twenty-five minute monologue to end the play. In it, Hitler claims he invented the Master Race as a concept patterned after the idea of a Chosen People who put to the sword those who disagreed; declares himself to have been merely a man of his times in whom millions saw themselves, saying the atrocities in the Belgian Congo and in Russia dwarfed his, and that he did not invent genocide; and he takes credit for founding Israel: “It was the Holocaust that gave you the courage” (74). At the curtain Hitler, in the down-draught of helicopter blades, ascends to the crude throne fashioned by his Native South American guard, who has fallen under his sway. Nick White has meticulously anatomized the reasons for the “almost universal condemnation” (70) that greeted the play in its English première and subsequently in its American production at Hartford Stage in 1983, when Robert Skloot and Alvin Rosenfeld joined the argument against The Portage. To rehearse these arguments in all their subtlety is thus unnecessary and would take us away from the history/ memory encounter I wish to emphasize here. Steiner has almost schematically tried to balance the devilish convolution of Hitler’s monologue with the weightiness of Lieber’s liturgy of remembrance. History, both perpetrator and victim alike maintain, conspires against the truth of memory. “It is not I who assert these things: it is your own survivors, your historians” (73), avows Hitler. Gideon, one of Hitler’s capturers, argues they ought to let Hitler go, because to convict him will let so many others “be acquitted”: “History will draw a line and forget even faster” (27). Against forgetful history, Lieber’s memorialization is meant to stand as a testament and moral imperative. Furthermore, Steiner was taking the calculated risk that giving Hitler the last word would confute conventional narrative patterns that tended to blunt Holocaust trauma. Leaving the issues unresolved, unintegrated, and unassimilated would defend the play from the accusations of falsification and sentimentalization Ozick subsequently launched against Anne Frank. As White makes clear, Steiner miscalculated: audiences appeared mesmerized by Hitler, Ron Sharp being in the small minority of critics who recognized “There may be grains of truth in what Hitler says . . . but the final result is an appallingly self-serving distortion on Hitler’s part, a distortion that any careful reader of Steiner will recognize” (quoted by White, 83). Whether one reads Lieber’s speeches as counterpoint or dialectically related to Hitler’s, they paled in comparison. Crucial theatrical choices only exacerbated the imbalance. Sebastian Shaw’s Lieber was in his own upper gallery in the original production and was instructed by his director Dexter to assume an almost casual tone in his recitation of horrors. As a result, critics found the documentary material distant and “almost superfluous” (Peter Ackroyd, quoted by White, 72) and felt Lieber himself to be emotionally removed. The collectivity of Holocaust memory was not established. Completely overshadowing Lieber was Alec McCowen’s Hitler in what Michael Billington called “one of the greatest pieces of acting I have ever seen” (ibid.). Somewhat unfairly, then, the production’s disproportions

238 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard were taken as those of the script. Should it be reckoned strength or weakness that the play is deeply engaged with both survivor and perpetrator perspectives? George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H. may have also suffered in London playgoers’ minds from the memory of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of C. P. Taylor’s Good, which had opened a scant six months earlier and also featured a characterization of Hitler and an exploration of perpetrator memory.9 Good takes its remembering narrator John Halder, a lecturer in German Literature, from bystander to Nazi apologist to the gates of Auschwitz via memories and hallucinations, among the latter of which is a banjo-strumming Hitler. Like Steiner, Taylor takes the calculated risk that his audience will consider the messenger when sorting through the truth claims of the play’s Nazi supporters. Taylor’s calculation was surer, however, as his clownish Hitler, borrowing from Charlie Chaplin’s parodic portrait in The Great Dictator, helps us to skewer his ideas almost before they are spoken. When Hitler pontificates that “for the first time in my life I am breaking free from the umbilical cords that tied me to my mother” or “the objective reality is there is no objective reality” (37), we are instantly foreclosed from employing such modernist or postmodern clichés to explain Halder’s absorption with Nazism. And because Hitler is Halder’s alter-ego (the cover of the American edition of the play depicts the former with his arm around the latter, their heads co*cked at similar angles) Halder’s more “reasonable” and “serious” arguments for anti-Semitism are similarly tainted. Taylor’s truly frightening play is mainfestly a Faustian analogue in which the academic Halder is seduced by Mephistophelean Nazi ideology, but Taylor’s dialectics of memory and history frame the psychological portrait more precisely than Goethe’s: Good is as much Geistgeschichte as Bildungsroman. That is, no less rigorously than fellow memographers Maurice Halbwachs or Jacques Lacan, Taylor seeks to know how autobiographical memory guides the emergent ego through the labyrinth of social frameworks, myths, and collective narratives that surround him. From the outset, when Halder reveals to us and to Maurice, his Jewish friend and psychiatrist, that he hears bands in his head, a completely psychological explanation for his delusion is disallowed. Though both Halder and Maurice discuss the symptom in terms of defense mechanism and anxiety neurosis, we cannot fail to associate the music with the outcroppings of Nazism that sprout like poisonous mushrooms in the play’s encroaching shadows. Where audiences were evidently uncertain about the relationship of Steiner to A. H., Taylor’s attitude toward Halder is both clearer and more complex. Taylor leads Halder where he does not wish to go. It would relieve the bookish Halder to embrace his hallucinations, to have them completely displace his reality in all its messiness: a senile mother, a failed marriage, a self-deluding affair, indifference to the fate of his friend, capitulation with brutish Nazis, and the moral compromise of his critical intelligence. Taylor, however, drives Halder to the puzzled and damaging admission of the play’s final words, “the band was real!” (87). If Taylor were engaged only with Halder’s psychology, these words would signify only the return of the repressed. But Taylor’s object of enquiry is not just the state of Halder’s mind, but the mind of his state. The memory work of the play takes both Halder and Germany from 1933 to the opening of Auschwitz, employing a dramaturgy that from the outset allows Halder to be simultaneously in intimate

Confrontation or Convergence


conversation, as with Maurice, his lover Anne, or his wife; conducting scenes of official business with Nazis; and musing aloud to us from the obstructed vantage of his own mind. Far more than a device, the dramaturgy rejects the categories of interior and exterior, personal and political, in favor of an interwoven narrative in which social framework, autobiographical memory, and history function together as warp, weft, and loom. As a tragedy, Good propels its protagonist toward a recognition that his relationship to those whom he loves has gone fearfully wrong—a recognition that Halder fights every step of the way while, Oedipus-like, amassing evidence against himself. Halder would prefer to be a bystander to his own thoughts, giving in to the dissociation imaged in the different musical selections he hears. But the personal autobiography his memory constructs, especially in conversation with Maurice, recasts him from bystander to perpetrator, as Halder’s pathological self-involvement moves him inexorably from indifference to book-burning to Kristallnacht to Auschwitz. Halder acknowledges his emotional isolation from the beginning. “I can’t get lost, you see. I can’t lose myself in people or situations” (13), he admits to Maurice, and then says of his friend in an aside “He’s a nice man. I love him. But I cannot get involved with his problems” (15). But Halder’s admissions of utter selfishness, instead of pricking his conscience, in their voicing allow him to justify his most craven capitulations: “If I got cancer. That would worry me. Or if they stuck me in one of those concentration camps and one of Himmler’s perverts got at me . . . that worries me. . . . If Anne stopped loving me and ran off with another man . . . that would worry me. I’ve got a whole scale of things that could worry me . . . the Jews, and their problems . . . yes, they are on it . . . but very far down, for Christ’s sake . . . way down the scale” (75, ellipses Taylor’s). Halder speaks these words in the course of his longest soliloquy, which comes late in the second act, where we would expect a recognition. His speech is preceded by a chilling interview with Eichmann and followed by one with Bok, a crude and brutal S. S. Officer. Eichmann has praise for a lecture Halder has given critiquing “the strong current of Jewish humanism . . . Proust . . . Gide . . . Kafka . . . ,” a lecture Halder begins to read aloud: “It will be my thesis that while this was a valid exploration of the human soul at the time, it pushed Western literature in a direction which almost entirely ignored man as a social animal.” The keen irony here is not entirely lost on the self-centered Halder, who abruptly drops the lecture and sets the historical stage for the remainder of his soliloquy with “In the morning of the Night of Broken Glass . . . (73–74, all ellipses Taylor’s). At the end of the speech, Bok enters with orders for Halder to organize his students for the “big show” of the evening. As Anne helps him on with his S. S. uniform and boots, Halder simultaneously indulges in dialogue of deliberately kitschified reminiscence (“Dad loved marrows . . . fried with sausage and onion” [77]), muses aloud, hallucinates the ghost of Maurice, and learns firsthand from Eichmann the logistics of transport to the death camps. The motif of remembrance culminates in Anne’s repeated, insipid insistence that Halder “remember” he is “good” and that she loves him (86–87, emphasis Taylor’s). Beneath this theme, Schubert’s “Marche Militaire” rises, played by the band of prisoners on the platform at Auschwitz, as the slow crescendo of history builds to its climax at the blackout.

240 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard Much more, then, than the return of the repressed, Halder’s acknowledgment that “The band was real!” marks the epiphany of history, refuting the psychobabble—initially Hitler’s (37) and later Halder’s (84)—that there is no objective reality or moral truth. At the book-burning, when Bok tosses “Recherche Du Temps Perdu” [sic] on the pyre with the remark to “Herr Professor” “this might as well go, too. Don’t want to waste any time on the past, do we?” (50), the way is cleared to replace genuine retrospection with an invented Nazi past: over the flames Halder hears “Lohengrin” followed by “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” Halder does not perceive as we do that he has compensated for his lack of empathy by embracing the collective myth of “National Socialism,” by letting the Nazi narrative become his story, the Nazi mind his mind. Because the social framework of Nazism provides only an ersatz version of collective memory that allowed fantasy to thrive, Halder appears to be exactly in the isolated, delusional situation imagined by Halbwachs: “If the individual could remember things only by forgetting human society and by proceeding all by himself . . . to recapture stages of his past, he would become fused with his past; that is, he would have the illusion of reliving it” (1992, 169). The vocabulary of Lacan also seems useful, as Taylor zeroes in on the juncture when the I is staged “in a primordial form, before it is objectified in the dialectic of identification with the other” (1977, 2). Taylor’s portrait is of an entirely solipsistic Nazi mind that resists intersubjectivity and is arrested before the reality-testing that “sets into motion processes of identification, projection and introjection essential to the structuration of both fantasy and reality.”10 While in George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal memory fades in vividness against brilliantly manipulated history, in Good C. P. Taylor ingeniously constructs the perpetrator’s autobiographical memory to betray itself, culminating in the final image of history and memory becoming one. This moment of convergence is approached from an entirely different direction by Charlotte Delbo’s Who Will Carry the Word?11 Delbo, a non-Jew partisan, worked in the French Resistance, was caught, and transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 1943. Better known as a memoirist than a playwright, Delbo struggled in all of her writing to resist the tendencies of conventional narrative form to dull the effect of trauma and to avoid “linearity, with its insistent pull toward a closure that imposes on time a conventional narrative structure” (Kamel 2000, 66).12 Who Will Carry the Word? was written in 1966, after Delbo had written her nondramatic memoirs, but not performed or published until 1974 and not translated into English until Skloot’s 1982 volume of Holocaust drama. Reflecting Delbo’s despair that any words, any narrative form could convey the camp experience, the play is even more severe and horrifying than the memoirs, wherein Delbo allows herself a glimmer of hope based on the solidarity of French women housed together. Though the play’s arc moves from winter to spring and through many deaths to the survival of a few, it rivets attention on the dehumanizing, soul-killing conditions—the beatings, dysentery, murder, starvation, exposure—the memory of which becomes the inmates’ reason for surviving. The muted gray palette, slow movement, and low voices (269), the switch-back narrative, long monologues and relentless, intimate dialogue put one in mind of contemporary French, avantgarde cinema, such as Hiroshima Mon Amour. Who Will Carry the Word? opens with

Confrontation or Convergence


direct address by ghostly camp survivors convinced that “the things I would say / Could not be of any use to you” (273) and closes with a desperate admission of defeat: “we knew you wouldn’t understand / that you wouldn’t believe / because it has even become unbelievable to us” (325). This anti-memory frame confessing the ineffectuality of memory nevertheless encloses a profoundly memorious space, for the thread of selfhood to which the women inmates cling is graspable only through memory. In describing the conscious effort required to live through each single minute of the day, Yvonne says “You have to be on the alert, without any respite; to sidestep a blow and not to fall, to force yourself to move your toes in your clogs or they’ll freeze, to keep your head, to keep your memory. I’m afraid to lose my memory, my certainty that I am still myself ” (299). It is as crucial for staying alive as a heart beat. But memory is curse as much as salvation. Their memories of relatives at home, of restaurant meals and party dresses, divert the inmates, but also pain them. Some refuse to remember their adult life outside the camp. Françoise, who spoke the prologue, explains: “We assumed the task, so as to preserve our energy, of thinking only of our childhood years, which are past, when everything was simple and unshadowed” (315). Far more excruciating is the dilemma requiring them to retain the horrific details in order to report them, while realizing that the memories of the dead sap their lives. When a woman is attacked by a dog at her throat and dragged to a swamp, Denise reports they “listened to hear how long she would hang on. To remember, too. It was long, so very long” (311). But Gina advises Denise, impossibly: “You must wait until we’re back home to remember” (314). And the moral imperative to remember carries with it another peril. The women worry that the memories will take over their lives, as they had observed of World War I veterans at home: FRANÇOISE. They never stopped talking about Verdun and we didn’t understand. GINA. That’s because there was nothing else in their lives except the moment when they were at one with history. (318)

In fact, Kamel (74) cites a passage from Delbo’s memoir, wherein she visits a former inmate of the camp who has been rehabilitated, in response to which Delbo expresses a wish to have her back as part of the group’s memory, to reclaim her from the husband who has weaned her from her predilection for eating rotten cabbage. Delbo understood that to bind memory to a defining moment of history would cause one to lose oneself, for memory must be allowed to roam free, in order to do its work of self-composition. But there is no escaping this dilemma for survivors, because forgetting is trivializing at best, betrayal at worst. In an exchange just before Gina walks away from her bunk to insure that she will quickly be shot by a guard, unbreakable promises are made: GINA. Our husbands could still write a name on the walls of the cells where they spent their last night before Mount Valerien [where partisans were executed]. I’ll only write on your memory. FRANÇOISE. Memory is fragile here. GINA. You’ll hold out. The worst is over. (Pause.) Remember what I told you, for my father. FRANÇOISE. I remember. I will remember. I’ll try to carry back the memory. (323)


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

The memory that Françoise brings back, the memory that Delbo’s play constructs, is less of a time than of an embodied place; the women of Who Will Carry the Word? are pinned to a map of Auschwitz, “a landscape with untranscendable perimeters and superfluous epiphanies, a landscape with expanse but without chronology, a landscape where time (and even life) remains ‘hollow’” (Kamel, 80). Where Taylor’s dramaturgy deploys simultaneity as an instrument to dissolve distinctions of external and internal, drawing on autobiographical memory to realize an undeniable past, Delbo’s more radical dramaturgy both obliterates distinctions conventionally suggested by “past,” “present,” and “future” and dissolves autobiographical memory in collective identity achieved through what Kamel aptly calls an “organic corporeality” (67). The inescapable feeling of the play is of time marked and not passing. The unavoidable imagery of the play is insistently registered in Delbo’s Author’s Note (269): “The impression of being in a crowd must be constantly maintained”; “The faces do not count”; “The costumes do not count.” Instead of individuality there are fragments of self, incarnated in constant reference to body parts—hair, swollen feet, mouths, skeletal legs, fibers of flesh, death rattles and whistling chests, stained private parts, smashed skulls, cold veins, breath. Clearly, these fragments are meant to embody the collective memory that, Delbo implies, may succeed where individual memory fails. Like social insects or like the memorizing book-hoarders of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, each member of the group may be insufficient alone, but en masse they have memorial potency. The women who convince Françoise not to commit suicide argue that the one who will return to civilization to speak the words, the one “who will talk and who will tell, and who will make known” will do so “because none of us is alone and each must render an account to all the others” (278). FRANÇOISE. What of all those we’ll leave behind? GINA. We won’t leave them, we’ll take them away with us, in us. (318)

Delbo seems to mean this almost sacramentally. Though her work invites no overtly Christian interpretation, the very title of her play inspires meditation on the mystery of the Word becoming Flesh becoming Word. As we observed of medieval drama and of some documentaries, the action of Who Will Carry the Word? feels liturgical, almost eucharistic: the shared, collective body is kept alive with the commandment “Do this in memory of me.” But like her fellow Parisian and Resistance fighter Beckett, Delbo dwells on the nether side of narrative, doubting that its vaunted powers of “meaning-making, emplotment, configuration out of succession, successful effort after meaning, followability, meaningful sequences and ordered connections” (Olney 1998, 295) can take command of the infernal, perverse memories that patrol the precincts of trauma like vicious dogs. In a real sense, Delbo’s task as a survivor is to untell rather than to tell a story, to render her memory in all its recalcitrance and unfinishedness, pock-marked with the holes of oblivion. *



Confrontation or Convergence


A HOLOCAUST OF ONE’S OWN: COMMEMORATIVE DOMAINS AND IDENTITY POLITICS The Holocaust Revisited The admonition “Never Again,” implicit in so much Holocaust drama, both reinforces the survivors’ commemorative domain and places a heavy burden on the individual rememberer, who may resent, resist, or reject its future-oriented admonition and task. Delbo’s Françoise is a suicidal, unwilling rememberer in the beginning and a doubtful witness at the end. But in between she has accepted that the collective memory of the camp is to be written on her own body, which has transcribed the experience of the mutilated and dismembered who perished. But memory plays demonstrate a range of relationships between the remembering individual and collective memory, from the oppositional to the convergent, a relationship further complicated by the flow of historical event and reference into the memorial context. The examination of a relationship on the more contested end of this spectrum is the focus memorious of Herb Gardner’s surprising last play, Conversations With My Father (1992)13 —surprising because the play came at the end of a career previously marked only by glib and sentimental Broadway vehicles. Critics readily assigned a genre to Conversations With My Father, Frank Rich (1992) calling it a “richly atmospheric new memory play” and Mimi Kramer (1982) identifying its main character Eddie, a Jewish tavern-keeper as “the Amanda Wingfield character.” Unlike Tom Wingfield’s memories of Amanda, however, Charlie’s memories of Eddie, his bullying father, are not under the control of the remembering subject: they come unwanted and they remain unresolved. Nor is Charlie’s memory dim, sentimental, or poetic, but alternately dark and pierced by a harsh light, brutally prosaic. Charlie has returned to sell the tavern after his father’s death only to have the past crash in on him with lights banging up full and “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” blaring from the jukebox. Most of the eight scenes of Conversations with my Father, set in Eddie’s Greenwich Village bar, are clustered around July 4 in different years between 1936 and 1976. Together with a scene on the day of the bombing of Hiroshima, this memory frame amplifies Charlie’s attempt to understand his father into a confrontation with his Jewishness in the light of diaspora, American history, and the Holocaust. Conversations With My Father bears some striking resemblances to Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, which ran concurrently on Broadway in 1992, though major critics took virtually no notice of the two plays’ dramaturgical similarities—and profound differences. In Friel’s play, which also flashes back to 1936, the Lughnasa festival serves as does July 4 in the Gardner piece to lend a midsummer aura to the reminiscence. The selfpresence of Friel’s adult rememberer is partly represented by his physical absence, as is Charlie’s in Conversations With My Father: in Lughnasa the boy Michael is not impersonated (though he is addressed by other characters), just as young Charlie is depicted by and addressed as if he were occupying an empty stroller in the saloon. For a final parallel, the faulty radio in Lughnasa has a counterpart in Gardner’s jukebox. But while Friel encourages Michael to choose among the pasts accessible to memory

244 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard and to embrace his choice, no matter that it may sacrifice real incident to atmosphere and illusion, Gardner constructs a dramatic situation where both father and son must face the historical constraints that determine which pasts can be available to them. This emphasis lends a unity to the play many of its critics missed, finding it lacking in structure and overstuffed with incident. Unlike some practitioners of the memory play, Gardner has taken pains to construct both the self-presence of the rememberer (Charlie is represented at three stages in his life in the course of the action) as well as the worldhood of the mnemonic presentation. On the one hand, because Charlie is remembering for himself, working through his memories in a process of self-reclamation, Conversations is a Freudian memory play. On the other hand, the story of the play is a multigenerational struggle to define oneself apart from a determined—in this case, Jewish—past. Gardner virtually makes the play a case study of the factors guaranteeing Eddie and Charlie’s past will remain part of their present.14 Determinative factors include Eddie’s ineradicable memory of a pogrom; the presence of the Yiddish actor Zaretsky, whom Eddie knew in Odessa; the intrusion of history in the form of newspaper reports of the Holocaust or the 1965 headline “VATICAN ABSOLVES JEWS OF CRUCIFIXION BLAME”;15 anti-Semitic gangs roaming the neighborhood of the tavern; and constant arguments about the past among the circle of family and friends. “So I started this play thinking it was about my father and his bar, but there was no way,” Gardner told an interviewer, “I could deal with that era without confronting what it meant to be Jewish. . . . There’s a kind of compulsion behind this play I’ve never felt before” (Wetzsteon, 52). Yet, “It’s not an autobiographical play,” Gardner protests half-jokingly, “Except, of course, in all my memories and feelings” (ibid.). Gardner has thus said in so many words that the play is about history (“my father and his bar”), collective memory (“what it meant to be Jewish” in “that era”) and autobiographical memory (“my memories and feelings”). In almost the first words of the play, the exclamation “History, history” (13) by Josh the Grandson, who has been scouring his grandparents’ closet for photos, documents, and an old samovar, alerts us to the theme. The history of the tavern, successively known as Eddie Goldberg’s Golden Door Tavern (Revolutionary War motif, but with klezmer music on the jukebox), The Flamingo Lounge (wannabe Stork Club), The Twin-Forties Café (referring to a famed artillery piece), and the Homeland Tavern (serving Jewish ethnic cuisine) reflects the American history of the period, as well as Eddie’s changing attitudes toward that history. Eddie changed his own name from Itzik and his son’s from Chaim to Charlie. He says that he reads Winchell16 and goes to the movies. But he is wary of unconditionally accepting American ways, judging that his father, who was killed by the mob for not buying their Prohibitionera booze, to have been “a devout and patriotic putz!”—one of the naive “GroundKissers” (35, 33). Eddie preaches to the child Charlie about having to be smarter or stronger “Because, basically, they want to kill you” (25). Eddie thus jettisons all of his Judaism except for a sharp awareness of the anti-Semitism threatening him and his boys, an awareness born of his harrowing memories of the savage pogrom that killed his mother. Yet, he insists on sending his boys to Hebrew school. Eddie’s ambivalence toward his ethnic and religious heritage stands in contrast to the Yiddish actor Zaretsky, who (“workin’ in a loser language,” says Eddie [135])

Confrontation or Convergence


clings to his faith, dies a millionaire, and leaves all his money to the state of Israel. Zaretsky criticizes Eddie for assimilating—“You came to the Melting Pot, sir, and melted . . . melted away” (36, ellipsis and emphasis Gardner’s)—as Eddie condemns him for diminishing the horror of the pogrom: “What’d they slice off ya, Zaretsky? Your memory?” (36). In this conflicted environment, the boys take different paths.17 Enraged at reports of the death camps read by Zaretsky from a one-paragraph news item in the Times, Joey enlists and is killed, causing Eddie to renounce Judaism. (He even gets a tattoo so as to preclude burial with Jewish rites.) Young Charlie is bewildered and crushed by his father’s irrationality: “I don’t wanna be from you! Nothin’ fits together, nothin’ ya say!” (92, emphasis Gardner’s). Adult Charlie, however, achieves success as a novelist with a series of books loosely patterned after his father and the regulars at the bar, but ethnically denatured and smoothed over. Eddie criticizes him for this, and Charlie counterattacks: “Pop, you made him up. He’s your Jew, and so am I; no history, no memory.” Eddie’s defense appeals to history: “I lived in my time, now you gotta live in yours” (130–131, emphasis Gardner’s). Eddie has a recurring dream that he is back at Ellis Island, where they have drawn an “H” on his chest, meaning he was rejected for emigration because of heart disease. Virtually his last words in the play, “they won’t let me in, Joey” (135), serve as a lament for all Jews of the diaspora. In a way that the adult Charlie is only beginning to grasp—via the autobiographical memory that constitutes the play—Eddie has lived the confrontation of history and collective memory. *



Case Studies: African American Commemorative Drama Do Jews remember differently from Gentiles, black people from white? If, as suggested in chapter 4, Tennessee Williams displayed both “heterosexual” and “hom*osexual” mnemonic dramaturgies, might such difference be generalized to gays and straights? The answers come quickly and contradictorily: “No.” “Of course.” And “That’s the wrong question.” “No,” because brain architecture is remarkably constant; “of course,” because differing social frameworks can be expected to construct memory differently; and “it’s the wrong question” because it attributes an unfounded hom*ogeneity both to identity groups and commemorative strategies. Social psychologists are able to note gender- and culture-based differences in memory styles: women’s memories in general are more detailed than men’s and some societies tend toward the collectivist, while others tend toward the individualistic.18 But while such markers are useful in pointing up difference, they are hardly definitive. Nor are commemorative dramaturgies proprietary: all may partake. Such questions, however, invite us into two passionately contested areas: the debate over whether commemoration tied to identity politics depends upon or perpetuates a deterministic essentialism and the issue of how or if individual memory may be analogized to collective memory. As to the former question, I offer a few


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

general observations before proceeding to cases. As W. James Booth (1993, 251, after Stuart Hampshire) suggests, memory forms political identity by “ingathering and making present” a sameness through time and erecting barriers to those not in ‘the grip of particular and distinguishing memories and of particular and distinguishing local passions.’” At the same time, Bell Hooks argues that when members of marginalized groups appeal to an essentializing “authority of experience,” “they are often imitating paradigms for asserting subjectivity that are part of the controlling apparatus in structures of domination.”19 Critiques of essentialism may thus threaten marginalized groups “for whom it has been an active gesture of political resistance to name one’s identity as part of a struggle to challenge domination” (Hooks, 172–173). Booth may be right in asserting that political identity cannot be based solely on “nonrights markers” of the “blood and soil” type, but must include enduring institutions and decision-making structures. But Hooks also has a point in arguing for a sort of democratized essentialism in which the marginalized group, not the hegemony, articulates the discourse of self-identity. As to the second question, that of analogizing individual and collective memory, memographers have engaged it persistently since Halbwachs. Implying a version of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” Nelson and Fivush (2000) suggest that just as societies dictate values associated with remembering, so do individual socialization practices impact autobiographical memory. In their Oxford Handbook of Memory article, they use the term “scripts” to identify, for example, sequences that children learn for going-to-bed rituals and, analogizing on Halbwachs’ “frameworks,” they assert that parents “scaffold” children’s conversations about the past, shaping what will become their autobiographical narratives. Autobiographical memories, however, are not just products of but inputs to such social coordinations, allowing us to conceive individual memory as determinate, yet changeable, and autonomous. It may be that event memory, which helps us to find ourselves in time and understand how things go in the world, is more dependent upon socialization than is one’s personal and individuated episodic memory. The distinction between history and memory, then, reemerges in a psychosocial context in which differential socialization may be seen to promote different autobiographical and collective memory formation. More specifically, contrasting examples are afforded by dramatic treatments of the Holocaust, where individual testamentary memory accumulates into history or where errant and contradictory memory is brought to history’s heel, and by the work of notable African American dramatists of the 1980s and 1990s (excepting Anna Deavere Smith, q. v. below), who characteristically set memory in sharp opposition to history in the vein of Pierre Nora at his most radical.20 Though they range in their engagement with memory from the commemorative to the anti-commemorative, playwrights such as August Wilson, George C. Wolfe, and Suzan-Lori Parks follow in the footsteps of W. E. B. Du Bois in rejecting the white, historical master narrative. Anticipating by many years Halbwachs’ emphasis on the establishment of group identity and community, Du Bois in The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America, 1638–1870 (1896), Souls of Black Folk (1903), and the later Black Reconstruction in America (1935) painstakingly constructed counter-memories to the hegemonic historiography. As David Blight (1994, 65) has put it in “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Struggle for American Historical Memory,” the somberly hopeful contention

Confrontation or Convergence


embedded in Du Bois’ work is “that when the marketplace for the construction of social memories becomes as free and open as possible, while still firmly guided by the rules of scholarship, then the politics of remembering and forgetting might be, here and there, overcome.” No dramatist has opened the market place for the construction of African American social memories more than August Wilson. In response to a leading question in a 1990 interview with Vera Sheppard—“It seems to me you are trying to keep the memory of black suffering alive”—Wilson responded that suffering is only part of the story: “What I want to do is place the culture of black America on stage” (Bryer and Hartig 2006, 104). To Sandra Shannon’s “I’m fascinated by the combination of memory, history, and myth-making and the blues in your work. Do you perceive your role as historian, as a prophet or healer, or perhaps something else?” Wilson’s patient reply was “Well, I just say playwright” (1991 interview in Bryer and Hartig, 119). While Wilson is willing to respond to sober questions about memory and history, his playwriting proceeds from his enthusiastic adoption of the narrative of oppression and liberation as personal: slavery is not only “nothing to be ashamed of ” (in a 1987 interview with David Savran in Bryer and Hartig, 27), but black American history is “a tremendous triumph” that Wilson deploys as if it were all his own memory (2004 interview with Maureen Dezell in Bryer and Hartig, 256). Iwona Irwin-Zarecka’s observation that “The needed work of remembrance proper” for marginalized groups normally entails “the choice of rallying dates for ceremonial observance of . . . values and goals, the attending to one’s heroic figures, commemorating of key victories and defeats” (59) helps us to recognize that Wilson’s ten-decade cycle of twentieth-century black America marks ceremonial observance in sacred time rather than historical events in profane time. No documentarian, Wilson consciously avoids history writ large in the cycle, as the Vietnam War barely is registered in Jitney (1970s) (“I didn’t make the Vietnam War as large a part of Jitney as I could have”—[Shannon interview in Bryer and Hartig, 127]) or as the assassinations of the 1960s are absent from Two Trains Running (Wilson: “people were still living their lives . . . and those events . . . didn’t reach the average person”—[1993 Richard Pettengill interview in Bryer and Hartig, 155]). As is the case throughout the cycle, this is less ahistoricism than a decision to subordinate historical event to commemoration. Criticism, whether journalistic or academic, has recognized the centrality of memory to Wilson’s work. Ben Brantley (2007) has written “The Wilson cycle is, in both form and content, the act of memory as an art form” with Aunt Ester, mentioned in several plays and appearing in Gem of the Ocean, as its “walking metaphor,” and Harry Elam (2004) has made the presence of the past the keynote of his study of Wilson. That this is the lyrical, fluid past of memory rather than the fixed past of historical event is signaled by the fact that Wilson turns to the blues, not historical data, to set “mood, place, time, subject and dialogue for each play” (Shannon 1996, 177). Music, in effect, is memory in Wilson’s plays. There are musical allusions in the titles of at least half of the ten-play cycle, but in The Piano Lesson (1987) the memory/ music bond and consequently the memory/history split, are central. Rich in Biblical reference, The Piano Lesson is parable, prophecy, exorcism, oral history of black music, Marxist critique, and rhapsody. It is Wilson’s Cherry


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

Orchard, his Angels in America. Set, as are all of the cycle plays (except Ma Rainey), in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, The Piano Lesson begins with a truckload of watermelons driven up from the South by Lymon and Boy Willie, who arrive at the home the latter’s Uncle Doaker shares with Willie’s sister Berniece and her daughter Maretha. It is 1937. The family’s elaborately carved piano (African totems for legs, and reliefs of the family carved by Doaker’s grandfather) sits prominently polished in Doaker’s parlor. Will the family agree to sell the piano so Willie can buy land to farm in the South—an action that, in my reading, would allow him to enter history? Who “owns” the piano—Berniece, who treasures it as a memento but does not touch it “because it got blood on it” (10)21 or Boy Willie, who later threatens, Solomon-like, to cut it in half? The play’s epigraph, a blues lyric from Skip James—“Gin my cotton / Get my seed / Buy my baby / Everything she need”—points us to question land ownership and use-value, both pragmatically and psychologically. Berniece has a suitor, the preacher Avery, whose entry with the Bible in his hands initiates allusions to the parting of the Red Sea, Daniel in the lions’ den, Lazarus and prophetic dreams. The return of Doaker’s brother, the itinerant entertainer Wining Boy, facilitates the telling of the backstory that explains why the sale of the piano is freighted with significance. Sutter, the white owner of the family, had bartered Doaker’s grandmother and father for the piano. When his wife missed the traded slaves, Doaker’s grandfather carved the history of the family into the piano. The mistress was pleased: “Now she had her piano and her nigg*rs too” (44). But Doaker’s brother, Boy Charles, knew the importance of the piano: “Say it was the story of our whole family and as long as Sutter had it . . . he had us” (45, ellipsis Wilson’s). Boy Charles stole the piano in 1911, was caught trying to escape in a boxcar and was burned to death with four other hoboes in the car, who became known after the railroad line as the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog. When Sutter’s descendant drowned in his well three weeks before the action of the play, “Everybody say the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog pushed him,” says Boy Willie (5). It is Sutter’s brother who has offered to sell land to Boy Willie. On the Cherry Orchard analogy,22 Boy Willie, the entrepreneur, is the Lopakhin, and Berniece, who has Varya’s practicality and some of her shyness, represents the younger branch of the old order, which wants to hold onto a possession that enshrines its memory. Indeed, Boy Willie’s speech at the end of the first act justifying his reason for wanting to sell is strongly reminiscent of Lopakhin’s after he has bought the cherry orchard. He says the piano has only sentimental value to Berniece. He says, reminding us of the lost recipe for cherry preserves, that letting the piano sit there is “just like I let them watermelons sit out there and rot” (51). By contrast, if Boy Willie sells the piano, “I get Sutter’s land and I can go down and cash in the crop and get my seed. . . . I can always get me a little something else. Cause that land give back to you” (ibid.). There is also a reminder of Gaev’s speech to the old bureau in Doaker’s history of the piano, and some will hear echoes of Chekhov’s breaking string in the ghostly susurrus when the piano is moved. The Piano Lesson, however, offers a phantastic and transcendent Wilsonian, not Chekhovian, resolution. The ghost that both Doaker and Berniece report seeing is identified as Sutter’s, and Avery is asked to conduct an exorcism, which involves water, wind, the sound of an approaching train, Boy Willie wrestling with Sutter, and

Confrontation or Convergence


Berniece sitting down at the piano for the first time and playing a fervent, improvised imprecation to her ancestors. Boy Willie leaves for an uncertain future in the South, while the piano stays put in Pittsburgh. Virtually all of the reviewers of the Broadway production understood that, as Rich (1990) of the Times put it, “In ‘The Piano Lesson’ the disposition of the piano becomes synonymous with the use to which the characters put their ancestral legacy,” or as Wilson himself said, “it’s not the historical value . . . it’s the use of it that frees them” (in Bryer and Hartig, 175). Elam succinctly and precisely captures Wilson’s commemorative intention: “Berniece constructs the song from her memory yet also constructs memory through the song” (202). Wilson clearly wants this memory formation to be collective and communal, telling an interviewer “if we do this [the end of the play] right, people in the audience would call out the names of their ancestors” (217). Elam (177) is right when he says “evocations of spirit within Wilson purposefully summon memory,” but we can further discern in this recurrent Wilsonian trope what Kerwin Klein (132) has identified as “the convergence of archaic and contemporary meanings” of memory. Wilson embraces, it seems to me, “a narrative in which memory found its early meaning in the union of material objects and divine presence, a meaning that was displaced by the rise of the modern self and the secularization and privatization of memory” (ibid.). Berniece in Piano Lesson, Loomis in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and Barlow in Gem of the Ocean all find themselves in the situation Wilson describes in his notes to Joe Turner: “sons and daughters of newly freed African slaves,” who arrive in a Northern city “isolated, cut off from memory, having forgotten the names of the gods.”23 In all three cases, sacred objects figure in the restoration of collective memory: the piano; the pigeons and other equipment of Bynum’s voodoo rites in Joe Turner; and the pennies and paper boat of Gem of the Ocean. In these cases, as throughout the cycle, the objects are linked to the material practice Wilson considers most efficacious in the restoration of memory, African American music. In The Piano Lesson, until Berniece’s piano is put to use by the characters, it is a lieu de mémoire, a place of transition or archive, neither historical site nor living memory. “Lieux de mémoire originate with the sense that there is no spontaneous memory, that we must deliberately create archives, maintain anniversaries, organize celebrations, pronounce eulogies and notarize bills because such activities no longer occur naturally” (Nora, 12). But the African American music that swirls around the spoken dialogue, by contrast, transforms the piano from a mere material object and constructs what Nora calls a milieu de mémoire or real memory environment.24 The play of spontaneous memory, as exampled in music, is either the inspiration or aspiration of Wilson’s characters in The Piano Lesson. Of the many musical episodes, including Boy Willie’s boogie-woogie, Doaker’s railroad chant, Berniece’s hymn, and the chain gang shout that engages all the men on stage, only Maretha’s practice piece and Wining Boy’s traveling blues need even the most perfunctory introduction (“play something” [21 and 47]). Music forms the most “affective and magical” (Nora, 8) punctuation for the milieu de mémoire of The Piano Lesson, which “seems to sing even when it is talking” (Frank Rich review).25 Historically, African American music was coded for resistance, spiritual escape, and relief. This is a “recipe” that has not been lost, and Wilson bardically associates

250 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard himself with its deep memories (notably in the Shannon interview in Bryer and Hartig, 121–122). The theme of music as mnemonic runs throughout the cycle and is particularly explicit in Joe Turner (1910s) and Gem of the Ocean (1900s). In the former, the focus memorious is the “people-finder” Bynum, whose binding song he learned with the help of his father: “It had come from deep inside me. I looked long back in memory and gathered up pieces and snatches of things to make that song” (71). Loomis by contrast, unable to sustain himself in an obsessive quest for his missing wife, is like a returned slave “‘Cause you forgot how to sing your song” (ibid.). When Bynum leads a juba dance, it provokes in Loomis a terrifying vision of bones washing ashore—evocative of the Middle Passage—that disables Loomis. Only after Bertha, who owns the rooming house where Loomis is staying, performs an exorcism “that is centuries old and to which she is connected by the muscles of her heart and the blood’s memory” (s. d., 87) can Loomis stand on his own two feet and leave his obsessions behind. In Gem of the Ocean, the construction of a milieu de mémoire through music is as explicit as it can get, as Aunt Ester, aided by the Underground Railroad hero Solly, stages a vision of the Middle Passage to the chant “Remember me” (65).26 The ritual frees Citizen Barlow to make a conscience-clearing confession. Wilson’s final three plays seem more premonitory of the “fundamental collapse of memory” Nora (7) saw as precipitating the erection of memory’s barricades, the lieux. The rise of the acquisitive black middle class depicted in Radio Golf (1990s) and the death of the metaphoric Aunt Ester, Wilson’s Mnemosyne, in King Hedley II (1980s) mark, as Elam (192) puts it, “the continued drift of blacks away from their ‘songs,’” even as Gem of the Ocean labors mightily to restore memory by putting Aunt Ester onstage for the first and only time in the cycle. There can be little doubt that Wilson intended the ten plays as a restorative cycle of commemorations, which typically depend upon shared, collective memory; entail community participation; are prescribed and performed; mark one’s place in the flow of time; indicate a willingness to “own” one’s past; affirm group identity; and convert memory into history by constituting an event “as an objective fact of the world” (Fridja 1997, 111). It is Wilson’s confidence in the power of commemoration, a confidence born of the association of memory and identity politics “within the cultural context of the postsixties United States” (Klein, 143), that encouraged him to reject the “strait jacket” of historical research (Boyd interview with Wilson in Bryer and Hartig, 238); the events Wilson converts from memory to history are of his own making. Elam (9) sees this unproblematically as Wilson’s response to the “loss of history . . . like Suzan-Lori Parks [he] ‘makes some up.’” Kerwin Klein’s analysis of the emergence of memory in the historical discourse, however, offers the caution that “we should be worried about the tendency to employ memory as the mode of discourse natural to the people without history” (144). Noting that “certain postmodern rhetorics of catastrophe have recently begun to blur into ‘a traumatic-sacred-sublime alterity’” (quoting James Berger), Klein discusses, in terms distinctly evocative of Wilson’s apocalyptic endings, the “mode of memory as re-enchantment . . . whose mysteries can be grasped only by those initiates armed with the secret code,” and concludes “One of the reasons for memory’s sudden rise is that it promises to let us have our essentialism and deconstruct it, too” (137, 144). Elam has carefully considered the issue of Wilson’s seeming essentialism and vigorously argues against it. He

Confrontation or Convergence


says that Wilson flirts with but subverts the stereotype of the black performer (31); that Wilson’s “blood memory” is “a symbolic representation . . . for his central idea of reimagining history” (xviii), “not . . . ontology but . . . (w)righting metaphor” (203); that “the critical task with Wilson’s dramaturgy is that we recognize the utility of it without reading it as totalizing; and that we note the possibility of responding to its symbolic meaning without corresponding absolutely to it or subordinating oneself to its authority” (xvii). Memory studies can illuminate this issue to the extent of reminding us that one’s membership in a commemorative domain drives reception of and participation in the cycle, and that participation is the “functional essence” of commemoration (Casey, 247). Wilson offers to African American audiences an exhortation to and demonstration of collective memory work, calling for blacks to “maintain our culture separate from the dominant cultural values and participate in American society as Africans rather than as blacks who have adopted European values” (Shannon interview, in Bryer and Hartig, 130, [emphasis mine]). To white audiences, he provides an opportunity to participate in that work, neither with a seat at the table nor in just a bystander’s role, but with the invitation to recognize the trauma of slavery and the triumph of survival as a present past, thereby offering the occasion for what John Kani has called “a vulnerability to the truth.”27 Recalling that Stephen Foster was the most famous Pittsburgh native before Wilson to write about African Americans may help to contextualize Wilson’s commemorative vigilance in commanding the articulating discourse of black Pittsburgh. But the ardor to define African American identity may sound an anticommemorative note as well, in such plays as George C. Wolfe’s Colored Museum and Suzan-Lori Parks’s America Play and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World. For Wolfe and Parks,28 as for Nora and Foucault, “History ceases to be a mnemonic construction and becomes instead an archaeological deconstruction” (Hutton, 149). In a resistant mode more like Adrienne Kennedy’s than Wilson’s, Wolfe and Parks put at the heart of their dramas a radical erasure of the mnemonic myths and stereotypes obscuring black identity. For all his disavowal of the strait jacket of historical research, Wilson’s commemorative enterprise proceeds from an assumption that the past has what Casey (257) calls a “selfsameness” and (quoting Alfred North Whitehead) an “objective immortality”—the feeling that something has ended and can therefore be discriminated from what is still happening. Wolfe and Parks in their anticommemorative mode offer no such conviction. Where Wilson’s cycle constructs a milieu de mémoire, Wolfe and Parks build and demolish lieux “imbued with the sense that memory has been torn—but torn in such a way as to pose the problem of the embodiment of memory in certain sites where a sense of historical continuity persists” (Nora, 7). The Colored Museum opened at the Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ, March 26, 1986, a month before Joe Turner’s Come and Gone opened at the Yale Repertory Theatre, on April 29. In the latter, the Middle Passage is envisioned as mystical, transformative, and ultimately liberating; in the former, it is an exhibit (“Git on Board”) narrated by a miniskirted hostess who welcomes us aboard a “Celebrity Slaveship” with the admonition that no call- and- response singing and no drumming are permitted (11–12).29 The ship lurches through a time warp, giving the hostess the


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

opportunity to offer a minute-long history of blacks in America: “the Civil War . . . the Great Depression, which means everybody gets to live the way you’ve been living . . . ‘Julia’ with Miss Diahann Carol . . . those five little girls in Alabama” (14). It is as if the Richard Pryor of Bicentennial nigg*r has turned up in one of Brecht’s Lehrstücke, the lesson being to forget the past, if it is nothing more than museum pieces. As for music, that sacred bearer of memory in Wilson, in “Cookin’ with Aunt Ethel,” she sings a blues while tossing ingredients into a pot and baking up “a batch of Negroes” (17). “The Photo Session” mocks a robotic, Ebony magazine image of success, while “A Soldier with a Secret” suggests that military service was just another way to exploit black Americans. “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play” takes off from A Raisin in the Sun to parody stereotypes and conventional representations of black aspiration. In “Symbiosis” a man throws out all the toys of his youth (from Temptations albums to political buttons and his first dashiki), while his personified Youth objects. The man explains it is too emotionally taxing to be black: “I have no history. I have no past” (47). In “Permutations” Nora Jean Reynolds (Zora Neale Hurston?) has produced a huge egg from sleeping with the garbage-man—the image of a new identity not yet quite born. Topsy Washington in the final piece “The Party” imagines a party with all black history in attendance and which disappears into her head. The figures from previous exhibits enter and speak all at once, but Topsy speaks for the whole Colored Museum, declaring: “whereas I can’t live inside yesterday’s pain, I can’t live without it” and sings “‘THERE’S MADNESS IN ME / AND THAT MADNESS SETS ME FREE” (64). Manifestly, clearing the shelves of the “colored museum” is the first step in reclaiming black history from the white commemorative domain. This is likewise the task of Parks’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (1992).30 Even more sharply than Wolfe, Parks feels the hurt of converting heritage into diversion and stresses the urgency of combating white expropriation of black history. Her rejection of white hegemony extends, like Toni Morrison’s, to eschewing white literary frames of reference and displacing allusive, poetic memory with “pieces” or fragments that preserve discredited sources such as lore, gossip, magic, and an antiphonal, improvisatory black voice.31 Parks creates ghosts, persons from Pastland, figures, and figments—not “characters”—and applies the repetition/revision aesthetic of jazz to plot construction, rejecting linear, arcing, climax-oriented texts (Parks 1995, 9–12). Thus, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World has “figures” named BLACK MAN WITH WATERMELON and BLACK WOMAN WITH FRIED DRUMSTICK and LOTS OF GREASE AND LOTS OF PORK, who riff and rehearse scenes from the history of slavery in a sort of scat dialogue divided into “overture” and “chorus” rather than acts. Episodes also form “panels,” as if the dramatis personae were cartoon characters—which, of course, they are. When, however, these cartoon figures perform scenes of harrowing power, including a lynching and a slave auction in which there are no names to record, only “allyall” or “allus” or “datone, disone, duhutherone” (124), the stereotypes evoke ghostly memories of the African American past in a way that stands in high contrast to the more conventional spectral appearances in Wilson. (If Wilson’s counterpart in the visual arts is Romare Bearden, Parks’s is Kara Walker.) The effect is part minstrel show and part opera, as Parks demolishes the stereotypes without erasing their pain. Furthermore, the irony and aesthetic distance provided by the cartoon imagery unequivocally resists essentialist identifications.

Confrontation or Convergence


Parks’s dismantling of the white myths surrounding black history continues with The America Play (1994). It famously represents the Great Hole of History on stage and juxtaposes Lincolnian hagiography with a gravedigger’s story in order to expose American myth-making as “A theme park. With historical parades” (162). The theme park idea, devised by the black Lesser Known, who is set off against the white Great Man, is literalized, as when historically interested patrons pay to pick up a gun and “Shoot Mr. Lincoln.” In the second act, the characters of Lucy and Brazil are digging in the Great Hole, unearthing bits of white and black myth and memory. The former is public and historical, while the latter tends to be personal in nature, as the Father of his Country is contrasted with Brazil’s father. Gradually, black and white suffering and murder blend without losing their distinctive character, and Brazil’s digging becomes a potent metaphor for a deeper excavation of all our myths of the past. Refusing to come up empty-handed, Parks chooses to stand outside the commemorative domain of white America; rejects the role of mere bystander in the parade of American history; withholds emotional resolution; and questions and mocks the notion of history as objective fact, or even the notion of history as the realm of the past and the already actualized. These are the plays of a fiercely impassioned writer not even yet able to mourn, though through the character of Brazil, who specializes in mourning, Parks both mocks the supposedly therapeutic virtue of mourning while pensively attempting to enact it. As Jeanette Malkin has put it, “The last line of The America Play, ‘And now thuh nation mourns,’ ironically intoned, spoken on a stage empty of mourners, is a call to rethink the representations, and the agendas, of national memory” (182). For Parks, the commemorative domain is a bourne from which no traveler returns, and she appears to have abandoned it entirely with 365 Plays/365 Days, a cycle as present-driven as Wilson’s is past-driven. *



Other Dramas, Other Domains The agendas of national memory, in both commemorative and anticommemorative modes, are explored in the emergent Native American drama. Hanay Geiogamah’s Foghorn (1973) anticipates Colored Museum in employing stereotypes (Pocahontas, Tonto) in the context of a Wild West Show to (un)tell Native American history, though it is tied to contemporary politics in a way that Colored Museum is not.32 Similarly, LeAnne Howe and Roxy Gordon’s Indian Radio Days (1993) employs a radio show format and bingo game (audience participation encouraged) to link suppressed history and commercial exploitation.33 By contrast, Power Pipes (1973), created by the feminist Native American Spiderwoman Theater, draws upon traditional music, dance, and storytelling techniques to grapple with issues of identity. The play arcs toward a recovery of memory, culminating in a penultimate scene “of the beginning” conjured with the recurring phrases “trying to remember” and “una memoria.”34 As with African American theatre, the post-1960s political con-

254 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard text pressured the fusing of collective memory and identity, reawakening previously banned tribal ceremonies and commemorations from “hibernation.”35 Though archaic memory frequently returns in Native American drama, it is not always welcome. Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of Black Elk Speaks (1976) sets off Hoksila, a young Lakota who has refused to learn his native language, against his grandfather Black Elk, who fought at Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, but lived until 1950. Black Elk spoke extensively in the 1920s and 1930s with poet John Neihardt (1961), sharing tribal memory of events stretching back to the time before Columbus: “I did not have to remember these things; they have remembered themselves all these years” (17). Hoksila is impatient with such “crazy Indian superstition.”36 Black Elk, “waits for yesterday. But all that comes again is the memory” (12). The ensuing action feels more like a documentary than a memory play, however, with Black Elk sounding more like a narrator than a rememberer, until the action draws closer to the incidents Black Elk himself witnessed, causing memory and history to converge. Incorporating traditional elements such as a Spirit Guide and a Hoop Dance, the play culminates in the embrace by Hoksila of tribal memory and his offering a ceremonial cup to the audience. Structurally, the play shares with August Wilson’s cycle the familiar trope of the “conversion” of an oblivious nonbeliever. Suppression and displacement, rather than overt oppression, kept gay drama in a sort of hibernation until Stonewall (1969). As they emerged, gay voices tended to engage contemporary issues unretrospectively (Martin Sherman’s Bent [1979] being a notable exception) until the AIDS crisis, when gay drama took a memorializing turn in the face of accumulating absence and aching loss, thereby establishing a gay commemorative domain. As Tony Kushner puts it with characteristic precision, “any theatre about AIDS or any great historical calamity is going to have a commemorative function” (in Savran 1999, 110). In the case of Angels in America (1990–1991), its apocalyptic overtones mark, broadcast, and amplify a specific calamity—the irresponsibility of the Reagan administration in letting the AIDS epidemic go unchecked—and turn it into an emblem of political neglect and forgetfulness. While mournful commemorations of different sorts may be occurring to its audiences, depending upon their private relationship to the AIDS crisis, Kushner’s project is to invite all to remember as a way of setting history straight. In an interview with David Savran he quotes Yerushalmi: “the antonym of justice is not injustice but forgetting” and adds “The history of all holocausts is based on memory” (111). But Angels in America is all the stronger, I think, for keeping its commemorative function largely in the subtext, though allowing it to emerge in such powerful ritual moments as Ethel Rosenberg’s song over the dying Roy Cohen. By contrast, Moisés Kaufman’s solipsistic and self-serving Laramie Project (2002) overtly commemorates the death of Matthew Shepherd, from which it borrows a seriousness undermined by the insistence of Tectonic Theater Project on commemorating its own group process in creating the work. What happens to the memory play put not in the service of an identity group but of an entire nation whose political identity is derived from its marginalized status? As Christopher Murray (1997, 247) suggests, when Irish drama holds the mirror up to the nation it sees reflected “our unshakable memory of defeat.” Sebastian Barry’s The Steward of Christendom (1995) offers a particularly instructive look in this mirror

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for, as Murray says, “When we listen to Thomas Dunne’s story in The Steward of Christendom, we participate not only in the history of one life’s casualties but in the history of Irish drama itself.”37 That is, Barry’s play has Yeats’s and Synge’s lyricism, O’Casey’s critical perspective on the birth of the nation, the nostalgia that creeps into the Irish drama of the 1950s and 1960s, Friel’s pastoralism, and Beckett’s compelling image of a recollected life as a heap of words. Furthermore, the play is written during a time when the emergence of the “Celtic Tiger,” along with an ongoing and hopeful Peace Process, threatened to render irrelevant both the nostalgic and doom-bound formations of Irish cultural identity. Barry, who returned to Ireland in 1985 after some years spent in Europe, told an interviewer that “none of the available identities of Irishness seemed to fit” him, and that “Since I was now to be an Irishman, it seemed I would have to make myself up as I went along” (Llewellyn-Jones 2002, 62). Barry’s self-construction frequently employs the building blocks of family history, and Steward is the fifth in a series of plays Barry has written about his ancestors. The main character, Thomas Dunne, was Barry’s great-grandfather and Chief Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police when Michael Collins (hero of the struggle for independence and head of the provisional government) briefly came to power and was assassinated during the Civil War of 1922. Dunne had also been Chief when the Dublin Police fatally charged the crowd listening to James Larkin, the labor leader who called a general strike in 1913. The encounter between personal memory and Irish history thus poised plays out via an array of complex mnemonic devices. The play introduces us to Dunne “in about 1932” as confined to Baltinglass, the county home for the aged and insane in County Wicklow.38 Vigorous, if weakened, in his mid-seventies, Dunne is periodically visited by his daughter Annie and son-inlaw Matt, and tended to by the harsh “Black Jim” and the kindly Mrs. O’Dea. But the present time of the play is so overtaken by the past that episodes happening “now” seem like interruptions, tears in the fabric of memory. This fabric is densely woven with ruminescent monologues by Dunne, mainly centering on his boyhood; memory-laden visions of his son Willie, killed in World War I; flashbacks to Dunne family domestic scenes clustered around the turnover of the Irish government to Michael Collins in 1922; episodes with one or another character in which Dunne, sounding like a proper historian, recollects events; and the reading of an exquisitely sad letter Willie sent his father before perishing on the battlefield. These devices, however, are applied with enough inconsistency that the etiology of remembrance in the play is obscured rather than clarified. Some of Dunne’s monologues are sing-song and Lear-like, particularly the first one, while others seem not like the ravings of a madman. The device also wobbles between the representational and the presentational, as sometimes Dunne appears to be talking to himself, while other times he is not. He does not control the narrative as Michael does in Dancing at Lughnasa, though he does shape it emotionally, closing the play on a recollection of a merciful act of kindness by his father, whom we have previously known only as one who beat his son. The flashbacks, too, are problematic. On the one hand, they appear to be Dunne’s memories, as vivid and veridical as Michael’s; on the other hand, Dunne enters midway through one long flashback scene, meaning that he cannot have remembered what he never witnessed in the first place.39 Is this Dunne remembering history,


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

history remembering Dunne, Barry remembering his family, or Barry remembering Irish drama? Margaret Llewellyn-Jones sees these “slippages between memory, history and identity” as characteristic of a postmodern, split subjectivity and congruent with Barry’s statement that “I believe more in how the mind remembers things than I do in that masculine surety, history” (51). Yet, Barry keeps both history and memory in play throughout The Steward of Christendom, as Dunne recollects with pride his years of service to Queen Victoria, “the very flower and perfecter of Christendom” (14), and mulls over his failure to keep the peace during the Civil War following Collins’ assassination. By the time Black Jim, who has castigated Dunne for his service to the crown, agrees to read aloud Willie’s moving letter, we conclude that Barry has put history and memory on the path of convergence. “It’s an historical document,” Smith says of the letter (56), and after reading it calls it tenderly “a memento” (57), while Dunne savors the closing salutation, repeating it aloud: “In my dreams you comfort me” (ibid.). I wonder if Barry is not suggesting that, unmediated by memory, history is a “symptom” that has long bedeviled Irish identity.40 But by allowing Dunne to recognize, finally, that “he is loved, loved and needed and not to be lived without, and greatly” (65), Barry intimates that Dunne is done with history, that he—and perhaps the Ireland of 1995—has broken free of that “unshakable memory of defeat” and allowed the past to “occur” to the present for the first time, rather than determining it. Nicolas Andrew Miller terms this an “erotic” turn in Irish memory, for the past has become spectacle and attraction, rather than obsession (187). *



RECOVERING HISTORICAL MEMORY: COMPOSING AND DECOMPOSING DOCUMENTARY TEXTS The fact that trauma generates painful and conflicting impulses simultaneously to remember and to forget has caused historian David Gross in Lost Time: On Remembering and Forgetting in Late Modern Culture to raise the disarmingly simple question “Which is the better choice as a basic life-orientation, to remember or to forget?” (6, emphasis Gross’s). Gross addresses the question historically and, not surprisingly, concludes that, at the turn of the twenty-first century, advocates of forgetting have the upper hand. Formerly, memory was a positive faculty associated with good character, spirituality, and piety, while forgetting was a negative sign of the same categories. In late modern times, however, memory’s unreliability is highlighted, as well as the fact that memory-orientation may be a sign of escaping the present. Gross points out that popular culture, getting Freud exactly wrong, frequently posits or accepts forgetting as a kind of solution to the “problem” of memory (41). Under pressure from philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and postmodern historiography, the conception of the past as a discrete phenomenon destabilizes, just as the ability of memory to call back the past becomes more difficult to distinguish cognitively from perception and imagination. The claims of history and memory to

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register the realness of the past become harder to maintain, even as the necessity of making the claims in the face of personal trauma and political holocaust, along with a pervasive cultural amnesia putatively exacerbated by technological change, becomes ever more urgent. Richards points to evidence for a “crisis of memory” reflected in political disputes from the Middle East to Central Europe to Ulster in which competing collective memories infect politics; in Holocaust denial; in false memory syndrome; in cultural conflict over what really happened in the 1960s; and in reliance on external memory systems (138). Or—in view of the downgraded status of the veridicality of history after the postmodern turn—should this situation be termed a “crisis of history” rather than a “crisis of memory”? It is possible, and perhaps advantageous, to move beyond the either/or of memory and history, encouraged by the antinomic formations of Yerushalmi and Nora. As Tony Judt (1998, 58) has pointed out, “Every memorial, every museum, every shorthand commemorative allusion to something in the past that should arouse in us the appropriate sentiments of respect, or regret, or sadness, or pride, is parasitic upon the presumption of historical knowledge; not shared memory, but a shared memory of history as we learned it.” One might add more pessimistically, however, that memory has the tendency to attach itself to the unlearned, pseudo-history of the mass media, where a hip-hop singer on the scene more than three years can be termed “old school,” rather than to “history as we learned it.” Late modern theatre, however, continues to offer evidence of passionate and popular interest in historical continuities and of the resistance of the past to be forgotten or wholly made over. At this writing, the 2007 Tony Award for Best Play has gone to Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia, a history play focusing on relatively obscure nineteenth-century Russian thinkers, and the Best Actor was Frank Langella, starring as Richard Nixon in the pseudo-documentary Frost/Nixon. Although, as suggested in chapter 2, many documentary plays either unproblematically join together or keep apart memory and history, many others address both historical facticity and factuality in an intricate memorious context. Playwrights audacious enough to explore this terrain may face audiences on the one hand unwilling to relinquish a treasured version of history created or transformed by memory in order to enable a community to “live with” a traumatic past, and on the other hand indisposed to encounter history unvarnished by nostalgia and reminiscence. In 1963, the English director Joan Littlewood faced these challenges in a manner that still seems fresh, creating the musical documentary that so inspired Peter Cheeseman, Oh What a Lovely War. Littlewood is acknowledged to be the “editor-in-chief ” of Oh What a Lovely War, a Theatre Workshop group creation whose complicated and disputed germination has been authoritatively recorded by Paget (1990). Collective creation had long been part of the Theatre Workshop, where Ewan MacColl had created documentaries in the 1940s and 1950s. MacColl had valued an “anonymity” of authorship that Paget rightly connects to the oral tradition, and Littlewood insisted that actors do their own research on World War I, the production’s ostensible subject, as a base for improvisational work (Goorney 1981). Charles Marowitz, the American director residing in London, describes the March 19, 1963 premiere at the Theatre Royal, Stratford: “A panoramic view of the pathos and absurdity of the Kaiser’s War, the production is a medley of disparate


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

styles which the genius of Littlewood and the invention of the ensemble have welded into one. The music hall score which accurately conveys the lace-trimmed romanticism of the early 1900s is interpolated with the brash journalistic devices of a Living Newspaper—creating an effect which is at once epic and intimate; elegantly stylized and grimly realistic; tragic and tragic-comic” (1963, 48). The performers are a cast of pierrot clowns, changing hats, props, and characters with equal facility—while never letting the audience relax into forgetful laughter. As characters are killed off only to rise again, clown smiles pasted in place, ready to die once more, the powerful stage metaphor impels the audience to look through all the false romanticism and the gushing, tearful patriotism at the face of war. But which war? An actor in the company recalls Littlewood insisting they were not doing a play “about” World War I, and another contends that presenting an antiwar play was not Littlewood’s intention (Goorney, 125–126). Without question, though, Lovely War gestured, in 1963, against a backdrop of sprouting nuclear arsenals and the buildup to the Vietnam War, and the production could surely take as its epigraph Marx’s aphorism (after Hegel) that “all facts and personages in world history occur twice, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Indeed, the intent of Lovely War is to portray history simultaneously as tragedy and farce. This is the effect of the jarring montage of new satirical lyrics written to old melodies, nostalgic song juxtaposed with battle statistics, of commedia and agitprop, of music hall and epic, of the pastness of the documentary “actuals” and the present/ationalism of performance. That is, the disparate styles of the production add up to a new and powerful historiography, a way of “writing” history that brought one very close to “being there.” Whether the mass of documentation about the horrors of war was mitigated by the adhesive (for many audience members) nostalgia of the songs was a matter of vigorous dispute. One observer recalled the softening of the ending when the production moved to the West End, a cynical speech by Victor Spinetti being replaced by a reprise of the title song (Goorney, 127). And Ewan MacColl deplored the compromises of a production he felt left “the audience feeling nice and comfy, in a rosy glow of nostalgia” (Goorney, 128). Littlewood (1994, 672–694) does not address these issues directly in her own memoir, though she does reveal that in the course of creating the script, she was at pains to mitigate sentimentality, to write from the soldier’s point of view, to avoid anti-German prejudice, and to deal with controversial subjects like the peace movement and how to present the Irish. To bring to bear the terminology of Frederic Bartlett and Maurice Halbwachs, Littlewood constructed divergent schemata or social frameworks for historical memory, one derived from politics (the historical scenes, the projections, and amassed data), another from mass media (the popular songs), leaving the audience to sort out their contradiction. But, at least for some, such oppositions were superseded by the creative collectivity that generated the script and manifested itself in performance, offering “a potent theatrical emblem for another sense of collectivity—that which helped to sustain the ordinary soldier of the First World War” (Paget 1990, 245). If Joan Littlewood intended to employ the schemata of mass media against themselves—that is, to reject what the media direct us to remember—Donald Freed similarly attempts to undermine the epistemological framework of the espionage trial of

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in his revisionist Inquest (1970). Freed deploys the full arsenal of documentary technique to dismantle what he called the “myth” of the Rosenbergs’ guilt: extensive verbatim excerpts from the 1951 trial, projections, and recordings of historical figures.41 Freed divides the action of his play between “Stage A,” where the trial is conducted, and “Stage B,” displaying scenes of the Rosenbergs’ private life reconstructed “from letters, notes, always memory” (202). Inquest appears to claim a special veracity for its treatment of the Rosenbergs in announcing (via a projection onstage) that “EVERY WORD YOU WILL SEE OR HEAR ON THIS STAGE IS A DOCUMENTED QUOTATION FROM TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS AND ORIGINAL SOURCES OR A RECONSTRUCTION FROM ACTUAL EVENTS” (147). On the one hand, Inquest stages the confrontation between history and memory schematically, if not simplistically. The received history of the Rosenberg case, preserved in trial transcript and public accounts, is assumed to be false, while memory, preserved in private documents and individual recollections, provides a true account of a victimized family: the final image of the play fills three screens with photos of the Rosenbergs and their children. But the historicity of Freed’s documentary complicates this neat opposition. The action “inside” the play is a reasoned, if partisan, reevaluation of the case against the Rosenbergs based on revisionist scholarship and set against the historical backdrop of the 1950s. The contemporary (to 1970) action was meant to take the spectator, as Freed puts it (201), “from [Judges] Kaufman to Hoffman,” that is, from the Rosenbergs’ court to that of the Chicago Seven. Its propagandistic intent was to compel an acknowledgment that the conditions that spawned the Rosenberg trial still prevailed—to exhort us to remember the Rosenberg trial is not just “history.” Today, however, the hermeneutic circle for understanding the play must be expanded to include the information, derived from subsequently released documents of Soviet Russia, that the Rosenbergs were in fact spies and traitors.42 Convincing evidence of the Rosenbergs’ guilt, then, was presumably withheld from the public trial because its revelation would have exposed American agents in place in the Soviet Union. On the one hand, this information would appear to undermine the truth claims of the script, for the account Freed deemed false was historically true. On the other hand, Freed and his sources were right in suspecting that the government’s case against the Rosenbergs manipulated the evidence: they just did not know why. For decades, the Rosenberg trial stood on the fault line dividing Left and Right master narratives of American justice, especially in New York City, home of the Rosenbergs and site of the trial. Placing divisive historical events or entities in a memory narrative that attempts to bridge commemorative domains and forge community and civic consensus is frequently a local matter, though site-specific documentaries prior to Emily Mann’s Execution of Justice (1984–1986) and Greensboro (1996) and Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in the Mirror (1992) and Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (1993) rarely came to national notice. While they also engaged national issues, Mann and Smith undertook what Steel/City (1976) did for Pittsburgh or 6221 (1993) for Philadelphia: to explore the place of memory via the memory of place. “This play is for Philadelphia,” Thomas Gibbons avers in his “Playwright’s Notes” for the original Interact Theatre Company’s production of 6221, which depicts the long history of the conflict between the city of Philadelphia and the radical African American group

260 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard MOVE, culminating in the disaster of May 13, 1985 that took eleven lives and destroyed an entire neighborhood.43 Gibbons recounts the history of the conflict in a conventional enough manner, using as a framework the hearings of the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission several months after the disastrous police bombing of the MOVE house at 6221 Osage Avenue. From the hearings, the action flashes back to the founding of the group by “John Africa” in 1972 and then moves forward to the bombing and its repercussions thirteen years later. Gibbons, who is white, handles the incendiary issues of African-American separatism and police racism with great judiciousness— his even-handedness reflected in the participation he won from MOVE members and police alike during the writing and in post-performance public forums (Hammer 1993). Much of Gibbons’s dialogue is retrieved from the public record, though he invents two neighbors, a Reporter, and Photographer who serve a chorus-like function, connecting the confrontation to larger issues of community. While history thus moves forward in the play, memory runs contrapuntally backward via the personal story of James Berghaier, a white police officer who risked his life to save the one child to survive the bombing. Berghaier’s story begins in the present—he has suffered a nervous breakdown from his experience and now works as a janitor—and moves backward to his induction into the police force. Memory and history meet, so to speak, at the scene of the bombing. But they do not flow together. History declares Berghaier a hero, braving not only the horrendous fire-bombing but also the hatred of some fellow officers who taunted him as a “nigg*r-lover” (Gibbons typescript, 65). But Berghaier doesn’t want to be called a hero (2) and agonizes over what he thinks is his failure to save more children (64). His memory allows no “objectivity” about the past. The play’s contrapuntal action thus suggests that there is no way to “put the past behind us,” in the common cliché. “The past is never wholly past. This past, this dance of death, is also our present and our future” (“Playwright’s Notes,” unpaged). *



CASE STUDIES: EMILY MANN AND ANNA DEAVERE SMITH Gibbons’s use of a memorative counterpoint to the history generated by the Philadelphia Special Investigation Commission’s hearings recalls Emily Mann’s employment of “uncalled witnesses” to supplement the trial transcripts in Execution of Justice, Mann’s treatment of the murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and gay City Supervisor Harvey Milk by Dan White. Indeed, contemporary American playwrights attracted to exploring the documentary theatre form would be hard-pressed to avoid the influence of Mann, who has been prospecting the history/ memory spectrum for her entire career. Since the 1970s, Mann has been “sculpting” (her word44) documentary dramas from transcripts of public documents and from interviews she has conducted herself with the subjects of her documentaries. In terms of subject matter, the body of Mann’s work45 encompasses material that has

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regularly invited documentary treatment: the Holocaust (Annulla), race relations (Having Our Say, Greensboro), the Vietnam War (Still Life), and a sensational murder trial (Execution of Justice). Her attempts to avoid conventional dramatic genres have invited the accusation that she does not write plays at all (Barnes 1995).46 She calls Annulla “an autobiography,” says Still Life is “constructed as a traumatic memory” (in the “Playwright’s Note,” 34), subtitles Greensboro “a requiem,” and terms her collection of four plays “testimonies.” So engaged is she with historical course and documentary voice, with managing the tangle of archive and testament, that taken together her plays form a metanarrative of history and memory, based in key traumatic themes of the twentieth century. Furthermore, her work is characteristically marked with the isolation of the outsider, as she regularly seeks admittance to commemorative domains that might be expected to exclude her: as an American born after World War II, she took on the Holocaust; as an opponent of the Vietnam War, she looked deeply into the psyche of a Vietnam veteran; as a straight woman, she engaged gay civil rights and the assassination of a movement icon; as a white person, she wrote about blacks; and as a Northerner, she invaded the Southern haunts of the Ku Klux Klan. Does her embrace of outsider status bespeak a loneliness at the heart of her work, an empathetic vulnerability to the pain of others, or a resistance to the seductive comforts of collective memory? And how does such an authorial voice inflect the purported facticity of the documentary? In terms of dramatic form, Execution of Justice and Greensboro feel much like the civically inspired, multivocal work of Peter Cheeseman, while Annulla, Still Life, and Having Our Say have the off-handed, conversational ring of pseudo-documentaries like Kennedy’s Children or Jane Martin’s Talking With (1981). But Mann’s description of Still Life—“the play is constructed as a traumatic memory” (34)—is true of the entire group (if much muted in Having Our Say). What Mann means by this may be gleaned from a story she told an interviewer of reading the Diary of Anne Frank when she was eleven and being so traumatized that she was admitted to a hospital (Salz 1996, 42). Whether “true” or not, this life-shaping family story memorializes a twiceengraved trauma, as Mann’s memory of her hospitalization overlays the trauma of the Holocaust. It is by no means an exaggeration to say that with each documentary play, Mann revisits that traumatic scene, particularly if we accept Cathy Caruth’s nonclinical definition that “To be traumatized is precisely to be possessed by an image or event” (4–5). As Mann herself puts it, “I usually feel a stabbing feeling coming from outside. An idea or story or person comes by me and I just cannot get the person or their story out of my head. So I go and meet with them” (quoted in Salz, 71). Mann’s own engagement with her sources is ambivalent. On the one hand, she may appear assured that the documentary can lead to the veridical: “The thing I love about documentary theatre is that you cannot lie” (Mann 2000, 8). She believes the documentary technique can yield a “heightened reality” (quoted in Clendinen 1996). She uses photos, recordings, films, and other trappings of the documentary like Piscatorian scene titles and playwright’s notes certifying a kind of authenticity. “Heightened reality,” then, would appear to be a product of the history latent in public record, enhanced with the trauma fixed in personal memory. Mann appears to share the common conviction that traumatic memory is “absolutely true to the event” and that trauma is “not so much a symptom of the unconscious as a symptom


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

of history” (Caruth, 5), a conviction we have had reason to question. On the other hand, Mann’s immersion in documentation is easily distinguished from the positivism of a Peter Weiss and leavened with skepticism of the single point of view. She celebrates the idea that “in the theatre you can hear many voices at once” (quoted in Betsko and Koenig 1987, 275). In Annulla and Greensboro she dramatizes her own playwright’s voice interrogating the version of events represented to her. She regularly employs ironic juxtaposition of contradictory or conflicting accounts to encourage audience reevaluation of deeply troubling issues. Mann’s development as a documentary playwright forms no distinct arc. Still Life (1980) is her most honored work, having won a number of Obies for its 1981 OffBroadway production. Execution of Justice (1984–1986) is arguably her most sophisticated drama in formal and intellectual terms. Having Our Say (1995) is her most popular play, and the only one to have had a successful Broadway run. All her documentaries except Annulla use projection screens to materialize and dematerialize the historical component, so that history seems to advance and recede in relationship to personal memory and testimony. In Annulla, Still Life, and Having Our Say individuals come to the fore (as in the documentary work of Anna Deavere Smith) to create the impression of history forming a backdrop for the emergence of character; while in others (Execution of Justice and Greensboro), character construction gives way to a focus on all-encompassing events, resulting in a stereochronic and panoramic depiction of an entire community, etched in historical and civic intaglio. Mann’s first play came to life in 1977 as Annulla Allen: Autobiography of a Survivor (A Monologue) in a production at the Guthrie 2 in Minneapolis. For a 1985 revival initially at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre and subsequently at the New Theatre in Brooklyn (1988), Mann introduced a “Young Woman’s Voice,” who addresses the audience but not Annulla until the last words of the play, an exchange of “Goodbyes” (30). While the first version listed Annulla Allen as a coauthor (Pope 2002, 24), the revision does not. The revision also demonstrates Mann’s awareness that her “take” on Annulla was imprinted with the historicity of Mann’s own time; it opens with the words: “In 1974, the summer I left college . . . “ (7). What had originally been merely the unspoken motivation of the playwright’s visit to her friend’s aunt Annulla in London—namely, Mann’s desire to find out something of her own Jewish history in the face of family reticence—now takes dramatic focus. When the Young Woman’s Voice explains that she “had to go to someone else’s relative to understand my own history” (10), it is clear we are meant to scrutinize Mann’s own blend of memory and history alongside Annulla’s. Annulla’s account of the past shuttles between historical reflections (on the rise of Nazism, the founding of Poland) and personal and family matters: the destruction of her brother’s laboratory, her husband’s imprisonment at Dachau, and an ongoing feud with her sister. Annulla is working on an endless play with a feminist agenda—“a mammoth manuscript covers the kitchen table stage center” (7)—whose theme of sisterhood appears to be at odds with Annulla’s near “brutal” treatment of her own sister: “She’s not exactly consistent in her political theory [laughs]. That’s one of the things I love about her,” said Mann (quoted in Savran 1999, 149). In a discriminating review of the New York production, Mel Gussow (1988) expressed the view that the eccentricities of the title character were not enough to compel dramatic interest:

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“Hearing her dry account, one feels that Annulla’s life might be explored more fully in a book or, perhaps, a film, where her memories could be interposed with comments from others. The play is burdened with apparent inconsistencies, as Annulla, unchallenged, takes the stand for herself.” Acknowledging the additional dimension brought by the narrator, Gussow judged “The play would be strengthened if the narrator took an even more active role as counterpoint” (ibid.). Mann’s next play Still Life (1980) marked a huge advance over Annulla. While all of her work partakes of an orality characteristic of the dramatized documentary form, with Still Life Mann’s sophisticated application of verbatim technique invites analysis of how dialogue contributes simultaneously to character construction and political argument. Because the play took no explicit political position on its ostensible subject matter, the Vietnam War and its aftermath, its dismissal by some critics was virtually guaranteed. Notably, Frank Rich (1981) of the New York Times condemned what he judged its “fuzzy-headed writing,” “trivializ[ing] such issues as the plight of the Vietnam veteran, war atrocities and feminism” and “sheer incompetence.” In Mann’s stark conception, a table with water glasses, pitcher, and ashtrays is backed by a screen for projections, lending the vague feeling of a conference room or court room. At the table are the veteran Mark, flanked by his wife Cheryl and his lover Nadine, who is “ten to fifteen years older” (36) than the other two. The characters only rarely interact, and the two women do not acknowledge each other until the very end: “The women’s eyes meet for the first time as the lights go down” (132). The effect, then, is of giving testimony, and it is up to us, the jury, to evaluate and reconcile accounts, to judge the veracity of those who testify, and to weigh issues of guilt and responsibility. The portrait of post-Vietnam America that emerges is like nothing so much as the Scotland of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, where hallucinatory evil blossoms, where sex and violence are comingled, where a misconceived war “comes home,” and where children are the most evocative victims. Mark has beaten (still beats?) his wife Cheryl, who is pregnant with their second child. Cheryl’s brother is also a wife-abuser, in response to which her sister-in-law shot their child in the face. Nadine knows Mark has beaten Cheryl badly but excuses him, saying “He’s preserving the war” and defending him by claiming all of us are time bombs: “He’s just more angry than any of us” (45). Nadine beat her husband, who is an alcoholic. Mark has compelled Cheryl to pose for sad*stic p*rnographic pictures. He also photographs violent still lifes, such as a grenade with fruit, and makes bottled assemblages of gruesome objects. There are accounts of drug-taking and group sex. But all of this palls before horrific accounts and projected photographs of the war, featuring dismemberments and necrophilia, and culminating in Mark’s tortured admission that he slaughtered a Vietnamese family in cold blood—three children, a mother, and father. Mann has described (in Betsko and Koenig, 275–276) how she edited 800 pages of transcript from the interviews she conducted down to 90 pages, then cut and pasted what had been long monologues into shorter speeches, which she then edited to bring out an inherent iambic pentameter. (On the page the speeches are arranged like lines of poetry.) She also admits to pointing the speeches so as to highlight their implicit responsiveness one to another. Sometimes key words are used as connectors (“house” [82], “home” [102], “God” [105]), but even without

264 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard such obvious “clues” documentary fragments are grouped and juxtaposed thematically to bring out motifs involving the endangerment of children (53 and 104ff.), violence as sexually stimulating (59, 62, 64, 79), and the tension of memory and oblivion articulated by Cheryl: “Now, Mark, he remembers. That’s his problem. I don’t know whether it’s 1972 or 1981” (40) and “My memory’s not as good as his. It’s like I put bad things in one half and in time I erase them” (51). Mann herself connects this manner of thematizing with what a “brain specialist” said to her after seeing Still Life: “It had to do with traumatic memory. She said that the juxtapositions, the form of Still Life, reminded her of the way the brain works when you are remembering a trauma. She said the play not only mirrored the brain function in the sense that the characters are in the process of remembering traumatic events, but also, the play itself seemed to her to be my traumatic memory of hearing their stories during the interview sessions” (quoted in Betsko and Koenig, 281). While there is no doubt that the associative formatting of dialogue in Still Life preserves the verbalizing of unintegrated trauma, it is a hallmark of much verisimilitude in art, here marshaled in support of the “actuality” and “heightened reality” constructed by documentary style. Though the trauma of the war is shared in different ways by the characters, it is Mark’s conflict that renders Still Life, depending on one’s point of view, either fuzzyheaded and melodramatic or richly ambiguous and compassionate. Mark has not repressed the memories of Vietnam, but he is living in two dissociated worlds, able finally to talk about what he did but unable to integrate it and move on. On the one hand, Mark desperately wants to turn memory into history—through narrativization and the violent art works that objectify the horror he experienced and perpetrated. On the other hand, Mark finishes the play with a name-by-name commemoration of his fallen comrades in the manner of the Vietnam War Memorial, and we recognize his feelings as exactly those of the traumatized Vietnam veteran quoted by Caruth: “I do not want to take drugs for my nightmares, because I must remain a memorial to my dead friends” (vii). In terms made familiar by Nora, Mark self-contradictorily wants to perpetuate the milieu de mémoire that will hold his friends close and escape to the lieu d’histoire. He and the two women are consequently suspended in the memorial purgatory Nora designates as a lieu de mémoire, as represented in Mark’s photos and art objects that are material, symbolic, and functional. This renders the characters themselves as stilled, caught in a moment that refuses to recede into history, yet is dissociated both from a living past and the present. The play reminds us that “still life” in Italian is “natura morta.” If the expectations of journalistic facticity raised by the documentary form were disappointed or contested by Still Life, Mann’s next play suffered from no such disadvantage. While Mann’s juxtaposition of history and memory in her first two plays already reveals an engagement with epistemology, Execution of Justice represents a broadened commitment to explore how trauma imprints a community; to understand how testimony reverberates beyond the personal; and to determine whether memory can aid in the construction of citizenship that transcends the commemorative domains of identity politics. If Mann “sculpts” her material, she has suddenly abandoned table-top scale for the monumentality of a public memorial. From casts of two and three, she is now writing for more than a score of actors playing almost fifty

Confrontation or Convergence


roles. She also here deploys for the first time the full panoply of documentary devices, including flashbacks, film footage, audio recordings, and scene titles.47 Commissioned by Oskar Eustis of San Francisco’s Eureka Theatre48 after the success of Still Life, Execution of Justice was long in gestation. A Guggenheim fellowship facilitated Mann’s research, and the play was first performed as part of the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1984. Over the course of the next two years, it received six more major regional theatre productions, undergoing substantial changes. Adjustments were made, perhaps in response to concerns expressed by the gay community, to make Dan White less sympathetic.49 Yet, she eliminated a speech on hom*ophobia because “I thought it was agitprop” (quoted by Betsko and Koenig, 279). She also incorporated highly emotional sequences from The Times of Harvey Milk, an Academy Award-winning documentary film released after the initial production of Execution of Justice, and in general she augmented the documentary apparatus up to and through the Broadway production of 1986. Finally, when White committed suicide (October 21, 1985) subsequent to his release from prison, Mann incorporated that information into the script (see Pope, 87–93). Though the action is virtually coterminous with the start and end of Dan White’s trial for the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, events are frequently out of sequence and the scheme of the play is topographical rather than chronological, civic rather than judicial. Execution of Justice is not set at the trial but rather transpires at multiple locations stereochronically across the city of San Francisco. In a sense, Mann is calling the whole city to witness, not to assign guilt, nor to indict society, but to restore to events a fullness that the trial attenuated. In the words of White’s jailer, “What was left unsaid was what the trial should have been about” (225). In pursuit of the unsaid, Mann assembles a “Chorus of Uncalled Witnesses,” that is, individuals interviewed by Mann, who gave voice to the tensions over the changing character of San Francisco, the sense of loss in the wake of the killings, and the aspirations of the gay community as representative of “all people who are getting less than they deserve,” in the words of black lesbian leader Gwenn Craig (181). As with the Vietnam War and Still Life, “by objectifying the account [of the White trial] and by setting the facts within the context of a turbulent social situation” (Gussow 1985), Mann engaged an issue—gay rights and hom*ophobia—that even now incites passionate, deep-seated response more often than balanced discourse. Though the script leaves no room for doubt that Mann believed White’s lenient sentence (seven years and eight months) was murderously unjust, her mature documentary technique withholds the comfort of undemanding emotional release. The beginning of the second act is a case in point. On video, documentary sequences show Mayor Moscone speaking against the death penalty and of the injustice of taking another’s life, and Harvey Milk recounting how two days after his election he received a call from a young gay man in Altoona, Pennsylvania thanking him for running for office. These are followed by a brief excerpt from the audio tape of Dan White’s confession, ending with “I was just trying to do a good job for the city” (190). Immediately, lights come up on Dan White and his wife Mary Ann and five jurors all sobbing. Then, in live action the defense lawyer examines the police inspector who took the confession, who proceeds to testify about White’s good character, reminiscing about attending grammar school and playing softball together.


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

There are no answers here, only questions: Should the clemency expressed by Moscone be extended to his killer? Does the young gay man represent, as Milk’s speech goes on the say, the “blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’es” (190) previously without hope or help? For whom are the Whites and the jurors sobbing? Can we credit White’s motivation of “just trying to do a good job,” which we have heard before, live, at the end of the first act, capping the confession in which he describes shooting Moscone and Milk? Was White an “exemplary individual” who just “cracked” (195)? Dramaturgically, we shift via a scene of emotionalism from a documentary, historical mode to a memorial presentation, representing community as based on familiarity and hom*ogeneity—all of which is placed under interrogation through Mann’s subtle juxtapositions. As Mann told an interviewer just before the Broadway opening, “What we learn in theater is that emotionality is often stronger than rationality and fact, and here you had a prosecution that stuck to the facts and a defense that worked on people’s sentimentality and unconscious prejudices. Where the prosecution was tough-minded, the defense was passionate—and passion won out in the courtroom” (Bennetts 1996). Execution of Justice has been a huge success at regional theatres and at universities in the United States. On Broadway, it closed disastrously after twelve performances. Mann’s painstaking epistemological investigation of how argument is constructed, how we are persuaded of the truths we hold to be self-evident, appeared to be subsumed by “pseudo-objectivity: intercut, the two points of view cancel each other out” (Massa 1986).50 There are, however, not two, but many points of view in the play. Mann’s San Francisco is as multivoiced as the Thebes of Oedipus Rex, which Mann directed while she was working on Execution of Justice (Betsko and Koenig, 279) and in which witnesses called and uncalled continually revise and flesh out the truth that Oedipus thinks only he knows. What the play documents is less a criminal trial than the shifting and elusive meaning of “I was just trying to do a good job for the city,” repeated as the last words of the play (245). Mann’s reception by New York critics may reflect not only the expectation that documentaries offer just the historical facts, but also the resistance of competing commemorative domains to relinquish their memories of a defining event. Mann’s next two, and last,51 documentaries break no new ground in documentary technique. Having Our Say (1995) presents African American centenarians Sadie and Bessie Delany, who address us rather than each other, against a photo backdrop of historical events, while Greensboro (1996) tells the story of the 1979 civil rights murders with a cast of eleven playing multiple characters, among whom is the “Interviewer” (i.e., the playwright). In a sense, like the Greek goddesses of memory and oblivion, the two form a Mnemosyne/Lesmosyne pair on the subject of race relations. Having Our Say is the most reminiscent of Mann’s plays, for which “the set is a memory space” (s. d. 5), while the Greensboro incident, because it took place during the weekend American hostages were seized in Iran, is surrounded by “a national amnesia” (Mann quoted in Kolin 1996, 208). Having Our Say differs from Mann’s other documentary work in several key respects, however. It is closely based on the book of the same name by the Delany sisters and Amy Hill Hearth, though Mann conducted additional interviews with the sisters. It is the only one of Mann’s plays to have enjoyed a successful New York

Confrontation or Convergence


run. Unlike the rest of Mann’s canon, in which the audience is required to evaluate or judge what it hears, in Having Our Say our role is as guest. Finally, it is the only play of hers to end, literally, on a note of harmony and cohesion, as the two sisters together exclaim in response to their visitors’ (that is, our) unspoken agreement to linger with them “How wonderful . . . ” (52, emphasis Mann’s). These features are closely connected. The indomitable spirit, welcoming disposition, and familial affection of the two sisters was a quality Mann chose only to enhance, as the play engages the two sisters throughout in the preparation of a birthday meal with synchronized precision (a far cry from the public solitude of Still Life). That the play is “built for people to come together,” as Mann put it (2000, 8), disarmed critics and pleased audiences, whose delightful verbalizations were frequently commented on (Canby 1995, Richards 1995). While projected images document the hundred years of history experienced by the Delanys, they are there as illustrations rather than (as with Still Life) provocations, moving seamlessly from family album photos through montages of the civil rights era. The sisters seem to rest in memory’s embrace, with history, and us, as affirmative onlookers “ready to give testimony” (Canby in the Times). While the Times reviewer held that “The characters and the stories are not mere reminiscence. They fit together to create a panorama of particular times and places, of racism, sexism and indomitable will,” he also recognized (approvingly) that the play is premised on the assumption that “black American life . . . is also white American life,” in effect declaring the suspension of competing commemorative domains. The “screaming standing ovation” (Mann quoted in Chinoy and Jenkins 2006, 482) that greeted virtually every performance seemed to be as much for the Delanys themselves as for the actors. Greensboro has enjoyed none of this success, and has rarely been performed since the 1996 production at Mann’s theatre, the McCarter.52 The play feels unfinished,53 leaving no coherent impression other than of invincibly ignorant racism. It picks up and lays down episodes involving Mann’s interviewing of a corrupt FBI informant Edward Dawson; descriptions of the five murders and accounts of the three trials and their “execution of justice”; revelations about the political beliefs of the organizers of the demonstration; a harrowing, uninterrupted monologue by the racist demagogue David Duke (which feels like a remnant of what perhaps started out as a play about Duke); and a lengthy apologia by a survivor of the march, Reverend Nelson Johnson, culminating in his account of visiting the Ku Klux Klan’s Grand Dragon and getting Klansmen to pray with him. In Execution of Justice, both the through-line of the trial and the central figure of Dan White provided structure, in the absence of which Greensboro feels like an archive rather than a play. “So how come I never heard about this?” (263), says the Interviewer (Mann’s persona) immediately after sound effects, projections, and voices reconstruct the violent murder scene that opens the play. She not only expresses what is on the mind of almost every viewer outside of Greensboro, but also articulates the national amnesia over the events the play intends to redress. This renders Greensboro the most memorious of Mann’s documentaries, meant to stand as a reminder or bookmark for a forgotten chapter of American racism. But she soon encounters an opposing memory mode in interviewing the informant Dawson. Mann underlines the difference by projecting a caption “You Get Reminiscing on It,” a phrase Dawson uses in the


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

course of the interview (266–267). Reminiscence is social remembering associated with nostalgia, not a term one would normally apply to the remembrance of five murders. She reinforces this by allowing Dawson to repeat near the end of the second act “Yeah, you get to reminiscing. (Laughs.) Yeah use that word” (327). Dawson’s callousness, along with the racism of David Duke, the skinheads and neo-Nazis, one of whom takes the witness stand with a Nazi salute and sings anti-Semitic lyrics to “Jingle Bells” (285), points to the absence of recognition, the memory mode that lent such force to Execution of Justice. Unable to recognize that past as part of our present, we are left feeling we have not penetrated a mentality, as we had with even the perpetrators of violence like Mark and Dan White, in Mann’s earlier plays. By the same token, none of the marchers (members of the Communist Workers Party) emerges to focus the point of view of the demonstrators, a gap the Interviewer acknowledges late in the second act to Nelson: “You know I realized there’s a whole chapter that I’ve missed” (322). But it is too late for Nelson’s ensuing story, because he has been constructed neither as an iconic character himself nor as a representative of the other victims and survivors. The Interviewer has become lost in the memory systems Mann negotiated so successfully for Execution of Justice, so her admission inadvertently closes a circle of silence. Mann intended her play as “a requiem” and “a memorial” (quoted by Pope, 158) for those slain in Greensboro. But the survivors resisted early versions of the script, which they thought made their motives ambiguous and focused attention on the history of the right wing extremists. Some of the survivors who saw both the professional premiere at the McCarter and a student production in Greensboro preferred the latter because it had the benefit of “an audience and cast immersed in the subject” (180). What this suggests is that the local production transpired in a commemorative domain the play itself could neither enter nor recreate. Mann’s plays bespeak a confidence in the socializing impact of the spoken word, a confidence apparently validated by Still Life, Execution of Justice, and Having Our Say—all successful in their own disparate ways. Her reliance on the power of the verbatim to “destroy in-betweenness,” to “put me in your consciousness and you in mine,”54 along with deep respect for multiple points of view, reminds us of Peter Cheeseman’s documentaries. But for the American Mann, who aspires to work on a national scale, letting her characters speak in their own words is also a way of hearing and recognizing minority voices. She has said that listening is central to her work and linked to her identity as a woman: “Women sit around and talk to each other about their memories of traumatic, devastating events in their lives” (Betsko and Koenig interview, 281). But for Mann, sitting around and talking is just the beginning. Such confidence also radiates from the work of Anna Deavere Smith, whose connection with Emily Mann is close: Mann directed the premiere production of Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at the Mark Taper Forum. Since 1983 Smith has been traveling around the country, creating solo pieces crafted entirely from interviews she conducts. Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities focuses on the riot originating in the accidental killing of a child, Gavin Cato, by a reckless driver in the entourage of the Lubavitcher Grand Rebbe and the murder of bystander Yankel Rosenbaum by black youths. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is about the civil disturbances following the initial exoneration of police officers accused in

Confrontation or Convergence


the beating of Rodney King. Although Smith’s oral-history based pieces were so unrecognizable as conventional plays that the Pulitzer Prize Committee disqualified Twilight: L.A. 1992 from the 1994 drama competition, Smith’s roots lie deep in both Western and non-Western dramatic and oral traditions.55 She is an African American storyteller; an oral memorialist; a creator of Theophrastian “characters”; a performance portraitist in the tradition of such “women originals” as Yvette Guilbert and Ruth Draper;56 and a documentary playwright. Her work can also be related to what might be termed “prosthetic” history-tellings in the theatre such as Talking With and Kennedy’s Children—that is, plays constructed as if they are based in oral history, but which are not—as well as to the contemporary prevalence of oral history-telling in psychiatry, anthropology, sociology, historiography, and documentary film. Smith’s project, an epic performance series that she calls “On the Road: A Search for American Character,” constitutes a nexus for the themes of this chapter.57 She fashions site-specific, memorative, reality-driven representations, preserving a multivocal, first-person orality. “This project is at its heart about the act of speech, the physical action of dialogue, and was not originally intended for the printed word” (xxxix)58 she writes of Fires in the Mirror. “This book is first and foremost a document of what an actress heard in Los Angeles,” is how she puts it in the introduction to Twilight, “the performance is a reiteration of that” (Smith 1994, xxiv). Smith is an earwitness who, like Herodotus, records what she hears. Also, like oral memorialists and rhapsodes, Smith performs feats of memory that are a community resource and contribute to a discourse of cultural identity. Smith’s insistence (in Stayton 1993) on the reiterative nature of her work invites us to consider it as a mediation between the repetitive function of commemorations, which bear the past forward into the present, and the recollective function of history-writing. Labeling Smith postmodernist (Lyons and Lyons 1994) mistakes crucial aspects of her work and obscures others that come to the fore when viewing Smith from the perspective of the memorialist tradition. In recounting contradictory versions of the Crown Heights riots, for example, Smith may indeed make us wary of the way in which history is politically constructed. But rather than destabilizing historical reality in the vein of postmodernism, Smith is challenging each standard version of events with a counter-memory, just as W. E. B. Dubois challenged positivists to include the black history left out by the hegemony. If in Fires in the Mirror our hearts are first wrenched one way by the bitter outrage of Yankel Rosenbaum’s brother Norman and then the other by the lingering hurt of Gavin Cato’s father Carmel, one effect does not negate the other; rather each testimony expands a sensibility of openness. Likewise, Smith does not expunge race and gender as signs of identity. Rather, as signifiers they function like heat lightning in the urban swelter of her productions, illuminating some but not all of the action. As we watch the actress changing from black to white and from female to male, the opposition implied in these polarities erodes before the formation of black-and-white and male-and-female. In Twilight, bipolarities recede still further into the image, in Peter Sellars’ words, of a house burning, “our house . . . one house” (Twilight, 200). Near the center of that play Reginald Denny, the white truck driver viciously beaten by black youths, dreams of dedicating a room in his house to memorabilia of the riot, “and there won’t be a color problem in this room,” he says (111). In the same speech Denny talks about his first meeting


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

with the four black citizens who saved his life: “meeting them was not like meeting a stranger,” he says, “but it was like meeting a buddy” (108). In a very real sense, this meeting is what happens inside Smith, who uniquely on the planet carries Crown Heights and South Central L. A. within her—a living metonym of community, perhaps even of nationhood. As a historian in the theatre, Smith is telling a history that resists the current moment in which “personalities, events, even social and economic trends retreat before the power of rhetoric to transform them into abstractions” (Hutton, 123). By keeping touch with collective memory, Smith reminds us that history resides in people, whom she appears to read like texts. Although by seeming to pit contradictory versions of a story against each other, Smith problematizes the idea that memory corroborates the objective reality of history; she does this in the course of performing an affirmative action on the historical reality she encounters in her interviews. To suggest that Smith’s performances are not about Crown Heights or South Central but about performance is unjust to her in its implication that she has exploited her informants for other purposes, and likewise unjust to Smith’s informants, virtually victimizing them a second time by denying the historical reality through which they have lived. On the contrary, the living through it and the telling of it and the listening to it forge a single authentic episteme, no more so than in the speech (in Twilight) of a Panamanian woman who, pregnant at the time of the L.A. disturbances, was struck by a stray bullet. Focusing on the bloody details of the wound, meticulously tracing, so to speak, the path of the bullet, Smith’s account culminates in the following: And her [the baby’s] doctor, he told . . . he explain to me that the bullet destroyed the placenta and went through me and she caught it in her arms. (Here you can hear the baby making noises, and a bell rings) If she didn’t caught it in her arm, me and her would be dead. (123)

The bullet represents as grim and definitive an influx of the real upon the subject as one can imagine. It is history coming out of the barrel of a gun, to paraphrase the revolutionary slogan. If its deadly force is mitigated in representation, its immanence persists. At the turn of the millennium, the encounter between memory and history, that is, between a demotic consciousness in living communion with its own traditions and the documentary severity of the historian, is also an encounter between speech and writing, and between speaker and listener. If we listen to Smith hoping to hear a univocal truth about Crown Heights or South Central, we shall be disappointed. But if we listen to her listening, we shall hear her receiving conflicting information on urban American history, yet being able to derive a pattern of fragmentary and contradictory recollection that captures the swirling circulation of the past within

Confrontation or Convergence


the present of American society. Smith’s transit among memories, like her shuttling between the bipolarities of race and gender, construct the character of America as “identity in motion” (Smith 1993, xxxiv), a description that jibes well with both sociological and neuroscientific conceptions of memory as adaptive and changing. Her historical consciousness both exposes and espouses the plurality of memory. But, it seems, in a move suggestive of Jill Dolan’s concept of Utopian performance, Smith has not quite given up on the American motto: her search for American Character recuperates the imperiled viability of e pluribus unum by enacting its inverse: ex uno plures. Even more explicitly than most of her fellow documentarians, Smith constructs lieux de mémoire, sites within the contemporary theatre explicitly dedicated to remembering. But because their plays may lack linear plotting and climactic resolution and are erected on the frameworks of memory, some critics have wanted to banish documentarians, such as Mann and Smith, from the fellowship of playwrights. Yet, they replay the ancient encounter of words heard and words seen, representing different narrative organizational patterns from chirography and typography, preserving paraliterate thought patterns, and casting words as living events (Ong 1988). There is a deep democratic dimension to their work, which makes us aware of their storyteller informants as their own representatives, who themselves seem connected with the experience of orality as a perfoming art. Cheeseman, Smith, and other oral historytellers in the theatre neither deliver us from the perennial crisis of representation, nor do they succumb to it. As historians, they are embroiled in a self-assertive project, which depends upon establishing the dualisms of subject/object, self/other, and past/ present; but as memorialists, they are bent on affiliation and commemoration, which depend upon dissolving those very dualisms in participation.59 As historians, they are collector/containers, but as memorialists they are colanders letting the life-world in and out. *



A POSTMODERN POSTSCRIPT In the postmodern era (if that is still an appropriate or useful way to name the times we live in), playwrights such as Caryl Churchill, Heiner Müller, Thomas Bernhard, Tom Stoppard, and Suzan-Lori Parks, and theatrical auteurs such as Mnouchkine, Peter Brook, Peter Sellars, and Robert Wilson are frequently drawn to historical material. Do such figures create “memory-theaters,” a claim put forth on behalf of Müller, Bernhard, and Parks by Malkin or is their relation to the historical past not best described by the remembering/forgetting dyad? In general, I find that the disposition to remember history—either as a starting point or ending point—is displaced in their work by competing impulses, none of which is unique to postmodernism. These factors may include, as Freddie Rokem (2000) has shown, an overriding concern with the performed nature of history and the nature of performing history; an ideology that makes recall subservient to the investigation of national identity or power

272 Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard structures; or a variety of “analogical strategies” juxtaposing past and present events for political and rhetorical impact, for example, Nazis:Jews::Israelis:Palestinians or Saddam = Hitler or 1789/1968. Malkin’s ingenious, even dazzling analysis of Müller can instance the problematics of discussing memory in a postmodern context—a forum that is no place for someone with a low tolerance for paradox. At the outset, Malkin asserts: “By releasing and ‘bringing up’ the past, the plays I discuss remember (and perhaps mourn) the past; by conflating and displacing the chronologies of the past, they distance, and perhaps try to forget, the past” (9). Such plays, like Nora’s memory sites, are mises en abîme: evoking the past “in a form that frustrates remembrance” (35). Müller’s “Theater of Memory” shares a landscape with Walter Benjamin, Malkin suggests, because they both see the ruins of history intruding upon the present (71). She gives an account of many of Müller’s plays, which dump fragments of history in Grand Guignol fashion on stage without coherent narrative, before proceeding to a multilayered and intriguing consideration of The Task (1979, also called The Mission60 in English). The play, subtitled Memory of a Revolution, is set shortly after the French Revolution. To the extent that its plot can be described in linear fashion, it tells the story of the failure of an effort to export the French Revolution to Jamaica. Its initial “act of anamnesis” (Malkin, 83), undertaken by the revolutionary Antoine, is balanced by an act of oblivion and forgetting by one of his subordinates, Debuisson. Fully embracing the radical self-contradictions of the play, its “openness” in the argot of postmodernism, Malkin (94–95) argues that it is both an act of remembering and not just an acceptance but an advocacy for oblivion and forgetting. For Antoine somehow is Debuisson. In a fascinating postscript, she then recounts a “scenic ‘reading’” (95) of the play in which the main roles were taken by well-known German political figures who had recanted their radical politics of the 1970s (notoriously, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the 1968 Paris student uprising, reading the revolutionary-turned-traitor Debuisson). Thus the memory of another revolution created an additional overlay of memory for the 1990 audience of the piece—with the sound of the falling Berlin Wall heard virtually in the background creating still another context. Interestingly enough, this memoried production of 1990 did not, Malkin tells us, focus on “the rendition of the text” (95). Though Malkin doesn’t notice it, the very specific reference points for the production would appear to be quite at odds with the vaunted openness of the text. The director Eduard Erne has refamiliarized what the text studiously defamiliarized—an undertaking not terribly different from the way in which Peter Sellars adapted The Persians to the politics of the first Gulf War. As Malkin (84–85) recognizes, The Task evokes, deliberately, Brecht’s The Measures Taken only to undo it by re-presenting its situation sans moral or ethical direction—in effect, a learning play with no learning. As Malkin keenly discerns, The Task also undoes the debate scene in Danton’s Death, and also deconstructs the Anna Seghers story on which it is ostensibly based (Malkin, 86 and 90). Such intentions square with Müller’s prefatory remark on Hamletmachine: “My main interest when I write plays is to destroy things” (Theatremachine, 86). Indeed, the feelings generated by The Task have to do with discontinuity, dismantling, incoherence, and entropy. The text feels like broken dreams of history rather than remembrance. Two characters dress as Danton and Robespierre and use the

Confrontation or Convergence


latter’s head as a football. As Antoine copulates with a Woman, an Angel of Despair appears to fill in some of the backstory. A long prose fragment by an unnamed speaker referencing conditions in East Germany interrupts the texts with not even a stage direction to position it vis-à-vis the ostensible action. The imagery and diction are relentlessly oneiric: “I want to eat your sex and beget a tiger which will devour the era that chimes through the clockworks of my empty heart where tropical rainstorms beat down” (70). These feel like the psychic events of dream rather than the factual events of history or the lived events of memory. Dreams unquestionably have a remembered component, though (Jung notwithstanding) it is personal rather than collective event that is remembered. Indeed, that Müller’s works are pock-marked with memory may stem from his own traumatic memory of his father being beaten and taken away by the Nazis, what Müller himself identified as “the first scene of my theatre” (Malkin, 101). This return of the repressed is powerfully at odds with the desire for obliteration, for the “Explosion of a Memory” (to quote the title of a Müller text), for oblivion. Malkin finds these impulses to be in potent and provocative tension, particularly for local audiences imbued with a sense of German history (90, 95–97, 107, 109) and in whom Müller hopes to catalyze a mixture of private memory and public history. But I wonder if the effect is not ultimately to write against both memory and forgetting. As Patrice Pavis (1986, 19) has pointed out, postmodern theatre embraces only “the faculty of replaying the past, rather than pretending to re-create and absorb it.” But recreating and absorbing the past is exactly what memory does—and certainly not just in the psychotropic workings of the mind. Indeed, the mental act of remembering may be thought of as the conscious expression of a principle of memory extending beyond mind (Edelman 1992, 203–208) to include (in the multicelled organism) heredity, the immune system (which recognizes molecules based on a self, nonself distinction) learning (both reflex and perceptual) and consciousness. The time world is composed of historical selection events, their perdurance constitutes memory, and their coherence is the foundation for identity. Such a principle of memory is reservative, (if not conservative), to employ a coinage of Casey (187), with its connotations of “reserved” (i.e., set aside protectively), “preservative,” and the emotional quality of being reserved (i.e., reticent). Memory is also reforming and re(du)plicative with “relative stability” (204). That is, forgetting allows the brain to dispense with distracting memories in order to facilitate mental focus, perhaps a crucial adaptive factor.61 Edelman goes further in claiming that our memory system not only allows for “errors” of “forgetting” but it “must contain errors (changes in entropy) or mutants for the system to be a selective one—to be one that is able to respond adaptively to unforeseen environmental events” (1992, 206, emphasis Edelman’s). But, while necessitating “forgetful” variations, the order yielding the variant is largely preserved rather than overthrown. By this account, the constructions of Müller and other postmodernists neither remember nor forget history, but instead embrace the entropic principle of decay and destruction. In José Saramago’s wonderful novel Blindness (English tr. 1997), wherein an epidemic of “white blindness” strikes the entire population of an unnamed city, the pain and disorientation of the sightless are only exacerbated by the fading of memory. Deprived of the sensorimotor responses generated by vision, the populace


Memory in Play: Aeschylus—Sam Shepard

feels increasingly disconnected from reality, totally encased in a dream (“it is as if I were dreaming that I am blind,” one of the characters says [288]). In the dream, the mind wanders detached, unconstrained, and unguided by the neural pathways of reality-based cognition. Likewise, the blind are deprived of the literal pathways of the streets they had used to find their way to and from home. At a critical moment, when a blind couple is stumbling upon the street where they formerly lived, this exchange between them expresses a loss of direction and orientation deeper and worse than mere forgetting: “What is the number, asked the doctor’s wife, he can’t remember, Now then, it’s not that I cannot remember, it’s gone from my head, he said, that was a bad omen, if we do not even know where we live, if the dream has replaced our memory, where will that road take us” (289). If the postmodern condition feels like not being able to find our way home, or even not knowing where we live, Saramago implies, it is no solution to give up memory for the dream. The oneiric memory-theatres of postmodernism (if that is what they are) appear to stand in stark contrast to the reality-driven representations of documentary theatre. Yet, they are similar and comparable in ways their respective adherents may not readily recognize. The case of Nora is illustrative, according to Hutton. While Nora accepts Foucault’s thesis that “History ceases to be a mnemonic construction and becomes instead an archeological deconstruction” (Hutton, 149) and that the historian’s job is to dismantle the representations of the past imposed by the hegemony, Nora is nonetheless trying to connect postmodern historiography with “the memory of oral tradition” (ibid.). Similarly Tony Judt has observed that Nora’s monumental work began as an exposé of the lieu de mémoire only to end up constructing one (54). In the same vein, the criticism of postmodern character as “a machine for discharging text” (Pavis, 16) might just as easily describe the characters of some documentary plays. The liberating intention Malkin (113) imputes to Müller—“the memory of Germany’s failed revolutions must be acknowledged, brought up to the surface and integrated into the national psyche before any future revolution can take place”—could certainly be imputed to ur-documentarian Peter Weiss. The appeal to specific local history unites documentary and postmodern playwrights, who share a dependence on “interaction with the (memoried) audience for whom [their theatre] is meant at a given time” (Malkin, 215) and who test, from different sides, the limits of relativism. Unwittingly reconnoitering territory occupied by documentarians from Piscator forward, Malkin even argues that “postmodern art can be positioned in such a way that activates its audience” (215), though the key word here may be “positioned,” implying that the critic must bring this perspective to the work rather than the work bringing it to the critic. I share Pavis’ (8) contrary view that postmodern plays “present a text which—even if it still takes the form of words alternatively expressed by different speakers—can no longer be recapitulated or resolved, or lead to action.” But that the issue remains in dispute encourages further discussion of how the respective genres of documentary and postmodern drama imbricate history and politics. My point, I should add, is not to erode or erase meaningful distinctions, but to question whether the modern/postmodern vocabulary is any longer sufficient to register those distinctions. In any case, conceptions of memory are ever more likely to figure in the discourse.


An exceptional interdisciplinary approach is Nalbantian (2003).


2. 3. 4. 5.

6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.





Useful for the history of memory are the already cited works of Edward S. Casey, Graham Richards, Gardner Murphy and Joseph K. Kovach, Douwe Draaisma, and Tulving and Craik. See also Yates (1966) and Coleman (1992). For the original reference, see F. M. Cornford’s translation of The Republic (1945, 359). See also Weinrich (2004, 15). See DeConcini (1990, 4–10) and Coleman (5–14), for useful accounts of Plato on memory. For Aristotle on memory, see Sorabji (1972), who translates the De Memoria et Reminiscentia; also Yates (1966), Chapter 2; Scott (126–127); Casey (14–15); and Burnyeat (107). I have used the “literal” translation of Kenneth Telford (1961, 20). Subsequent quotations are from this edition. See Simon (1994) and Garvey (2002) on Greek identity as relational. In Segal’s Introduction to the Bakkhai, translated by Reginald Gibbons (2001). Line citations are from this edition. My discussion of Augustine is reliant upon DeConcini (177–194) and Coleman (80–111). References to Augustine’s work are from The Confessions of St. Augustine, translated by Edward B. Pusey. See Nagler (1976) for a good collection of visual evidence on marketplace arrangements. Modern hypermnemonists frequently favor an array of houses along a street as a mnemonic device (Luria 1968). Yates (1964, 210–211n.). Quotations from Friar Bacon are from the Brooke and Paradise (1933) edition, which retains the original textual convention of division into scenes without act divisions. Sullivan (26–27). Sullivan’s well-researched book makes the point throughout that loss and gain of self-identity are often couched in English Renaissance drama in terms of forgetting and remembering. While he considers Hamlet in passing, he mentions Pericles not at all, concentrating more on forgetfulness in All’s Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, Dr. Faustus, and duch*ess of Malfi. Low (1999) notes that Hamlet forgets his duty to remember his father by offering masses to release his soul from Purgatory, and links that forgetting to the Elizabethan forgetting of Catholicism as a sort of killing of the father. Shakespeare refers to a mole only three other times, one of them in the first act of Pericles (1.1.143).

276 Notes 16. See the chapter “Wriggle-Work” in Sutton (1998b), 25–49, who does not mention Hamlet in this context. 17. Greenblatt (2001) calls attention to the importance of remembering in Hamlet, briefly drawing on Plato and Aristotle on memory, and noticing that Aristotle comments on memory in melancholics—though missing the passage I just quoted from De Anima. Indeed, Greenblatt dubiously contends that Renaissance theorists of memory could not explain naturalistically the sort of compulsive remembering Hamlet engages in (214). 18. Death remembered as a mirror for mortality was a common illustration in the emblem book tradition, itself a mnemonic system (Engel 2002). 19. Here and elsewhere in my reading of Pericles I have benefited from a seminar paper by Kellee Van Aken. 20. Pericles enters a kind of limbo, perhaps literally. While it is possible to do something about a soul in Purgatory—that is, to perform the remembrances that will earn a soul’s liberation—the same cannot be done for souls in Limbo, who can only wait in the Limbo Paternorum. It might be fruitful to pursue Pericles/Limbo, Hamlet/Purgatory parallels. 21. Greenblatt rather sees Shakespeare the son remembering his father John: “In 1601 the Protestant playwright was haunted by the spirit of his Catholic father pleading for suffrages to relieve his soul from the pains of Purgatory” (249). His contention and mine are by no means incompatible. 22. The Scottish school is most influential on American psychological thinking and leads to William James (Murphy and Kovach 1972, 21–23), and through James and Gertrude Stein, who studied with him, to American playwrights (e.g., Thornton Wilder) interested in memory. 23. Details of performance and publication of The Rival Queens are from the Vernon edition, xiii–xxvi. Citations are from this edition. 24. Quotations from All for Love are from the Vieth edition (1972). 25. Quotations from The Fatal Curiosity are from the McBurney edition. 26. Camus evidently did not know Lillo’s play or any of the several other dramatizations of the story. His notebooks, wherein the play is referred to by its intended locale, Budejovice, make reference to no literary precedents, and in a 1957 letter to critic R. Thieberger Camus said the idea for the play came from a newspaper story. See Camus (1965, 46ff.) and Gay-Crosier (1967, 101, n. 11). Citations for The Misunderstanding are from Caligula and Three Other Plays, translated by Stuart Gilbert (1958). 27. The Dedication is quoted in Kaufmann’s edition (1963, 11). Textual citations are from this edition, which also has the German text. 28. But Faust has scarcely more than a single line in the entire scene, whose chief purpose seems to be to demonstrate Mephistopheles’ power. Nor does Faust “forget himself ” by joining in the revels. 29. But the name of the river is not mentioned in the text, and it is not certain that the healing referred to by the Chorus is forgetting. 30. Jefferson’s acting version of Rip Van Winkle is available in the Myron Matlaw edition. Citations are from this edition.


See Rehm (1992, 22–23) and Hall (1989, 62–69) for the political context of these historical dramas. Hall adds to and somewhat amends her hypotheses about The Persians in her edition of the play (1996).

Notes 2.

3. 4. 5.

6. 7.

8. 9. 10. 11.


13. 14.

15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

21. 22. 23. 24. 25.


On Aeschylus’ departure from the facts, see Pelling (1997). Aeschylus, for example, manipulates the time and duration of the battle to link Greece to daylight and Persia to night, and arranges battle strategy to portray the Greeks as natural seamen and the Persians as “lumbering landsmen” (7). See also note 6, below. On Aeschylus’ use of allusion, see Garner (1990, 22ff.). See Harrison’s first chapter, “Aeschylus the Historian?” for a recapitulation of the arguments about Aeschylus’ accuracy. Hall, though she does not use the term “collective memory” and is apparently unaware of Halbwachs, writes of The Persians as “a document of Athenian collective imagination” (1996, 5). On the critical history of the play, see Hall (1996, 16–18). Harrison is peerless in discriminating minute differences among the play’s critics over whether Aeschylus is a Persian sympathizer or Greek chauvinist, though both Kuhns and Snyder are absent from his bibliography. For an explanation of this neglected distinction of the forms of tragedy, see the incomparable and invaluable translation of The Poetics by Telford (118–121). In the translation of Lembke and Herington (1981, 52). Quotations are from this edition. On ring compositions, see Lord (1991). Segal tends to overemphasize the tension between oral and written culture in theatre, however. Greek practice normally put the playwright in charge of the original production, thus minimizing the distinction between composition and performance. Garner (21), notes, however, that The Persians is relatively bare of reference to Homer, compared with others of Aeschylus’ plays, thereby lessening the warlike tone of the play. On the prevalence of metonymy in oral forms, see Foley (1991, 7–8). See, for example, “The Arts: Assault on Aeschylus,” The Daily Telegraph (London); Nightingale, The Times (London); Wright, The Scotsman (Edinburgh); Drake, Los Angeles Times; all 1993. As suggested to me in a seminar paper by Jay Ball. I am indebted to Gary Williams for this suggestion. Hartigan makes this point. Said, Orientalism (1978, 56–57), considers The Persians in this context. Castellani, (1986, 1–2), offers five reasons for the paucity of Greek historical drama, none of which I find compelling. I am here indebted to Slater (1990), who somewhat less precisely refers to the formation of a “reperformance” culture. The early proscription against a repeat performance of The Capture of Miletus is generally taken as evidence for a tradition of repeat performances in outlying demes, rather than in Athens. Ong is not discussing theatre in this context, but his words apply. See Auerbach (1953), esp. his Chapters 7 and 8 on the twelfth-century Mystère d’Adam and on Dante. See Vance (1978) for an explication of this notion. Enders (1992, 53) evokes it in reference to medieval French drama. See Nagler (1976, 22–25), on medieval staging in the Roman amphitheatre at Bourges in 1536. On the association of medieval drama with the Feast of Corpus Christi, see Kolve (1966). The recorded instances (see Enders 1992, 103) of a criminal being cast in a mystery play, so as to exploit his actual torture and death as part of the spectacle, form a sort of harrowing doppelgänger to the doctrine of the Real Presence. Such a contrivance was no doubt designed, devotionally speaking, to make the lessons of the drama “memorable.”



26. See Knight (1983, 19). Perhaps less obviously, plays addressing themselves directly to everyday life were classified as “fictions” (23). 27. Alessandro Portelli (1994) uses “history-telling” in the more restricted sense of an oral interview recorded from an informant by an ethnographer or sociologist; Paul Hernadi (1985) uses the term without a hyphen and without defining it. Neither uses it in the sense I am constructing here. 28. Lindenberger (1975, 4). Lindenberger does not himself use the chronicle play to illustrate his thesis, however. 29. Yates (1969) attempts to link Vitruvian revivalism, evidence for which she finds in the works of philosopher-humanists John Dee and Robert Fludd, to both the architectural features of the Globe and to Renaissance mnemotechnics. 30. Guenée quoted by Jean Glénisson in the “French” section of Boia (1989), 144. 31. On Bossuet, Vico, and Voltaire, see their respective entries in Boia (137, 277, 160). Dale Porter has pointed out to me that most non-European societies have retained popular modes of history-telling. 32. I am grateful to Dale Porter for pointing out this link. Hutton (167), notes these books in the context of recovering marginal historiographical traditions. 33. Compare plates and illustrations of the two roles in Gielgud, An Actor and His Time (1980). 34. For comparison of Russian and German practice see Willett (1978); Innes, (1972); Hoffman and Hoffman-Ostvald (1973); and McAlpine (1990). 35. See Willett (1978, 186) and Jacobs (1971, 4–5). Though Sarcey had used the term “documentaire” in the 1890s in reference to Napoleon plays (Howarth), our contemporary uses of the term derive from the 1920s. 36. This sounds remarkably like the postrevolutionary spectacles mounted in Soviet Russia, particularly The Mystery of Freed Labor (1920), although Piscator denied any knowledge of previous Soviet practice. In addition to Piscator’s account of the creation of In Spite of Everything!, see Willet, Innes, Hoffman and Hoffman-Ostvald, and McAlpine. 37. In Piscator’s own words, “The first production in which the text and staging were based solely on political documents was In Spite of Everything! ” (cited in Favorini 1995, 7). 38. The text of Trotz Alledem! is lost. We have, however, a police report, Piscator’s testimony and reviews, included in Favorini (1995, 1–13). 39. Connerton (65ff.) classifies commemorative ceremonies, but makes little or no reference to theatrical examples thereof. 40. On the taxonomy of propaganda see Ellul (1966). Also useful is Szanto (1978). 41. Compensation by Sergei Kurginian (text in Favorini 1995) is subtitled “a liturgy of fact.” 42. For the range of German and foreign reactions see Salloch (1972, 142–161) and Vegesack (1966). 43. The first judgment belongs to Skloot (1988, 104); the second is Alvin Rosenfeld’s, quoted by Skloot. 44. The connection with Dante has subsequently been much commented on; see Ellis (1987, 46ff.) and Robert Cohen (1993, 78ff). 45. The text is in Berrigan (1988). Quotations are from this edition. 46. Text, production account and interviews with the Kurginians are in Favorini (1995). 47. I am drawing here on a profile by Kurginian by “S. R.” published in Kto est kto [Who’s Who] (1993) translated by Carolyn Kelson, as well as Lev Anninskii, “Tabula Rasa: The Theatre Studio ‘On the Boards,’” published in Russian as a booklet introduction to the theatre and translated into English by Nancy Condee and Vladimir Padunov (unpublished).



48. Cheeseman subsequently moved his company to the New Victoria Theatre in Newcastleunder-Lyme. 49. Elvgren and Favorini’s Steel/City (produced in 1976) is an American documentary in the Cheeseman mold and, to my knowledge, the first musical documentary in the United States. Emily Mann’s Execution of Justice and Greensboro are site-specific in some key ways, as is Thomas Gibson’s 6221; see chapter 6 below. Cheeseman’s example of site-specific documentaries has been followed less in the United States than in Canada, which already had a rich documentary tradition. See Filewod (1987). 50. In an interview with Gillette Elvgren cited in the Introduction to Elvgren and Favorini.



3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13.


For works originally written in a language other than English, I have used the title of the standard English translation (if there is one) and provided both the original publication date and the date of the English translation. In cases where there is no English translation or in which translations incorporate very substantial revisions I have supplied the original language title. I also note that many of these publications (especially Freud’s) have extremely knotted bibliographic histories, involving several republications with slightly different titles and content. My list does not reflect the subtlety of such variants. Dilman (1984, 46–62), suggests that Freud resisted Cartesianism, if unsuccessfully. In a section of Studies on Hysteria written by Breuer, the text explicitly rejects neurological terminology on the grounds that research is insufficiently advanced (185). Freud, after his 1895 essay, “Project for a Scientific Psychology,” abandoned his attempt to ground his psychological theories in physiology. See Ricoeur (1970, 71–84). Freud and Breuer began to publish the essays collected in Studies on Hysteria in 1893. To test these “tigerish waters,” see Hacking (44, 50, 129–137, 273n); Robinson preface to Janet, xxiii–xxxii; Freud (1959); and Freud (1963, 233). For how the era diagnosed hysteria, see Hacking, 163; for its representation onstage, see Michael Robinson (1998), especially 201–203. As suggested by Ferguson (1996, 418–421). Gerland does not explore in any detail the complex relationship of Freud and Janet, limiting his remarks to observing (451) the latter’s influence on Studies on Hysteria. Gerland (1994) had previously used Freud’s notion to repetition to explain some of Brand’s behavior, though not noticing that Irene is even more disposed to give in to the compulsion to repeat. In The Oxford Ibsen, translated by McFarlane (1977, 247–248). Subsequent quotations are from this edition. For details on the Strindberg portrait, see Ferguson (399–400, 407n). For Strindberg on Ibsen, see Meyer (1985, 25, 110, 126, 130–133, 136, 213, 229, 260, 430, 446). My quotations from The Burned House are from the 1962 translation by Evert Sprinchorn, Seabury Quinn, Jr., and Kenneth Petersen. Presumably Casanova, but referred to in the text only as “the memoirs of a famous cavalier” (73). Freud read pears as breasts in The Interpretation of Dreams, Chapter 6, “The DreamWork” (1899). My emphasis on mother-deprivation in The Burned House has a parallel in Freddie Rokem’s reading of Miss Julie (2004, 143ff. and 164). My quotations are from this edition.



15. Jolande Jacobi (1973, 32–33), in a concise presentation of Jungian psychology endorsed by Jung in 1939, offers diagrams of the psyche in both plan and elevation versions, which I have followed here. 16. I have used the corrected edition of Long Day’s Journey into Night (1989), 84, 86. 17. I can find no direct evidence that O’Neill saw the Pirandello plays, but the Gelbs (1960, 525–526) report that O’Neill admired Pirandello and that the latter was in his mind when recommending to Ken Macgowan plays for the 1923–1924 Provincetown Playhouse season. 18. The review is reprinted in Bassnet and Lorch (1993, 82). 19. Freud, Nietzsche and Bergson are among the cultural commodities a character must acquire in the 1929 revision of Pirandello’s 1911 novel, Giustina Roncella—Stone (103). As Stone documents, critics have been tracing Freud’s influence on Pirandello since 1927. The Gelbs (577) report of O’Neill that he once told a friend, in connection with Desire Under the Elms, “I respect Freud’s work tremendously—but I’m not addicted to him!” 20. My quotations are from Bentley’s translation in Naked Masks (1952). 21. Emphasis Sacks’s (19, n. 23), quoting a 1932 account by Smith Jelliffe. Detailed symptomologies are also found in Constantin von Economo’s works of 1918 and 1931, cited by Sacks (12–14). 22. “L’Ignota” would be more accurately translated as “The Unknown Woman,” but for clarity of reference I have employed the character name from Samuel Putnam’s first American translation, As You Desire Me (Come Tu Mi Vuoi) (1931). 23. A notable exception was Susan Sontag’s Italian production in 1980, considered by Stone (167–176). 24. It is sad and sobering to think of Pirandello’s wife, Antonietta, in this context. 25. Sherwood (1932, 61). Subsequent quotations are from this edition. 26. Brown (274), reports that in the rehearsal period, Lee Simonson, board member of the play’s producers, the Theatre Guild, argued with Sherwood over the orthodoxy of the psychoanalyst. Brown does not mention Freud directly, however. 27. Michael Roth connects the foundation and development of psychoanalysis with mourning and loss, suggesting that psychoanalysis was “an elaborate mnemic sign of the death of Freud’s and his fellow liberals’ political ambitions” (197). 28. On Freud’s reluctance to leave, see Gay (624–628); on Halbwachs’ death—he protested to the Nazis the murder of his mother-in-law and father-in-law—see Coser’s introduction to On Collective Memory (7). 29. As pointed out by Pearsall (1972, 15–16), the 1883 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica lumped together “animal magnetism, electro-biology, mesmerism, clairvoyance, odylic or odic force and hypnotism.” 30. For the influences of Spiritualism on Jung, see Chartet (1993) ; see also Myers (1903). 31. One of the most notorious spirit photographers, Buguet, set up his studio—oh, the irony—on Baker Street. See Pearsall (118–125). 32. My interpretation of James is based in the Meyers and Evans Introductions, in Hunt (144–165), and in Edelman (2004, 4–7, 55, and 82ff.). My views on James diverge somewhat from those presented by Meyers, though in the direction of heightening rather than rejecting the paradoxes he discerns in James’s work. 33. Interpreters and biographers of James differ over whether James was a believer or a skeptic, Linda Simon (1998) tending toward the former and Gerald E. Meyers (1986) toward the latter. See also Gardner Murphy and Robert O. Ballou (1960), which collects many public and private communications on the subject.



34. The Samuel French edition I quote from bears the 1915 copyright year, but includes the cast of the 1917 Broadway production. In the New York Times, April 22, 1917, the playwright said to Alexander Woolcott he had written the play some twenty years earlier. 35. My quotations are from Davis (1918). The Internet Broadway Database http://www. lists over 75 credits for Davis. 36. As pointed out by Vanden Heuvel (1996), flashbacks were used by Rice in his first play, On Trial. But Rice’s play is not a memory site, since the flashbacks, which as in Forever After carry the plot, are not anyone’s memories, but simply a narrative technique derived, as contemporary reviewers recognized, from film. 37. Quotations are from Shaw (1936), who was scarcely twenty-three when the play opened on Broadway and ran for ninety-seven performances. See Internet Broadway Database, 38. The Broadway aficionado Wilder was in New York during the run of Irwin Shaw’s play. But as he had come east for his father’s funeral, it is not likely he went to the theatre to see Bury the Dead. He did, however, see Dead End, as reported by Harrison (1983, 161). More likely, Wilder was influenced by the poem Spoon River Anthology, which he knew well (37). 39. My quotations are from Wilder, Three Plays (1985). 40. On Wilder’s Platonism, see Lifton (13–16) and Hacker-Daniels. 41. Harrison, 149. My quotations are from The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder: Volume 1 (1997). 42. The 1991 Lincoln Center production with Spalding Gray as the Stage Manager memorably emphasized the anti-sentimental dimensions of the play.


2. 3. 4.

5. 6. 7. 8.

Surprisingly, Bruner mentions neither Halbwachs nor Bartlett, in whose footsteps he clearly follows. Pillemer (1998, 5–13 and Bibliography) discusses key publications from the 1970s through the 1990s, some addressing memory and narrative. Among psychologists of the period, Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, Ernst Kris and Lawrence Kubie (q. v. below) showed some interest in narrative, though they rarely connected it with memory. Page 7. Quotations are from the 1945 edition. Louis Kronenberger for the New York Newspaper PM, as quoted in Crandell, who includes other reviews (18–28). Page 143. My quotations are from the New Directions edition (1971), which contains the more extensive stage directions, production notes and description of characters missing from the Dramatists Play Service Acting Edition. It also contains the directions for the projections cut from the original production. In the Memoirs, Williams acknowledges “unusually close relations” with his sister, while denying “carnal knowledge” (119). I would demur, however, from Parker’s dated judgment that it was “this [sibling] relationship that helped to establish Williams’s hom*osexuality” (“The Circle Closed,” 129). Quotations are from the 1976 edition. Quotations are from the 1995 edition, with an Introduction by Eve Adamson, who directed the premiere for the Jean Cocteau Repertory off-Broadway.

282 9. 10.

11. 12.

13. 14. 15. 16.


18. 19. 20. 21.

22. 23. 24. 25.

26. 27. 28. 29. 30.


32. 33. 34.

Notes See Saddik (1999, 134). A notable exception to the negative reception was Dan Issac, whose review of the 1981 premiere production is reprinted in Crandell (278–282). Richard Watts, Jr., praised Miller’s unpretentious use of “stream-of-consciousness technique”; Ward Morehouse noted “flashbacks bringing forth episodes out of the past,” while William Hawkins noted the play’s traverse “into the realm of memory and imagination,” but said the technique could not be called flashback “because the transitions are so immediate and logical”—all reviews dated February 11, 1949. See Collected Plays (1: 31–36) and “Tragedy and the Common Man” (1949). Though not literally, as Aristotle’s word for dramatic character was ethos. We owe character to Aristotle’s successor at the Lyceum, Theophrastus, who used the word for the personality types he described in brief sketches. Miller also likely had in mind Camus’ The Fall; see Bigsby (2005, 233). All quotations are from the 1964 edition. All quotations are from the 1986 edition. Arthur Miller, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), 44. Subsequent quotations are from this edition, though Miller tinkered with the play through its 1998 revival at the New York Public Theatre. Bigsby’s analysis of the two versions of the text indicates that Miller’s revisions suggest more consistently that the play follows the workings of Lyman’s mind (Arthur Miller, 374–379). Quotations are from the 1959 Random House edition. Schacter’s (1996) chapter, “Reflections in a Curved Mirror: Memory Distortion,” offers a good introduction to the issue from a psychological perspective. Quotations are from the 1980 Faber and Faber edition. Patrick (1976) indicates that sections of the Kennedy’s Children were performed as early as 1970, but the play had taken on much of its current form by 1973. Quotations are from the Random House edition. Quotations are from the Hill and Wang edition. Quotations are from the Proscenium Press edition. Shaffer’s enthusiasm for Jung is well-documented; see Shaffer (1975). A similar, anti-analytical stance is taken in John Pielmeier’s imitative and sensationalistic Agnes of God (1982), where repressed memories intersect with Christian mysticism; see Daniel Wright (1986). Quotations are from the 1991 edition. Quotations are from the 1967 edition. The text of “The Mirror Stage” is available in Lacan’s Écrits (1977); quotations are from this edition. Fuddy Meers more closely resembles Lee Thuna’s farcical Fugue (1986), whose central character is a woman with the severe amnesia termed “fugue state.” Any review of the scientific literature on the subject will likely be subject to opposition from one quarter or another; consensus is not easily established, and research is ongoing. Balanced appraisals are available in Schacter (1996), Pezdek and Banks (1996), and Davies and Dalgleish (2001), on whom I rely in what follows. Carey was reporting on a contest to identify any literary account of the phenomenon prior to 1800. The results of the Harvard study are published at http://biopsychlab. com/challenge.html. See Ross Cheit, “The Recovered Memory Project,” at: My quotations are from the Nick Hern edition. Bass and Davis, The Courage to Heal (1988), has sold over 750,000 copies.



35. Oleanna, directed by Harold Pinter at the Royal Court in 1993, left a strong impression on British theatre. Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange similarly shows its influence. Pinter’s Old Times, with a man, memories and two women, one named Anna, also seems to have been in Cullen’s mind. 36. Denial was available to me only as a DVD (2000), recorded at a live performance and including an additional interview with the playwright. All quotations are from this edition. 37. Quotations are from t