Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance / Edition 1

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The colorful handmade costumes of beads and feathers swirl frenetically, as the Mardi Gras Indians dance through the streets of New Orleans in remembrance of a widely disputed cultural heritage. Iroquois Indians visit London in the early part of the eighteenth century and give birth to the "feathered people" in the British popular imagination.

What do these seemingly disparate strands of culture share over three hundred years and several thousand miles of ocean? Artfully interweaving theatrical, musical, and ritual performance from the eighteenth century to the present in London and New Orleans, Cities of the Dead takes a look at a rich continuum of intercultural exchange that reinvents, recreates, and restores history.

Complemented with fifty-five illustrations, including spectacular photos of the famed Mardi Gras Indians, this fascinating work employs an entirely unique approach to the study of culture. Rather than focusing on one region, Cities of the Dead explores broad cultural connections over place and time, showing through myriad examples how performance can revise the unwritten past.

Columbia University Press

Recipient of the 1996 James Russell Lowell Prize, MLA; Winner of the NYU Joe A. Callaway Prize, Best Book on Drama and Theatre

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Editorial Reviews

Eric Lott
This . . . exploration of Atlantic rim performance cultures restores the centrality of memory and gesture, profession and surrogation-the invention of a modern world out of the forcible destruction of the old-to the diasporic and genocidal histories of Africa, the Americas, and Europe. . . .Roach pursues a pathbreaking version of cultural history.
The author's thesis defies reduction. However we might say that it involves the performance of memory and forgetting, culture, and performance events from carnivals to stage plays to everyday ritual. He investigates history, memory, and performance as it is acted out in London and New Orleans by the matrix of African, Caribbean, European, and American cultures. A sampling of chapter titles will set the tone for this fascinating and complex volume: Canonical memory and theatrical nationhood, The Mohawk Macbeth, The demon actors in Milton's Paradise Lost, and Mystic chords of memory--or, Stevie Wonder Square. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231104616
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 4/18/1996
  • Series: Social Foundations of Aesthetic Forms Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.95 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Roach is professor of English at Tulane University. He is the author of The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting, which won the Barnard Hewitt Award, and coeditor, with Janeele Reinelt, of Critical Theory and Performance.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents


1. Introduction: History, Memory, and PerformanceCircum-Atlantic MemoryLocations and BearingsMaterials and MethodsThe Everlasting ClubGenealogies of Performance

2 Echoes in the BoneThe EffigyPerforming OriginsThe Segregation of the DeadBodies of LawCongo SqaureThe King is Dead-Long Live the King!

3. Betterton's Funeral"Sticks and Rags": The Celebrity as EffigyVortices of BehaviorThe Life of Betterton: Talking with the DadCanonical Memory and Theatrical NationhoodThe Pinacotheca BettertonaeanaL Bibliography of originWhite SKin, Black Masks

4 Feathered PeoplesThe Accursed Share: Abundance, Reproduction, and SacrificeCondolence Councils and the Great PeaceWindsor Forest Dimplomacy

Columbia University Press

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