Failure to Adapt: Affect, Apathy, and Doomed Reenactments in American Theatre’s Militarized Dystopias

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The US’s involvement in 21st-century international military conflict and its attendant domestic responses of political resistance have both been represented amply in contemporary American drama. The theatre’s well-defined spatial setting grants artists and audiences a unique mode of investigation into the affective and embodied experience of being at war. Recent theatrical productions have leveraged the sensory to activate and politicize audiences: What does war feel like? How does war look and sound? How do popular perceptions of military life compare to its actual lived experience? Through the real and the imagined—military service, video games, and artistic and media representations of war—most Americans know well the gestures, postures, and formations that both war and its resistance entail. Our bodies can readily perform the stance and salute of the soldier or the raised fist of the militant protester; sometimes the lines of embodiment even blur as being at war and organizing to end war come to resemble one another. After all, Aristophanes’ classical peace protester, Lysistrata, has a name that means “the disbander of armies,” despite the fact that she is also an army recruiter in her own right. Putting pressure on the performative binary of being either for a war or against it, her play is all about assembling and training troops to win her peaceful war on war.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPerformance in a Militarized Culture
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Arts and Humanities
  • English Language and Literature

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