The Canon of European Theater / Canone teatrale europeo

The guest author of this post is S. E. Gontarski. He is the editor of “On Beckett: Essays and Criticism” published in 2014, and the Series Editor of Anthem Studies in Theatre and Performance.

The idea of a literary canon is generally anathema to most Anglo-American scholars, at least since the critical and theoretical revolutions of the 1960’s. A canon has tended to reify current hegemonies and to assume and enforce hierarchies. Historically, the consequences of this have been more exclusionary than inclusionary, operating as a means of solidifying power structures already in place and so denying a voice to others: ethnic, religious, and racial minorities, as well as women. It was the means of creating something akin to the holy writ of literature. But the idea of a literary canon in this series, particularly for theatrical works, is based on substantially different premises, none of which are exclusionary. It simply assumes that some works of art, culturally, even sociologically and anthropologically, have more impact and generate more commentary, tending to be more influential than others. Much of that impact can be the assertion of common ground but not such that everyone necessarily agrees with its premises, themes, and values. Often it is quite the contrary, since some works generate considerable cultural resistance. A culture may indeed gravitate toward works that reflect the current values of its members, but a work’s influence can be negative as well, at least at first, and so can also provide something of a point of shared resistance.

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The theatrical canon as a concept retains deep social implications in contemporary Europe. As the editors write in their preface to their book series, titled A Canon of European Drama?: “The canon is a way for us to be aware of what has united or could unite Europe, of what could be discarded or exchanged with other cultures in this world of globalization.” In this regard then, this book series, Canone teatrale europeo / Canon of European Drama, is an integral part of the larger issues of European unity and part of the development of Europe’s future. In his study, Penser l’Europe, Edgard Morin writes:

What is important about European culture is not just the main ideas (Christianity, humanism, reason, science) but rather these ideas and their opposites. The European spirit lies not just in plurality and change, but in dialogue between pluralities which bring about change. […] In other words, what matters in the life and Evolution of European culture is the fertilizing encounter between diversities, antagonisms, competitions and complementarities, that is to say their dialogic. [. . .] It is this dialogic that lies at the heart of European cultural identity, not any particular element or moment in it.

Furthermore, in his controversial study The End of History Francis Fukuyama insisted that his vision of liberal democracy was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization:

I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU’s attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a “post-historical” world than the Americans’ continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military.

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In its broadest sense the study of an American theatrical text within the European Union allows us to examine the unfolding of such issues. Tennessee Williams’ second major play, A Streetcar Named Desire, was met with substantial resistance in both the U.S.A. and Europe throughout its initial years. The 1951 film version was subjected to substantial censorship imposed by the self-proclaimed guardians of American public morality. Likewise, Britain’s official censor, the Lord Chamberlain (still operating in 1949), demanded extensive cuts to the play – predominantly of sexually suggestive material – before licensing a British production. Additionally, the American film was restricted to audience members 16 years of age or older in Italy. Despite this, audiences flocked to performances and showings nonetheless, perhaps in some measure because of such resistance, and so attendance was a means of overcoming official opposition. The international draw of A Streetcar Named Desire has been, finally, nothing short of astonishing – despite its subject matter being raw and for some even considered crude, at least for its day.

In its first 50 years, for example, from 1947 to 1997, more than 20,000 productions of A Streetcar Named Desire were staged internationally, and the centenary celebrations of Williams’ birth have renewed international interest on that scale. Somehow, a play about familial sexual tensions in a southern American city, New Orleans, just after the Second World War, has resonated with international cultures and their audiences. It is in this cultural sense that we speak of A Streetcar Named Desire as a canonical work of American theater, of European theater, and of international theater.

S. E. Gontarski is a writer, scholar and director, at whose request Samuel Beckett wrote the short play “Ohio Impromptu” (1981). Gontarski is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University, where he specializes in twentieth-century Irish studies, in British, US and European modernism, and in performance theory. He is General Editor of the Anthem Studies in Theatre and Performance book series, and his Tennessee Williams, T-Shirt Modernism and the Refashionings of Theatre is forthcoming from Anthem Press in April 2021.


Anthem Press celebrates Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary

Happy Earth Day 2020!

In honor of the environmental activism that took place on the inaugural Earth Day on April 22, 1970, which led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, Anthem Press is excited to celebrate the titles and dedicated authors who are committed to change-making scholarship.


Past Title Highlights

9781783087136WORST-CASE ECONOMICS by Frank Ackerman

In both climate change and financial crises, worst-case scenarios and disastrous risks are inescapable. Yet public policy often focuses on average or likely outcomes, minimizing the danger of extreme events. ‘Worst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance’ explores the underlying causes and the remedies needed for the most serious climate and financial risks.


9781783089123THE LABYRINTH OF SUSTAINABILITY by Daniel C. Esty

‘The Labyrinth of Sustainability’ explores the growth of corporate sustainability in Latin America, offering actionable insights to business leaders, policymakers, NGOs, academics and journalists through 12 case studies that examine the challenges and opportunities facing companies across the region as they integrate sustainability into their strategy and operations.


9781783089468-_2813_x_4500_pixels__2SUSTAINABILITY IS THE NEW ADVANTAGE by Peter McAteer

“Sustainability Is the New Advantage” is a practical blueprint for leaders who want to start, develop, and grow sustainable organizations. The book provides stories and practical examples of how to assess challenges, create demonstrations projects, and scale the capabilities needed for sustainable business transformation.


Upcoming Title Highlights


‘Cities, Climate Change, and Public Health’ examines how cities can use a public health frame of climate change to boost people’s understanding of and concern about climate change and increase policy support for climate adaptation efforts at the local level. It also presents new tools for cities to enhance awareness of and facilitate prioritization of climate risk management choices.


9781785274879COMPLEXITY OF TRANSBOUNDARY WATER CONFLICTS by Enamul Choudhury and Shafiqul Islam

‘Complexity of Transboundary Water Conflicts’ seeks to understand transboundary water issues as complex systems with contingent conditions and possibilities. To address those conditions and leverage the possibilities it introduces the concept of enabling conditions as a pragmatic way to identify and act on the emergent possibilities to resolve transboundary water issues.


susskindenvprobsolve_ebook_cover9-20-17_2813_x_4500_pixels_2ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM-SOLVING by Lawrence Susskind, Bruno Verdini, Jessica Gordon, and Yasmin Zaerpoor

‘Environmental Problem-Solving’ offers a self-paced curriculum for college and university students who want to learn the basic techniques government agencies, citizen action groups, corporations and research institutions use to solve pressing environmental problems.


Through the Anthem Environment and Sustainability Initiative, Anthem will continue to push the frontiers of environmental scholarship while offering prescriptive advice to policymakers and practitioners, consciously linking theory and practice.

Anthem Press is also proud to announce upcoming updates to Anthem EnviroExperts, a community site involving scientists, policy analysts and activists committed to creating a clearer and deeper understanding of how ecological systems operate at every level, and how they have been damaged by unsustainable development.

Celebrating and protecting the planet doesn’t just end on Earth Day. Sign up for our newsletter to get started!

Spring is in Full Swing at Anthem Press: New Titles

It has been a busy season here at Anthem Press and we want to share some information about our exciting new titles and authors.

Sustainability Is the New Advantage: Leadership, Change, and the Future of Business by Peter McAteer


Peter McAteer’s excellent new title, Sustainability Is the New Advantage, expertly answers the question: “How can leaders accelerate business transformation in the face of climate change and other environmental issues?” Transformation is a difficult process for any company and Sustainability provides a straightforward approach for incorporating sustainable business practices while ensuring profitability.

Peter McAteer is managing director of SustainLearning and member of the board of directors for KPPM Global. Peter’s prior work includes service as CEO of Corporate University Research and CEO of the Corporate University Xchange.


Private Equity: A Casebook by Paul Gompers, Victoria Ivashina and Richard Ruback


Private Equity: A Casebook is an advanced applied corporate finance book dedicated to educating investors and students on practices delivering sustained future profitability. This title features a collection of cases written from private equity investors’ perspectives, detailing actual investments and outcomes.

Paul A. Gompers, Victoria Ivashina and Richard S. Ruback are distinguished Professors of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.




The Plight of Potential: Embracing Solitude in Millennial Life and Modern Work by Emerson Csorba

plightThe Plight of Potential is a field guide for the millennial worker searching for career satisfaction without sacrificing personal enrichment. In the modern world, millennials experience constant pressure to grow professionally without advancing emotionally. Csorba uses scholarly research, his first-hand experience with intergenerational engagement and case studies of millennials from networks like the Global Shapers Community to show how hitting the pause button for inward meditation will benefit the individual.

Emerson Csorba is president of Csorba & Company Ltd., where he leads projects involving social network analysis, intergenerational engagement and political campaign management.


Iron Men: How One London Factory Powered the Industrial Revolution and Shaped the Modern World by David Waller, Foreword by Norman Foster

ironIron Men centers around Henry Maudslay and his followers, whose factory on Westminster Bridge Road in London, England attracted the country’s top engineering talent during the early nineteenth century. Their contributions to precision engineering and machine tools helped Great Britain become the workshop of the world.

David Waller is an author, business consultant and former Financial Times journalist specialising in business and the nineteenth century.





For full catalogue, please visit

Vivian E. Thomson Talks About the US on the World Stage of Climate Change

The 2 June announcement of a new draft of regulations under the United States Clean Air Act has brought environmental issues to the forefront political discourse. The new act includes a lofty proposal of a 30% cut in carbon emissions by 2030, making the US a leader in global climate change. Thomson and Colleagues at her Book Launch at the Heinrich Böll Foundation

Anthem author and University of Virginia professor of environmental science and politics Vivan Thomson (left) speaks to the theoretical frameworks of the recent act in her book, Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany. “My book relates directly to EPA’s forthcoming announcement,” says Thomson. Her experience in the State Air Pollution Control Board of Virginia, a state hard hit by the EPA’s announcement because of the economic dependency on the coal industry, give her an insightful take on the state-federal cooperation in environmental affairs. Although the great reduction in carbon emissions is an admirable environmental goal, much of Virginia’s economy depends on highly pollutive coal. Despite the discordant state and federal goals, Thomson pushes for coherence, pointing to Brazil and Germany as examples for the United States to emulate. 

As the conversation over the EPA’s goal for climate change in the United States continues, we watch for the state-federal cooperation Thomson prescribes.

HEAR more from Thomson, listen to her recent podcast here:  

WATCH Vivian Thomson discuss her book on Inside Scoop: