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Wertenbaker’s View of History and Concept of Space in Credible Witness

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(3), pp.151-173
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

정광숙 1

1숙명여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In "Dancing with History," a paper presented at an international conference on contemporary Anglophone drama called "Crucible of Cultures" held at the University of Brussels in May 2001, Timberlake Wertenbaker explores the tradition of Western literature from Greek tragedy to contemporary drama in order to define history, or rather histories. Stating that "history is no longer an agreed narrative of heroes," Wertenbaker claims that we can actually "choose" one history or another to dance with and the playwrights of the 21st century are to discover what it is like. In "Everyone comes to Café Europa," published in the internet magazine Open Democracy on Aug. 7, 2001, Wertenbaker distinguishes two different spaces, Fortress Europe and Café Europe. She defines Fortress Europe which includes the EU countries as a "suspicious," hostile, and closed space; she describes Café Europe as very much like any other cafés in London where people meet and talk, read papers, listen to music, and get information. Café Europe, however, is mostly frequented by exiles, refugees, and poor immigrants from the third world countries. Wertenbaker shows her definite preference for Café Europe for its sense of warmth, acceptance, and openness. These two essays were written in the same year as the first production of Credible Witness and demonstrate Wertenbaker's sense of history and concept of space, respectively. Wertenbaker presents Alexander and Petra Karagy, Macedonians from northern Greece and burdened by the history of Macedonia before they come to England, as the main characters. She shakes their sense of history and wakes them up to present reality of world problems by having them meet refugees from Africa, Eastern Europe, and Sri Lanka at a community center and a detention center in London. These places become a liminal space or borderland where individual and nation, past history and present situation, oppression and freedom clash, and, however imperfect they are, function as places where people meet and experience healing and change. Alexander and Petra realize that they have been preoccupied by Macedonian history and are released from it and experience expansion of consciousness. Interweaving historical (or diachronic) and descriptive (or synchronic) views of history, Wertenbaker argues that not only the glorious history of Macedonia peaked by Alexander the Great, but political persecutions, ethnic cleansing, and geographical conflicts occurring around the world nowadays which cause massive transnational refugees are also important histories that we have to face and deal with—or dance with, quoting her own phrase. In order to project her idea of history and utopian world view, Wertenbaker presents a border-crossing child who suggests a "common mechanism," a new theory of history which incorporates all humanity, in Credible Witness.

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