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Classes in the Subjunctive Mood: The History Boys

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2010, 23(1), pp.5-27
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Yuna Kang 1

1서울여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Renowned for the recent success of The Madness of King George III, Alan Bennett now probes the familiar world of a school in The History Boys. It is set in the Thatcherian northern England, concerning eight 6th formers in an imaginary grammar school who are preparing entrance exams for Cambridge or Oxford. Many authors before him have used various educational institutions as topoi of their works, but Bennett’s play is second to none because it explores both the nasty and magnificent aspects in education. It also conveys the sense of the historical England in 1980s, and ultimately, of the history itself. Mainly focusing on the relationship between students and teachers, Bennett explores the relationship between the presentation and self-presentation, the perspectives on education, history, literature, and world, and above all, the boys’ winning through all the experiences. Irwin, a new history teacher hired specially for the exam, imposes on the students the importance of presenting themselves successfully to pass the exam. On the other hand, obese queer Hector teaches practically everything just for the knowledge itself. Bennett poses the subjunctive mood as an axis in the middle of this somewhat Déjà vu drama, and probes many possible alternatives of the incidents happened, happening, and to happen. Sometimes as a tool of strategy to show oneself off, others to assess more probabilities and uniqueness of each incident, the subjunctive mood works as a protean correlative of literary imagination in Bennett Land--the world full of irony with sympathy and criticism.

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