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Literary Criticism Canadian

Blowing up the Skirt of History

Recovered and Reanimated Plays by Early Canadian Women Dramatists, 1876-1920

edited by Kym Bird

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2021
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2021
    List Price

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From history and politics to fantasy and farce, the first flourish of women's theatre in Canada questioned the discourses that formed and informed ideas of gender, sex, and sexuality. While still seduced by an abiding belief in the truth of separate spheres that mark out the hierarchies of men's and women's roles, these plays, in a variety of genres, challenged conventional notions of the private and public in the service of women's rights and social reform. Blowing up the Skirt of History revives ten theatrical comedies that staged the promise of social change, empowered a counterpublic of politically vocal and socially powerful women's voices, and put women's artistic work and lives in the spotlight. When middle- and upper-class women participated in the theatre - as audience members, as playwrights, and as producers - they in turn signalled its authenticity and acceptability. Informed by feminist materialism and public sphere theory as categories of reclamation and analysis, the book's general introduction situates the plays in Canadian women's history, politics, ideologies of gender, theatrical modernism, colonialism, and a newly industrializing nation. Introductions to each work explore the playwrights' biographies, their political activity, and their literary output. Additionally they recount each play's production history and historicize the ways in which it intervenes in the ideologies of the age. Blowing up the Skirt of History reconstructs a long-overlooked corpus of early dramatic writing and restores it to Canadian theatrical history. These plays, and others like them, are exemplars of the types of theatre that became increasingly appropriate to and supportive of middle- and upper-class Anglo-Canadian women's culture over the turn of the twentieth century.

About the author

Kym Bird is associate professor in the Department of Humanities at York University.

Kym Bird's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Most of these plays and playwrights are virtually unknown and have lapsed into the same historical lacuna that engenders the myth that there were no women's plays before 1960. Recovering these playwrights and their work is an important feminist project: Blowing up the Skirt of History goes a long way toward refuting this historical misconception and revising our understanding of what historically constitutes 'Canadian drama.'" Dorothy Hadfield, University of Waterloo

Other titles by Kym Bird