Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


In Narrative as Performance, Marie MacLean refers to "the age-old relationship between drama and prose narrative whereby each is the alter-ego of the other" (15). This thesis examines a literary subgenre in which those alter-egos are brought face to face: the memory play. The memory play defies traditional genre definitions. It combines drama's immediacy with narrative's retrospection; drama's chronology with narrative's re-ordering; drama's a-perspective with narrative's focalization; drama's showing with narrative's telling. The unusual coalition of mimesis and diegesis provides an excellent forum in which to explore memory. What does the past, personal and communal, mean to us--and how do we make it meaningful? These issues link the Canadian memory plays which will be discussed herein.;Hayden White has shown that narration is our favoured strategy for making sense of the past. The bio-narratives and biopsies found in Sharon Pollock's Doc will be the subject of the first chapter. Chapter Two examines the multiple rememberer-narrators in James Reaney's The Donnellys. I will then go on to consider memory's narratees by way of the present and absent audiences in three one-person memory plays: Wendy Lill's The Occupation of Heather Rose, John Gray's Billy Bishop Goes to War, and Pollock's Getting it Straight. The final three chapters focus on alternatives to--and reasons for resisting--narrating the past. In Reaney's trilogy, I will argue in Chapter Four, history's linear time is confronted with the cyclical temporal structure of mythology. The characters in Blood Relations, and Pollock herself, play games with Lizzie Borden's past. The subjects of the final chapter are the rememberer-dramatists of Timothy Findley's Can You See Me Yet?;A central premise of memory plays is that something, important, has already happened. These particular plays have the form and function of a post-mortem--a search for the causes of violent, untimely, horrific acts. The protagonists, and the extra-dramatic audiences, seek to discover not only what happened, but why. Our attention is thereby focused on the present process of the search itself--remembering as action, rememberers as active creators.



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