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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Show Trials and Political Theater
1. Hannah Arendt: Judging in Dark Times
2. Bertolt Brecht: Poetic Justice
3. Erwin Piscator: Theater After Auschwitz
4. Trials in Nuremberg
Conclusion: Archives, Law, and Theater Today

About the Author

Minou Arjomand is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.


This is a brilliant work that gives us both a social history and critical theory of postwar theatre. One thinks about the show trial as a terrible miscarriage of justice, but Arjomand gives trial theatre another function: public deliberation and judgment on responsibility and political justice. Whereas much attention has been given to the theatricality of legal trials, Arjomand asks us to value the public function of theatre in enacting debates on justice and establishing a public practice of considered judgment. The history of postwar German theatre offered here engaged in critical theory and aesthetics in a new and engaging argument about aesthetics and politics and the public functions of art in a democracy.
*Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley*

Theatricality is pervasive in courtroom scenes. So is the question about the relationship between ethical judgment and the law. Political theater has always exploited this conjunction. The show trial exemplifies the ambivalence between law and theatricality, while the trial play offers a counterpoint. This is the constellation Minou Arjomand brilliantly explores, focusing on productions of trial plays, films, and TV courtroom series from Brecht and Piscator to Anna Deavere Smith, with Hannah Arendt’s political philosophy as a touchstone of the argument. A major intervention into the aesthetics of political theater.
*Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University*

In crystal-clear prose, Staged examines the unique relation between political thought and theater in German and German-American theater from the 1920s to the 1970s, one born from the historical experience of Nazism, the Holocaust, and their aftermath. I was struck by how much we can learn from this painful period of German and German-American theater and political thought. The book is very timely indeed.
*Martin Puchner, Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature, Harvard University*

A thoughtful and intelligent book on the ways in which political theater, or more precisely courtroom dramas, create a space in which aesthetic, ethical, and political judgments bleed into one another.

Staged marks an exciting moment for scholarship at the intersection of law and theater... emerge[ing] from the long-established insight that law and performance are mutually constitutive.
*The English Association*

For its ambitious articulation of fundamental questions of aesthetics and politics, and for the study’s under-appreciated subjects, Staged should be read not just by those interested in post-war Germany but by anyone interested in how theatre can benefit judgement and justice.
*Modern Drama*

An exciting moment for scholarship at the intersection of law and theater...Arjomand’s analysis offers a powerful defense of theater as a public institution.
*The Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory*

An important contribution to scholarship on political theater...[and] a strong argument for the continued political relevance of theater.
*The Germanic Review*

This book is full of small anecdotes...that add humanizing touches to its subject of study, giving readers a glimpse of the real personal and political stakes that these theatre artists encountered...highly accessible.
*Theatre History Studies*

A highly original book that confidently speaks to different audiences.
*Contemporary Political Theory*

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