Professor, English and Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Books and Book-Length Works
A Poetics of Modernity: Indian Theatre Theory, 1850 to the Present.
Oxford University Press, 2019.
Available on Amazon
A Poetics of Modernity is a scholarly edition of theoretically significant writing on theatre by modern Indian theatre practitioners, in English and in English translation from nine other languages. The selections are drawn from book-length works, essays, lectures, prefatory materials, letters, autobiographies, interviews, and memoirs by playwrights, directors, actors, designers, activists, and policy-makers.
A significant proportion of the primary materials included in the volume have been translated into English for the first time, creating an archive of theory and criticism that has not been available earlier to scholars, teachers, students, or general readers interested in modern Indian theatre.
Collected Plays of Girish Karnad: Volumes 1, 2, and 3.
Oxford University Press, 2005-2017.
Available through Oxford University Press
The three-volume set of Karnad’s Collected Plays brings together English versions of his important works. Each volume contains an extensive introduction by Aparna Dharwadker. The introductions trace the literary and theatrical evolution of Karnad’s work over six decades and position it in the larger context of modern Indian drama.
In addition, they comment on Karnad’s place as author and translator in a multilingual performance culture, the relation of his playwriting to his work in the popular media, and his and his larger-than-life presence as an engaged intellectual in the Indian public sphere.
One Day in the Season of Rain.
Penguin Modern Classics, 2015.
Available on Amazon
Titled Ashadh ka ek din in the original Hindi, Mohan Rakesh’s
play is a poignant story of love, separation, and abandonment,
and a modernist reimagining of the life of India’s greatest classical
The new English translation by Aparna Dharwadker and
Vinay Dharwadker was authorized by the author’s estate, and
contains a full editorial apparatus aimed at readers, teachers,
dramaturgs, and theatre directors.
Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India Since 1947.
University of Iowa and Oxford University Press, 2005.
Available through University of Iowa Press
Theatres of Independence is a comprehensive study of drama, theatre, and urban performance in post-independence India. Combining theatre history with theoretical analysis and literary interpretation, Aparna Dharwadker examines the unprecedented conditions for writing and performance that the experience of new nationhood created in a dozen major Indian languages.
The book also offers detailed discussions of the major plays, playwrights, directors, dramatic genres, and theories of drama that have made the contemporary Indian stage a vital part of postcolonial and world theatre.
Selected Articles and Essays
The Really Poor Theatre: Postcolonial Economies of Performance.
Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 31 (2017).
During the 1960s, the Polish experimental director, Jerzy Grotowski, theorized a "poor theatre" in opposition to the "rich theatre" and richer cinema of the Western metropolis. The concept of poverty, however, now appears to have even greater resonance in regions such as the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and India, where powerful "new national and postcolonial" theatres have taken shape without the expected conjuncture with commerce. This essay begins by exploring the extent to which current methodologies in theatre studies impede or support transnational and intercultural comparisons of this kind. Referring primarily to Derek Walcott, Rabindranath Tagore, and Badal Sircar, and more briefly to Wole Soyinka and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, the essay then analyzes the forms of impoverishment that these authors confront (or actively advocate) in their theoretical work, and accommodate variously in their artistic practice.
Modernism, ‘Tradition,’ and History in the Postcolony: Vijay Tendulkar’s Ghashiram kotwal (1972).
Theatre Journal 65 (special issue on “Modernism,” December 2013)
Indian-language theatre of the second half of the twentieth century contains the largest clustering of "modernist," as well as "postcolonial" drama outside the circuits of Euro-American textuality and performance, but the qualities that make this body of writing a notable formation also contribute to its virtual exclusion from discussions of postcolonial and global modernisms because the new modernist studies has dealt very sparingly with non-European languages. In this essay, a method of "representative reading" is suggested that connects a major post-independence play—Vijay Tendulkar's Ghashiram kotwal (Constable Ghashiram )—to the conceptual, aesthetic, and linguistic frameworks of Indian modernisms, with particular attention to three sets of paradoxical relations: between an intensely personal authorial self and an impersonal social art; between the simultaneous representation and de-historicization of history; and between modernism and its ostensible opposite, "tradition."
India’s Theatrical Modernity: Re-Theorizing Colonial, Postcolonial, and Diasporic Formations.
Theatre Journal 63 (2011).
As a "modern" institution shaped equally by European influences and indigenous circumstances, urban theatre first appeared in the colonial Indian cities of Calcutta and Bombay (now Kolkata and Mumbai) in the mid-nineteenth century, and has developed since independence into a complex, multilingual, national and postcolonial formation. However, to create "modern Indian theatre" as a field of study, or to define the qualities of modernity that might differentiate it from other periods in theatre history, has been a demanding critical task, because of anomalies in Western as well as Indian approaches to the subject and the problematization of the very idea of modernity in relation to Indian theatre and performance.
Representing India’s Pasts: Time, Culture, and the Problems of Performance Historiography.
In Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography, ed. Thomas Postlewait and Charlotte Canning. University of Iowa Press (2010).
The discipline of theatre historiography in India is an inherently embattled field because, like other forms of modern history writing in India, it seeks to reconstruct methods of historical inquiry in a culture where "history," "historicity," "historical experience," "historical consciousness," and "the historical sense" have been and continue to be deeply contested concepts. Any metacritical reflection on method in Indian theatre history therefore has to begin at an unusual level of generality, by considering the theoretical, conceptual, and historicopolitical reasons for the crisis of representation that pervades the genres of historiography. To a large extent the crisis is a product of cultural difference: it registers the conflicts between intrinsic Indian and extrinsic Western ideas of time and history that were inevitable under the asymmetrical power relations of colonialism between the late eighteenth and the early twentieth centuries.
Database of Printed Drama in India, 1840 to the Present.
Online database of modern Indian drama, consisting of about 24,000 citations covering 16 languages. Developed in collaboration with the UW Digital Collections Centre.
Cosmo-Modernism, Multilingualism, and Theatre: Modernist Performance in India.
A comparative study of modernist drama and theatre in India (1950-present) in seven languages, with extensive reference to the current focus on global modernisms.
Contested Modernities and the Modernization of Urban Theatre in India.
A study of the transformative conditions under which urban theatre has evolved in India since the mid-nineteenth century. Supported by a 12-month fellowship from the NEH (to be held in calendar year 2022).