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The God of Gods: A Canadian Play

University of Ottawa Press | Canadian Literature Collection


Carroll Aikins’s play The God of Gods (1919) has been out of print since its first and only edition in 1927. This critical edition not only revives the work for readers and scholars alike, it also provides historical context for Aikins’s often overlooked contributions to theatre in the 1920s and presents research on the different staging techniques in the play’s productions.

Much of the play’s historical significance lies in Aikins’s vital role in Canadian theatre, as director of the Home Theatre in British Columbia (1920–22) and artistic director of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre (1927–29). Wright reveals The God of Gods as a modernist Canadian work with overt influences from European and American modernisms. Aikins’s work has been compared to European modernists Gordon Craig, Adolphe Appia, and Jacques Copeau. Importantly, he was also intimately connected with modernist Canadian artists and the Group of Seven (who painted the scenery for Hart House Theatre).

The God of Gods contributes to current studies of theatrical modernism by exposing the primitivist aesthetics and theosophical beliefs promoted by some of Canada’s art circles at the turn of the twentieth century. Whereas Aikins is clearly progressive in his political critique of materialism and organized religion, he presents a conservative dramatization of the noble savage as hero. The critical introduction examines how The God of Gods engages with Nietzschean and theosophical philosophies in order to dramatize an Aboriginal lover-artist figure that critiques religious idols, materialism, and violence. Ultimately, The God of Gods offers a look into how English and Canadian theatre audiences responded to primitivism, theatrical modernism, and theosophical tenets during the 1920s.

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Illuminating

history, an excellent gloss, provocative thoughts, all very well stated: Wright

has indeed made The God of Gods a highly readable, and necessary, “rich subject

of inquiry.”

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Wright’s scholarly introduction is extensive, insightful, and meticulously detailed, reading the play in the contexts of, for example, primitivism, modernism, and theosophy. The script is also complemented by explanatory and textual notes and primary material such as production shots, reproductions of playbills, reviews, and the like.

 
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Shakespeare and Canada

Makaryk, Irena R.Prince, Kathryn (Hrsg.) | University of Ottawa Press | Reappraisals: Canadian Writers


Shakespeare in Canada is the result of a collective desire to explore the role that Shakespeare has played in Canada over the past two hundred years, but also to comprehend the way our country’s culture has influenced our interpretation of his literary career and heritage. What function does Shakespeare serve in Canada today? How has he been reconfigured in different ways for particular Canadian contexts?

The authors of this book attempt to answer these questions while imagining what the future might hold for William Shakespeare in Canada. Covering the Stratford Festival, the cult CBC television program Slings and Arrows, major Canadian critics such as Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan, the influential acting teacher Neil Freiman, the rise of Québécois and First Nation approaches to Shakespeare, and Shakespeare’s place in secondary schools today, this collection reflects the diversity and energy of Shakespeare’s afterlife in Canada.

Collectively, the authors suggest that Shakespeare continues to offer Canadians “remembrance of ourselves.” This is a refreshingly original and impressive contribution to Shakespeare studies—a considerable achievement in any work on the history of one of the central figures in the western literary canon.

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The best of these essays provide interesting overviews of how Shakespeare is performed in this country, particularly at Stratford. C. E. McGee’s opening chapter on Stratford’s nine productions of The Merchant of Venice is particularly rewarding for its investigation of how Merchant’s characters have been made to evolve. Robert Ormsby offers a detailed analysis of Stratford’s “multinationalist” productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night, cleverly tying director Leon Rubin’s imaginative concepts to Stratford’s role in creating cross-border tourism. Among the other thoughtful contributions are intriguing explorations by Kailin Wright and Don Moore of the CBC’s Slings & Arrows, the TV series inspired by the Stratford Festival; a tough, uncompromising, but gracefully written overview by Sarah Mackenzie of Stratford’s various attempts at acknowledging Indigenous traditions in Canada; and Annie Brisset’s fascinating take on the history of Shakespeare translations and productions in Quebec

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IRENA R. MAKARYK. Professor of English, cross-appointed to Theatre, at the University of Ottawa. Her research interests focus on Shakespeare’s afterlife, Soviet theatre, modernism, and theatre during periods of great social duress. Her most recent book is April in Paris 1925: Theatre, Politics, Space (forthcoming).

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KATHRYN PRINCE. Theatre historian at the University of Ottawa, where she is an Associate Professor and, in 2016, recipient of the Excellence in Education prize. Her current work focuses on the practice of emotions in early modern drama. She has published widely on Shakespeare in performance from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries.

 
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