Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Robert Cochran

Committee Member

Les Wade

Second Committee Member

Dorothy Stephens


Contemporary American Drama, Documentary Drama, Domestic Drama, Memory and History, Nostalgia, Resistance


This dissertation focuses on the usages of memory in contemporary American drama. Analyzing selected mainstream and alternative dramatic texts, The Persistence of Memory is a study of personal and communal reflections of the past within contemporary plays. The introduction provides examples from modern plays, major terms, and vital concepts for memory studies and locates their merits in dramatic texts. The first chapter makes a critique of family plays, which uses historical elements to indicate a revisionist yearning for the past as well as the American Dream. Similarly, the second chapter contains business plays, which implement a heavy feeling of nostalgia towards the past, and offer the past as a comforting refuge from the troubles of the present. Third chapter makes an account of documentary plays and illustrates how their approach to history has been different, in order to create a resistance and alternative stand against mainstream formulations. In contrast to other plays, documentary plays employ an opposing tone to conventional usages of history to point at its flaws, strengths, and fallacies. The fourth chapter involves historical plays, which have historical events and characters at their cores. Historical plays like documentary plays have a protesting tone, and the material they handle reveals the playwrights’ ideological tendencies. Given the abundance of memory and history in contemporary dramatic texts, the significance of these components on creating meanings in the present is the main center of interest in this study.