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Journal of Contemporary Drama in English








In The Jacksonian, an autobiographical play set in Mississippi in 1964, Beth Henley filters a tragic action based on the Aristotelian model through the non-linear memory of Rosy, the play’s narrator and choric figure, as she tries not to remember that her father has killed her mother. Rosy’s father, Bill—a Girardian scapegoat figure contaminated by the racist violence of the community he lives in—is the protagonist of the tragic action. But Henley focuses on its effect on Rosy. A tragic event can occur only in progressive chronological time, but by circling around the murder in her memory, Rosy creates temporal stasis until finally the pressure of denial becomes unbearable and the murder takes place. Tragic inevitability is displaced from the formally tragic action to Rosy’s memory of it. A comparison of The Jacksonian with other dramas that incorporate tragic experience within a non-linear time scheme suggests that only in memory plays can tragedy as a genre exist in non-linear time.


Author Posting. © Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2018. This article is posted here by permission of Walter de Gruyter GmbH for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in the Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, 2018,

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.