What if the true protagonist of modern European drama wasn't Henrik Ibsen, but August Strindberg? What normative model of dramatic character might emerge from this readjustment of the canon? Sarah Balkin's Spectral Characters: Genre and Materiality on the Modern Stage offers an answer to that question. And while the book does not announce itself as a pitch for Strindberg's centrality, Balkin's composite portrait of fictional humanity on the twentieth-century stage comes into strongest focus in two chapters about Strindberg's drama, fiction, and philosophical investments. It's here that the “spectral characters” of Balkin's title reveal themselves most impressively, though Balkin demonstrates that they show up in Ibsen too, as well as in works by Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and the study's one noncanonical (and American) playwright, Arthur Kopit. But while Strindberg's “vampiric” figures, such as Edgar in The Dance of Death, offer the clearest embodiments of the characterization...

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