An Age of Surfaces: Joe Orton’s Drama and Postmodernism

  • Adrian Page
Part of the Insights book series (ISI)


Orton once wrote, ‘Unlike Wilde I think you should put your genius into your work, not your life.’1 It is a sad reflection on this ambition, therefore, that Orton’s drama is so often judged in the context of his dramatic life and death. Martin Esslin begins a study of his plays with an account of the playwright’s imprisonment for defacing library books.2 His conviction that the plays are no more than an extension of a puerile desire to ‘shock at all costs’ leads him to diminish their importance. Esslin seems to allow his distaste for the antics of Orton to colour his evaluation of the work.


Legal System Literary Theory Infinite Regress Symbolic Order Speech Genre 
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    See Martin Esslin, Joe Orton: ‘The Comedy of (ILL) Manners’ in C.W.E. Bigsby (ed.), Stratford-Upon-Avon Studies, Vol. 19, Contemporary English Drama (London: Edward Arnold, 1981), pp. 95–107.Google Scholar
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© The Editorial Board, Lumìere Cooperative Press Ltd 1992

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  • Adrian Page

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