Article Title

“The Split-Screen Syndrome”: Structuring (Non)Seeing in Two Plays on Abu Ghraib


The “split-screen syndrome”, according to Karen Greenberg, is a particular mode of (non) seeing which, after 9/11 contributed to the American public’s lack of awareness that we are all responsible for the oppression perpetrated on others beyond our territory. How is it that ways of seeing can be responsible for torture, political abuse and death? This essay constitutes a reflection on how two playwrights, Peter Morris in Guardians (2005) and Juan Mayorga in La paz perpetua (Perpetual Peace, 2007) based respectively in England and Spain, construct a commentary on the ways of (non) seeing which contributed to what happened in Abu Ghraib. In this context, Greenberg’s concept of “the split screen syndrome” is used as a split between victimizers and victims in the context of races, sexes and even species, but also to mean the split between the visible and the invisible and between seeing and knowing. Theater is especially equipped to dramatize this split as it disposes of two kinds of space, -- in the words of William Gruber – mimetic (onstage) and diegetic (offstage), which correspond to the visible and the invisible. In the plays analyzed in this study what cannot be seen becomes the focus of the dramatic conflict and the efforts of the protagonists and public concentrate on imagining it.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.