From Wilder’s Our Town (1938) to Churchill’s Escaped Alone (2016): Mediatization and the Collapse of the Large Into the Local


Scott Proudfit


This essay compares Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (1938) to Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone (2016) in order to reveal the shift in culture that has occurred in the last 20 years in the postindustrial West. This shift is a result of electronic mediatization, and can be generally characterized as the collapse of the large into the local. Starting with structuralist theorists Ludwig Wittgenstein and Ferdinand de Saussure, the essay proposes that a primary goal of modern theory and modern drama was to find meaning and situatedness through putting local experiences into productive conversation with larger social and political contexts. By contrast, in the 21st century, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish the large and the local because the large (our media-saturated encounter with the global) has collapsed into the local (our daily, personal interactions). This essay culminates in a reading of Churchill’s play through the lens of contemporary mediatization theory, arguing that the conflation of the local and the global has created a state of almost constant fear and anger for all of those wired into this new age of electronic media saturation.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.