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Dramat, utwory sceniczne

The Antitheatrical Prejudice

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Book Reviews JONAS B'ARISH. The Antitheatrical Prejudice. Berkeley: University of California Press 1981. Pp. x, 499. "One recurrent feature of the history of the theater," Jonas Barish persuasively notes, "is the fact that outbursts of antitheatrical sentiment tend to coincide with the flourishing of the theater itself. The stage provokes the most active and sustained hostility when it becomes a vital force in the community." Here, Barish is certainly correct. The bulk of Barish's meticulously researched and "well-written book documents antitheatrical prejudices from Plato, to the Church Fathers, Puritans, Rousseau, the Jansenists, and - somewhat erroneously , I believe - Nietzsche. Then, Barish devotes, and perhaps rightly so, only about one hundred pages to the antitheatrical prejudices of modern and contemporary drama, for the prejudicial field shifts, with the moderns, from the realms of philosophical and theological scholarship to those of play-writing itself and spectator complicity - two relatively uncharted realms of inquiry. Given this shift, we must also remember that theatre history and its attendant prejudices often recur, quite like political history. in farcical or selfparodic forms. Most of modern drama's truly serious antitheatrical prejudices remain internal spats, self-criticism from theatre practitioners and fine critics. Such "prejudices" are usually based upon aesthetic dismay at our theatres' rampant commercialism, general triteness, boring star-system narcissism, and overreliance on Broadway-style spectacle and razzmatazz. Today, we need no longer worry about highly moralistic and puritanical diatribes against the idea of theatre, acting, and spectatorship. Moreover, we are not in the midst of a period of great theatrical moment - save for Samuel Beckett's recent plays. Barish does not attempt an extensive history of antitheatrical prejudices; instead, he selects the most vociferous opponents of the theatre and their voluminous writings for critical exploration. Beginning with Plato, Barish discusses the antimimetic as well as antiaesthetic vision of The Reptlblic and astutely points out that in Plato's Republic "pleasure itself must be kept to a Book Reviews minimum." Pleasure, passion, transformation. and sensual immediacy - four essential ingredients of good theatre - reappear throughout The Antitheatrical Prejudice as detestable and pernicious poisons. For the Romans, the disenfranchised actors were "rated on a level with thieves, panderers, cut-throats, and gladiators.... Like prostitution, the stage had come to be thought of as a necessary evil." Quite correctly Barish discerns a sexuai1ink with antitheatrical prejudices, or, more concisely. a concomitant antisexual and antisensual bias. With the Christian Fathers, this prejudice develops "with a prejudice against women, especially beautiful, ornamental, and seductive women," Once again, pleasure, not theatre per se, becomes the enemy. And later on, the Puritans, most notably in William Peynne's encyclopedic Histriomastix, catalog the vile horrors of the English stage and suspect spectator complicity in theatrical perfonnance. Curiously enough, the Puritans cite the Deuteronomic prohibition against men in women's clothing. Questions abound. Did the Fathers fear imaginary and delusionary excitation? Lustful stirrings? The questions regarding antitheatrical prejudices seem more interesting than the recorded facts of the prejudice's history. Barish's book reads best when he asks complex, thought-provoking questions which he never pretends to answer definitively. In the chapter "Jonson and the Loathed Stage," Barish discusses Ben Jonson 's contradictory, yet seemingly modern, attitude towards the theatre. "Playgoers , he believed, frequented the theatre in order to parade their fine clothes and gape at those of their neighbors - to make spectacles of themselves, in fact, and so compete with the play." Surely this quotation applies to Broadway in 1982. But to assume that Jonsoo's perception constitutes a "prejudice" seems semantically awkward. Similarly, Jonson hated trendy spectacular effects and elaborate Italianate stage machinery, yet his just criticism of excessive technical display which subordinates dramatic values should not receive the label prejudice. Almost always tempering his arguments and points, though, Barish concede..;; that Jonson's severe criticism (which Jonson cleverly incorporated into his plays) resembles Beckett's work wherein Beckett pares, distills, and strips the stage to the core of dramatic art and the English language. When Barish addresses antitheatrical prejudices in modern drama, much of the book's impact and usefulness diminishes. Barish interprets both Nietzsche and Camus on theatre, mimesis, and the role of actors far too literally. For...

Rok wydania: 1981 Wydawnictwo: University of California Press Stan: UżywanaRodzaj okładki: Twarda Wymiar: 12.5x16.5cm Ilość stron: 499 Waga: 0.85 kg TIN: T00312342

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