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Gray, Christine Rauchfuss . "So now I'm called the father of Black drama": Willis Richardson and the development of African-American drama before 1930. University of Maryland, College Park. Dissertation/thesis # 9539657 

Again, the depth of my ignorance reveals itself. I have never heard of this writer before. This dissertation is interesting for its two appendices: a list of some 350 non-musical plays by African-Americans and a survey of White plays treating Black characters.

Here's the full abstract:

This study explores the contributions Willis Richardson (1889-1977) made to African American drama in the early years of the twentieth century. Richardson is most often known for having written the first play by an African American to appear on Broadway, The Chip Woman's Fortune (1923). This dissertation extends beyond this detail by placing his works in a historical context and considering them in relation to plays by his contemporaries.
Recent revival of "The Chip Woman's Fortune"
Recent revival of "The Chip Woman's Fortune"
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Justify Yourself

What role can accounts of first-person experience play in contemporary theories of performance? Over 500 dissertations written in the last 40 years have employed interviews to reach their conclusions. Over 350 articles have been written addressing first-person experience through various methods and theories, from informal interviews to formal mixed-methods research projects. A comparable variety of approaches has been employed in 70-plus monographs. These inquiries represent a significant body of evidence relating to first person-experience of the production and reception of performance. The varieties of first person-experiences they recount provide a necessary complement to the generic models offered by cognitive theories. These accounts also complement historical-cultural theories of performance: they point to situations and concrete practices in which experiences occurred. They can, therefore, complement cultural-historical theories of performance as well as cognitive ones.

Two conjectures structures this project

One is that some varieties of phenomenology -- particularly sub-fields concerned with skilled practice, habituation, technology, and perception -- can illuminate the practical means and structured social situations of performance, not only first-perceptions and experiences.

The second is that some varieties of pragmatist philosophy of experience -- particularly Wilfrid Sellars' scepticism about the "Myth of the Given," and his insistence that publicly-shared language and activity make first-person experience possible -- provides the conceptual clarity necessary for theorizing about how the work of performance shapes the experiential world of those who produce and who consume it.

Stafford, Richard D. "Play Ownership and the Struggle for Creative Control in Theatrical Productions," Texas Tech University, Ann Arbor, 1991. 

Another perceptive dissertation based on interviews with the aim of addressing important problems.

"Possible solutions to the problem of play ownership conflicts include the development of a New Play Contract between playwrights and directors, more open communications between those involved with play production and a system that might be developed by publishers which could provide directors more information about interpretation limits."

Conjectures and Refutations about Themes

"Theticity has been described, over and above sentential focus with one accent, in terms of a dichotomy as to what the statement is about: A thetic statement has a covert location (situation, event) argument, not an object argument, as its topic" — Sæbø

"Setting and taking possession are here everywhere drawn from the Greek sense of thesis, which means a setting up in the unconcealed." — Martin Heidegger

* Proto-Indo-European *dhe-mn, suffixed form of root *dhe-" "to set, put"
* Greek thema "a proposition, subject, deposit," literally "something set down"
* Latin thema "a subject, thesis"
* early 14c., "subject or topic on which a person writes or speaks"
* meaning "school essay" is from 1540s
* extension to music first recorded 1670s
— Google Dictionary

I want to reason better when it comes to themes. I want my students to improve their theme talk too. All of us need to compose our theses about what we read with greater care. A something was set down, and it disclosed a situation, location, or event. A theme was set up in that disclosure ("unconcealment") as we read. We set down our thesis. I can begin to wonder if my setting up is a continuation of that originary setting. Or does my construction obscure what what disclosed to me? Can the originary unconcealing and setting down (the theme) happen again in what I set up (my thesis)? But ontological considerations only take a secondary school teacher so far. I need to do some reasoning instead of questing after authentic thinking. Forgive me, Martin.

The trouble is that the writing processes I was taught -- mislabeled "research" -- are a clunky fusion of dogmatic reasoning about pre-given topics with impressionistic free-association mistakenly labeled "induction" or, more modestly but no less mistakenly, "inference." This is acceptable if the aim is to further ongoing conversations or stir imaginations. But it does not count as valid research and it is a mistake to give students the impression that it does.

"Reason" or "reasoning" makes some readers think that an entire tradition of metaphysics is being brought into play. To forestall any overreactions, "deduction" might be subsituted. Make the reader [believe] you are talking about a thinking process and not trying to support a worldview.

Art is beautiful, it stimulates the imagination, and both profits and delights. Literary art is no different. Engaging in deliberative research about that art emphasizes the last two. Save the first two for your opening and concluding paragraphs.

That is what I have to tell my students. Again and again.

And when they talk about theme they need to think very carefully about what has been laid down. Thomas Middleton had a strong hand in shaping a play that had been derived from an Italian source. So I wouldn't say that the themes arising from a reading of Measure for Measure were "set down" by Shakespeare. (Or Chancellor Bacon, Lady Spencer, or Oxford). Students read what has been laid down. When they are considering the actions of the characters they can examine what has been laid down and begin to deduce the consequences of various actions that could have happened, that must have happened before the events depicted, and consequences of actions taken, not taken, or could-have-been taken. Theme talk should be about such actions.

The trouble is that students think in coarse terms about some topic and use this coarse thinking to write their essays.

* Using deception is bad
* The Duke of Vienna uses deception
* Therefore the Duke of Vienna is bad

They then apply this deduction to the text. They use events in the play to demonstrate that the axiom they have worked out obtains in all parts of the text. Or they find an exception and bring in some ad hoc-ery.

* Sometimes deception is good, so we have to concede that the Duke of Vienna is sometimes good. But, as a general rule, using deception is bad.

We make the students do lots of brainstorming and note taking before this all-too predictible essay gets written. The end result is, occasionaly, a flash of insight or a bold conjecture. Insights can direct future inquiry and conjectures give others something to refine or to refute. And if the conjecture holds in a low-level domain -- a play, say -- it provides material for reasoning about wider and higher domains where there is less clarity and where further inquiry is needed. I would prefer that the devices that led to those insights and conjectures be laid bare.

Karl Popper worked to get scientists to see that their work had a logic, one where deduction was employed in the creation of tests and the falsification, and dismissal, of incorrect theories. This isn't reason in the service of elaborating or reinforcing dogmas. It was an active and creative enterprise, conducted in public forums, but one that led to valid knowledge about the real world. It wasn't just tallying up observed events and proposing some covering laws. He held that the empiricism and Humean skepticism many scientists reached to explain their work misrepresented the real significance of what they did and, unwittingly, contributed to irrealism and subjectivism. I doubt that I would have any luck convincing students of literature and art to take on the strict reasoning and unapologetic realism that Popper urged on scientists and philosophers. I can barely manage it myself, more comfortable as I am with impressions and sentiments and affect.

But Lajos Egri's how-to approach for writing dramas with theme-rich premises and situations has forced me to attempt greater strictness when I reason think  discuss theme. Without care, a reader of Egri might end up reverting to the Intentional and Biographical fallacy and act as if they divined the true intended meaning or the writer's actual process. I just like the book because its approach lead towards creative interpretation of human motives, in the words of its subtitle. That creative interpretation can contribute to productive conjectures about human motives in and in response to fiction.

I have to thank Ron Edwards for drawing my attention to the book. He wrote a blog post that pushed me into writing an email explaining the significance Egri has for me.

____ Ron's blog post ________________________

"Death of the author, say the students of the Big D, it’s the text, stay with the text … yet in my experience, all too often, the text is abandoned along with the author. Instead, the eager young scholar is distracted by the cultural gestalt, a mélange of multiple derivatives, the shared “is” that “everyone knows.” The sizzle that sold once and can be referenced as having sold, in order to hawk its echo. Worse, instead of critiquing it, they adopt it, so that all the verbiage and Foucaltian Hegelian Derridan whatnot add up to nothing more than its own consumerized and recondite fandom, in which academic employment and careerism have replaced anything resembling inquiry.

Ha! I managed to utilize the characteristic prose of said academic movement and spoof it at the same time. That’s a bucket list moment."

[I can only think of the Avital Ronell case when I reread this post.]

____ My Email __________________________________________

June 6, 2019

There’s a comment on your blog that really jives with some reading I have been doing about scientific inquiry and deductive thinking (some Popper essays).

In “Thingness” you targeted academic talk about literature being in a state where “employment and careerism have replaced anything resembling inquiry.” Discussions of plot and theme seem to be the one place where clear, logical discussions of action and meaning in fiction are possible.

At no point in the 1st chapter of “1984” does Smith declare “Yes, now is the time when I will become a writer to get a hold on the truth that society will kill me for.” No, he picks up his pen and writes “April 4, 1984.” He’s in a situation, he’s had a number of very recent experiences, he could take a number of directions, and he foresees the stakes of his activity. Then he does a thing. This is no “man vs. society” or “man vs. self” blather. A guy does a thing.

Any discussion of theme can proceed from the elements that are there or not there in the situation, or that contradict other elements, in a logical way.

And premise questions can be derived from the logic of that fictional action: “should a person ... ?” or “if your situation is X, can you Z?” and so on. The fictional world provides all the elements readers need to address those premise questions. Everyone relies on background knowledge (according to Popper) to formulate questions and make intuitive leaps and decide where to direct their inquiry. The fiction provides the points of reference for the public, co-operative inquiry into theme and premise. Very often readers look anywhere but the fiction in their discussions of “meaning.”

Reader response criticism should consider the salience of those premise questions to particular audiences, given that different audiences would bring in different background information as they relate the premise questions to their own actual circumstances. Historical studies should study salience to past audiences. The best do.

And because the premises of the situations, and the associated questions are clear, real inquiry can take place. Researchers should offer conjectures about how readers did, can, or should thematize the text, and those conjectures could be refuted by critical examination, or by offering an alternative formulation that contradicts, and thereby falsifies, or at least challenges a prior conjecture.

Popper says that no real progress in inquiry occurs if people indulge in loose inductions. And that happens too often in too many fields of inquiry. People observe a bunch of events and come up with some label for the “regularities” or “patterns” or “connections” that appear to them. That’s not real research. But this is the way we try to get students to write. Make a bunch of notes about what catches your eye as you read and group them together and group the groups and then say what “theme” you’ve discovered. This is sometimes dignified with the label of "induction” when all we’re doing is prodding them into making impressionistic inferences and stretching these out over 5 paragraphs.

Usually the kid just thinks of some simple broad topic and writes something like “This book is about dictatorship.” If the kid has bigger vocabulary it runs “This book is about the evils of dictatorship.” The shadowplay of inquiry (evidence, induction, inference) is dropped and the writer opens their essay with coarse dogmatic deduction:

* Dictatorship is, by definition, EVIL.
* This book presents a dictatorship.
* By presenting a dictatorship it necessarily presents the quality of EVIL along with it.

The kid then points out a few places in the book where Smith suffers some evil and this backs up the statements in the introduction. There was never any need to read the book or consider the fictional activities in it to reach those conclusions. All the thoughts and judgments about the topic of dictatorship were in place before the book was read and were not enriched or expanded by the reading and writing we made the kid do.

One good thing about Egri’s book is that it forces readers to begin responsible inquiry into what they and other readers can take away from the fiction that they are reading. I could direct students to models for non-psychological modes for describing action. But Egri offers a more easily approachable model of authors’ typical activities and typical challenges the face. It is useful for discussion of particular authors whose writing practices are very different from the one Egri sketches. Ibsen wrote up the whole through-line of the story first, Steven King imagines a group of characters and tries to give them something to do before he abandons them, E. Leonard begins with two people talking, Kerouac just starts typing. The fictional activities these authors provide can be analyzed in the same way even if the processes behind the creation and publication of their fiction differ.

There are rigorous academic models for discussing action that could be applied to fictional activities. There’s analytical philosophy like that of G.E.M. Anscombe, G. von Wright and their contemporary interpreters. There is qualitative methodology where researchers become adept at describing social situations. They’ve noted how actual participants in social activity frame a common situation differently, but their frames are constructed around collective activity in a particular place and during a particular time, involving particular participants. But little of this rigour makes it into academic discussions of the meanings fictions generate. The "Critical Theory" that subtended cultural studies and film studies set up a number of axioms around which all thought was supposed revolve around if it was to be deemed “critical,” real procedures of rational critique and legitimate inquiry be damned. Freud got the emotions and drives right in 1900, Saussure sorted out how language worked in 1911, and Lenin showed how society worked (in theory and practice) in 1917. Play free variations around those axioms ad infinitum but do not challenge them

[here I am riffing on the polemical arguments in Bordwell and Caroll's Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies]

I don’t care if a writer keeps a dream journal while they go on a 2-week mezcal bender, rips the pages up, shuffles them together, types up every other sentence, and puts it between two covers. Actually, I do care and I unapologetically encourage such behaviour. But what gets done with that text AFTER it has been produced needs to have some standards.

Erik Weissengruber

Hayes-Pollard, Stephen. The Ethical Aesthetic: The Plays of C. P. Taylor, University of California, Berkeley, Ann Arbor, 1991. 

Dissertation #: 9228682

The dissidents of the 70s had to get out of their Oxbridge bubbles and reach out to audiences who had to engage with their message. In doing so, they had to rethink their message and their means.

They weren't the only ones doing that.

I limited my attention to the loud and abrasive writers who ended up working with Joint Stock, The National Theatre, etc. The ones who offended the London reviewers.

But others were doing work in other ways.

[The dissertation], in discussing the huge quantity and high quality of his writing or local youth and adult theatre, argues for the indivisibility of his practical and theoretical commitment to exploring community relations ... In the course of confirming the quality of his drama, it not only reveals the consistency of his philosophical disposition, but bears out the previous chapter, in detailing how the technical discoveries made in the schools and church halls of Northumberland benefited his finest writing.


Melancholy Modernism

There are passages in a turn-of-the-century text that seems to presage T.S. Eliot, Rilke, Husserl and Heidegger. It is a manifestation of the culturally pessimistic and anti-modern discourse of modernity prominent in elite cultural circles in the early decades of the 20th century.

The "Letter to Lord Chandos" attests to it's author's frustration with the modes of expression available to him. Like Ezra Pound in Personae, Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal addresses his personal and cultural doubts through an antique mask. He poses as a young nobleman explaining the collapse of his literary projects to a friend and mentor, Francis Bacon. The turn of the 20th is disguised as the turn of the 17th century. 

Neither Romanticism nor Classicism will do for Lord Chandos. He doesn't take the Babbit or Eliot prescription for healing the malaise of modernity: strong doses of classical precision and order. He no longer draws strength from infusions of formal classical order.

"Out of Sallust, in those happy, stimulating days, there flowed into me as though through never congested conduits the realization of form — that deep, true, inner form which can be sensed only beyond the domain of rhetorical tricks: that form of which one can no longer say that it organizes subject-matter, for it penetrates it, dissolves it, creating at once both dream and reality, an interplay of eternal forces, something as marvelous as music or algebra. This was my most treasured plan."
"That structure of Latin prose whose plan and order delighted me more than did the monuments of Palladio and Sansovino rising out of the sea."
I intended to concentrate on Seneca and Cicero. Through the harmony of their clearly defined and orderly ideas I hoped to regain my health. But I was unable to find my way to them. These ideas, I understood them well: I saw their wonderful interplay rise before me like magnificent fountains upon which played golden balls. I could hover around them and watch how they played, one with the other; but they were concerned only with each other, and the most profound, most personal quality of my thinking remained excluded from this magic circle. In their company I was overcome by a terrible sense of loneliness; I felt like someone locked in a garden surrounded by eyeless statues."

The Wordsworth and Shelly routes are also closed to him. Neither escape into the simple, enduring truths of nature, nor into imaginary realms of myth and beauty is available.

"[I]n everything I felt the presence of Nature, in the aberrations of insanity as much as in the utmost refinement of the Spanish ceremonial; in the boorishness of young peasants no less than in the most delicate of allegories; and in all expressions of Nature I felt myself. When in my hunting lodge I drank the warm foaming milk which an unkempt wench had drained into a wooden pail from the udder of a beautiful gentle-eyed cow, the sensation was no different from that which I experienced when, seated on a bench built into the window of my study, my mind absorbed the sweet and foaming nourishment from a book. The one was like the other: neither was superior to the other, whether in dreamlike celestial quality or in physical intensity — and thus it prevailed through the whole expanse of life in all directions; everywhere I was in the centre of it."
I wanted to decipher the fables, the mythical tales bequeathed to us by the Ancients, in which painters and sculptors found an endless and thoughtless pleasure decipher them as the hieroglyphs of a secret, inexhaustible wisdom whose breath I sometimes seemed to feel as though from behind a veil ... as the hunted hart craves water, so I craved to enter these naked, glistening bodies, these sirens and dryads, this Narcissus and Proteus, Perseus and Actaeon. I longed to disappear in them and talk out of them with tongues."

Chandos cannot find order in the external world. He cannot find a hiding place in his ego because he no longer has the comforting conviction that his ego is at the center of nature or of culture. 

He is also left without the language he needs to navigate political life. He has a visceral disgust for the abstractions employed in that life.

I experienced an inexplicable distaste for so much as uttering the words spirit, soul, or body. I found it impossible to express an opinion on the affairs at Court, the events in Parliament, or whatever you wish. This was not motivated by any form of personal deference (for you know that my candour borders on imprudence), but because the abstract terms of which the tongue must avail itself as a matter of course in order to voice a judgment — these terms crumbled in my mouth like mouldy fungi.

So he turns away from abstract terms and tries to focus on the things themselves. Those rare moments when he feels something other than ennui are those where a chance encounter with some "casual object" of his "daily surroundings" fills him with "an overflowing flood of higher life."

"[I]t is, indeed, something entirely unnamed, even barely nameable which, at such moments, reveals itself to me, filling like a vessel any casual object of my daily surroundings with an overflowing flood of higher life ... A pitcher, a harrow abandoned in a field, a dog in the sun, a neglected cemetery, a cripple, a peasant's hut — all these can become the vessel of my revelation. Each of these objects and a thousand others similar, over which the eye usually glides with a natural indifference, can suddenly, at any moment (which I am utterly powerless to evoke), assume for me a character so exalted and moving that words seem too poor to describe it."

Chandos's isn't a confident ego, one with an appetite capable of incorporating the things of nature (milk) and of culture (books, thought, discourse) and deriving vitality from them. He is a lifeless nothing until, unbidden, some object that once slipped his notice, overwhelms him with that flood of life from some place "higher" than the physical and social world around him.

The objects that provide this revelation of a higher life are strange and grotesque and have nothing to do with his former idealizing, ordering, and delighting ego. These are revelations that come through the abject, the chaotic, the terrifying. It's just the garlic in the mud for Chandos, no sapphires. Bats with baby faces in the purple twilight and things of that nature.

"I was trotting along over the freshly-ploughed land ... there suddenly loomed up before me the vision of that cellar, resounding with the death-struggle of a mob of rats. I felt everything within me: the cool, musty air of the cellar filled with the sweet and pungent reek of poison, and the yelling of the death cries breaking against the moldering walls; the vain convulsions of those convoluted bodies as they tear about in confusion and despair; their frenzied search for escape, and the grimace of icy rage when a couple collide with one another at a blocked-up crevice ... There was a mother, surrounded by her young in their agony of death; but her gaze was cast neither toward the dying nor upon the merciless walls of stone, but into the void, or through the void into Infinity, accompanying this gaze with a gnashing of teeth ... within me, the soul of this animal bared its teeth to its monstrous fate."

This flood of "higher life" bears with it "void," "infinity," and "fate" but no sense of an eternal order or form. And these moments are most definitely not the spontaneous overflow of emotion, to recollected later in tranquility.  Neither "pity" nor even "sympathy" or "any comprehensible concatenation of human thought."

Morbid fantasies that wouldn't be out of place in Lautréamont aren't the primary source of the intimations of a higher life. As with Rilke, the humble and the neglected corners of life can give just as powerful intimations. A barren country landscape in early spring allows Rilke to apprehend how invisible "Tendernesses" 

hesitantly, reach toward the earth
from space, and country lanes are showing
these unexpected subtle risings
that find expression in the empty trees.

Such intimations come to Chandos as he walks through his estate. Finding an abandoned water pitcher unveils "the presence of the Infinite" so strongly that he feels a shudder throughout his whole body. There is no tranquility in his recollection of that experience, only incomprehension.

For what had it to do with pity, or with any comprehensible concatenation of human thought when ... on finding beneath a nut-tree a half-filled pitcher which a gardener boy had left there, and the pitcher and the water in it, darkened by the shadow of the tree, and a beetle swimming on the surface from shore to shore, when this combination of trifles sent through me such a shudder at the presence of the Infinite, a shudder running from the roots of my hair to the marrow of my heels?  ... Even now, after weeks, catching sight of that nut-tree, I pass it by with a shy sidelong glance, for I am loath to dispel the memory of the miracle hovering there round the trunk, loath to scare away the celestial shudders that still linger about the shrubbery in this neighbourhood! In these moments an insignificant creature — a dog, a rat, a beetle, a crippled apple tree, a lane winding over the hill, a moss-covered stone — mean more to me than the most beautiful, abandoned mistress of the happiest night. 

The landscape on his private estate offer moments of surprising and wonderful revelations. But not the kind that give him a sensation of fullness or satisfaction like that given by the drink of milk. He feels riven and convulsed by what the concatenation of tree, shadow, pitcher, and beetle discloses to him. Finding the words to capture the revelation would bring about a genuine apocalypse.

What was it that made me want to break into words which, I know, were I to find them, would force to their knees those cherubim in whom I do not believe? What made me turn silently away from this place?

Chandos attempts a phenomenology of his experience. The structures provided by his study of the classics, or the theology in which he was educated, are put out of play (involuntarily, not as an intentional change in attitude). Also absent is his conviction that his ego is at the centre of perceptible and ineluctable natural and social worlds that sustain him. With his conventional attitudes suspended he can begin attending to the flow of experience.

I experience in and around me a blissful, never-ending interplay, and among the objects playing against one another there is not one into which I cannot flow. To me, then, it is as though my body consists of nought but ciphers which give me the key to everything; or as if we could enter into a new and hopeful relationship with the whole of existence if only we begin to think with the heart. As soon, however, as this strange enchantment falls from me, I find myself confused; wherein this harmony transcending me and the entire world consisted, and how it made itself known to me, I could present in sensible words as little as I could say anything precise about the inner movements of my intestines or a congestion of my blood.

He fails to clarify the minute inner movements of his experience with the rigor Husserl brought to his analyses of perception, memory, anticipation, and so on. But like Heidegger, he finds that the simple equipment of humble life discloses to him something more valuable than meticulous descriptions of his private consciousness.

None of them, standing with doffed cap before the door of his house while I ride by of an evening, will have any idea that my glance, which he is wont respectfully to catch, glides with longing over the rickety boards under which he searches for earthworms for fishing-bait; that it plunges through the latticed window into the stuffy chamber where, in a corner, the low bed with its chequered linen seems forever to be waiting for someone to die or another to be born; that my eye lingers long upon the ugly puppies or upon a cat stealing stealthily among the flower-pots; and that it seeks among all the poor and clumsy objects of a peasant's life for the one whose insignificant form, whose unnoticed being, whose mute existence, can become the source of that mysterious, wordless, and boundless ecstasy. 

The unnoticed being that reveals itself to the searching eye, the mute existence that calls him towards speech, the mortality disclosed by the bed, these humble objects draw him out of himself. The Heideggerian mood would be complete if a pair of boots revealed to Chandos the essence of the peasant's work with the earth.

Chandos is no longer the kind of writer who believes that grand allusions or elaborate formal structures are capable of producing the unsettling revelations of ineffable but profound truths. Such revelations have been given him by the most insignificant objects on his estate but he doesn't know what words he could write to pass on such revelations to his reader. That cat, upsetting the flower pot, could provide a shock to the senses capable of interrupting the glide of Chandos' gaze, thereby opening him to an involuntary exposure to the "Infinite" or "the Present, the fullest, most exalted Present." Or the cat could climb carefully over a jamcloset and place itself "into the pit of / the empty / flowerpot" and thereby provide a poetic inspiration less angst-inducing than the panic of the dying rats or the voyage of the beetle from shore to shore of the lake or ocean occupying the abandoned pitcher. Chandos might be advised to give up on his attempts to describe explicitly the shuddering ecstasy that overtakes him during such unexpected and involuntary epiphanies. He could take the tack of a William Carlos Williams and describe the cat's motions in such a way that a reader could not help but experience what the writer experienced on that occasion, but left unexpressed. Perhaps Chandos isn't modernist enough to put less emphasis on the experiencing and more on the writing. But his crisis is so profound that he could never commit to the poetics of Formalism or Imagism or the New Criticism. The letter begins with Chandos abandoning his former conviction that a writer can create "deep, true, inner form" that "penetrates" and "dissolves" subject-matter so completely that the written word manifests "an interplay of eternal forces." That "treasured plan" has been ruined by the onset of his crisis.

Chandos says that he doesn't have words to explain his experiences to his addressee. Bacon is the "greatest benefactor" of his mind and Chandos feels that he owes his benefactor an apology for abandoning the work achieved under his guidance. If Chandos is to write, he would be advised to find a new audience. The Lord Chancelor who would become a key figure in Early Modern philosophy of science and one of the patron saints of the Enlightenment could provide no solution to his dilemmas, could not really understand them. Hofmannsthal was like Eliot in seeing the entirety of post-Reformation European history as a falling off from authentic spiritual and cultural unity. It could be that Chandos intuits that the classical humanistic culture that he committed himself to has no place in the world being inaugurated by his friend Bacon. He is only unconsciously aware of what Hoffmansthal explicitly addressed: the incompatibility of authentic poetic expression and spiritual life with modernity. Hofmannsthal praised Brecht's Baal for its presentation of the modern ego as a centuries-old burden that was about to be shaken off. The kind of post-individualist society that Brecht would prefigure in his later plays is very different from the pre-modern and archaic cultures evoked by Hofmannsthal. He looked back to societies enlivened by instinct, beauty, and spirituality. These qualities were not present in a modern Europe that Hofmannsthal could only regard, with T.S. Eliot, as a spectacle of anarchy and futility.

Hofmannsthal turned away from the elaborate and refined poetry of his youth, poetry similar to that written by the young Lord Chandos. He worked in the more public genres of theatre and opera (vulgarly popular forms that poetic purists like the Stephan George circle disdained). His desire to contribute to cultural renewal found expression in the founding of the Salzburg festival. I sometimes imagine an alternative ending to the "Letter"where Lord Chandos shakes off his writer's block by attempting to make it in London's theatre scene. But he seems a little too elevated for the rough-and-tumble world that saw playwrights branded, stabbed through the eye, and imprisoned. He'd be better off collaborating with Jonson and Inigo Jones on a court masque. Perhaps the coterie theaters of the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries would have been more suitable to his elevated sensibilities. Dryden and Behn instead of Webster and Marlowe. Eliot had enough sense of the British public to write plays that did well in the West End. Unlike Mozart, Hofmannsthal could never write crowd pleasers for the theatres of Vienna's suburbs. 

I don't see any of Hugo von Hofmannsthal poems or the cats, beetles and ugly puppies getting a Broadway musical treatment any time soon. He did write one story that would make a good Tarantino movie. The Reitergeschichte narrates one Austrian cavalryman's experience in the aftermath of a violently-repressed Italian uprising. The punishing high-noon sun and tense atmosphere reminded me of a Sergio Leone western. The dislocation and derangement of the protagonist, and his futile, bloody end, need vivid crimson cinematic treatment. Imagine A Field in England moved to Milan in 1848. In searing yellow, orange and red, with blood-spattered sands.

Peirce, Welby, C.K. Ogden

Peirce's later writings have been dismissed as the products of an academic outsider unconstrained by the standards imposed by membership in an established community of researchers. That his later writings on meaning were worked out in correspondence with Lady Welby is taken as further evidence of Peirce's irrelevance to the main currents of philosophy.

That Lady Victora Welby shared her correspondence with C.K. Ogden often goes unremarked. Ogden gets you to I.A. Richards, Wittgenstein, and the relevance of Jeremy Bentham and neo-Kantian Hans Vaihinger to then-current discussions of meaning. And Welby participated directly in debates about pragmatism and semantics in her time.

Petty-bourgeois like myself are prone to resentment of big money and old money, but we resent the landed gentry the most of all. However much their freedom for study and leisure is due to exploitation, they did have that freedom. Graf Yorck von Wartenburg's writings and his correspondence with Dilthey are part of the hermeneutic tradition and Heidegger and Gadamer can't be properly understood without reference to them.

These are thinkers and not dilettantes. And if someone suggests that Peirce was wasting his time corresponding with some "female aristocrat," the red alerts for sexism and ressentiment go off.

Possible Cognitive Science Resources I

Is a pragmatist theory of experience and learning incompatible with cognitive science?


But an over-emphasis on representation in some theories of cognition means that alternative approaches must be sought out.

Spectators can become adept at understanding and appreciating spectacles. And members of performing ensembles can become adept at creating spectacles that meet expectations. Both activities involve response to temporally-unfolding webs of signification and action. These activities are better understood as coping skillfully with complex and feature-rich situations than as conceptually processing a set of representations using an internal set of mental representations.

Perhaps deliberation and critical reflection and the passing of judgment can also be considered a skilled activites or practices rather than as representation-processing. But that requires another post and recourse to even more analytical philosophy. 

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Art/War and Theatre

Naversen, Ronald Arthur. The Scenographer as Camoufleur. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1989.

"After a thorough analysis of deception and camouflage in its historical context, including the information derived from the interviews with World War II camoufleurs; after reviewing theories of object perception and their application to camouflage; and after perusing the latest sources dealing with theatre aesthetics, it is postulated that there is an interrelationship between the three "arts:" art of war, art of camouflage, and art of theatre"

Time to bring the insights of cinema theory into the theatre.

Set your sights.

Myth of Meritocracy in Theatre

Morris, Lori V. The Casting Process within Chicago's Local Theatre Community, Northwestern University, Ann Arbor, 1989. [dissertation]

The audition is to the performer what the job interview is to the average employee. It is a moment in a process that appears more determinative than it actually is. A network and your positioning in it got you to the table. Analysis of the experience in all kinds of work situations, not just those of performers, needs to account for the local structures that enable performers to find and to be considered for work.

The skills shine in the audition. How was a place made for that incandescence?

Morris's conclusions provide one answer:

"It is concluded that the formal casting process (i.e., auditioning) plays a relatively minor role in directors' hiring decisions. Instead, both directors and actors draw heavily on contacts and networking in order to cast shows and get jobs."

"The data address the role of the director as a non-autonomous worker and how directors develop "pools" of actors and a referral system to minimize their occupational risks. How actors select theatres and directors for which they audition is also examined, as well as the strategies they employ outside of auditions to get into and stay into directors' pools."



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