Theatre, Drama & Cinema

Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Fictional Thinking

A Poetics and Rhetoric of Fictional Creativity in Theatre

Eli Rozik is professor emeritus of theatre studies. Twice head of the Department of Theatre Studies and until recently Dean of the Faculty of the Arts at Tel Aviv University, he specializes in theatre theory, particularly in non-verbal communication in performance analysis. He has published numerous articles in international leading journals, in Europe and the USA, and The Language of Theatre (1992), The Roots of Theatre - Rethinking Ritual and Other Theories of Origin (2002), Metaphoric Thinking (2008), and most recently, Generating Theatre Meaning (2008).

This book offers a theory of the archaic mode of fictional thinking and a methodology for the analysis of fictional worlds. It presupposes the mutual independence of the description of a fictional world, in any language or medium, and the described fictional world. Such a world is generated by an autonomous fictional structure, which reflects the spontaneous expectations of the spectator, and thematic specification. A model of this structure is presented, comprising seven layers: personified, mythical, praxical, naïve, ironic and aesthetic – and overriding these layers, the fictional experience on the level of relationship between the fictional world and spectator. This experience depends on the spectator’s ability to complement such a description with pertinent associations, drawn from shared cultural resources, and psychical mechanisms of response. Explanations and examples are couched in poetic, pragmatic, aesthetic and rhetoric methodologies.

An Introduction surveys the major contributions made to a methodology of fictional analysis since Aristotle’s Poetics, problematizes them and suggests possible alternatives. Part I is devoted to the inner structure of fictional worlds; i.e., to the poetic rules that generate them. The innovation of this approach lies in its multi-layered nature. Part II deals with the structure of the fictional experience, which is metaphoric and rhetoric in nature. Part III deals with the specific structures of fictional worlds that reflect the particular intentions and purposes of their authors. Part IV contains analyses of actual fictional worlds that illustrate the application of the previously presented principles.

The focus throughout is on theatre fictional worlds which by their nature exhibit the most complex fictional thoughts that the human brain can generate. The theoretical insights gained for theatre assumedly apply to descriptions of such worlds in any language or medium.  More than a hundred fictional worlds created during 2500 years of theatre recorded history are analyzed. The volume has been purposefully designed to address undergraduate and postgraduate student needs to provide a fundamental competence of theatre studies.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-326-3
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $74.95
Release Date: September 2009
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-327-0
Paperback Price: £18.95 / $37.9
Release Date: September 2009
Page Extent / Format: 304 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Yes


List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction — State of the Art and Perspectives
A brief history of fictional theory
Aims of fictional analysis
Corpus of fictional analysis
Structure of the book
Methodological considerations

Part I Poetic Deep Structure
1 The Nature of Fictional Worlds
Surface structures and thematic specification
The principle of ‘personification’
Archetypal expectations
Archetypal and absurdist structures
A model of poetic deep structure

2 The Mythical Layer
The psychoanalytic approach
Aristotle’s approach
The fictional paradox
Generic considerations
Detecting a mythical layer
The mythical fallacy

3 The Praxical Layer
Praxical structure
A pragmatic approach
Causation and logos
Generic considerations
Detecting a praxical layer
The praxical fallacy

4 The Naïve Layer
The naïve perspective
Ethical metonyms
Generic considerations
Detecting a naïve layer
The naïve fallacy

5 The Ironic Layer
Aristotle’s approach
Hegel’s approach
Dramatic irony
Irony and archetypal expectations
Ritual experience
Generic considerations
Detecting an ironic layer
The ironic fallacy

6 The Modal Layer
Frye’s approach
Mode and mood
Laughing and crying
Pure and mixed moods
Humor and satire
Generic considerations

7 The Aesthetic Layer
Aristotle’s and Hegel’s approaches
Nietzsche’s approach
Freud’s approach
The tragic paradox
Generic considerations
Detecting an aesthetic layer
The aesthetic fallacy

8 Structure of Character
Substratum of personification
Layered structure
Chorus as character
Static characterization and change
Episodic structure
Functions of characterization

9 Characterization and Credibility
Truth to life
Probability and necessity
Mythical credibility
Supernatural characters
Minor characters

10 Intertextual Relations
Creative interpretation
Departures from source-texts
Hermeneutic interpretation
Legitimacy and plagiarism

11 Fictional Interaction
Dialogue as verbal interaction
Deep structure of speech acts
Interpretation of acts
Oedipus the King

12 Fictional Time and Place
Principles of unity
Patterns of description
The interval
Thematic function of time and place

Part II Rhetoric Structure
13 Metaphoric Structure
The metaphoric principle
Expression through fictional worlds
The principle of ‘personification’
Mechanism of fictional metaphor
Poetic implications
Oedipus the King (cont.)

14 Allegoric Structure
Elements of allegory
Anonymous Everyman
Auto sacramental Life is a Dream
Ionesco’s Exit the King
Mixing praxical and allegoric characters

15 Rhetoric Structure
A model of verbal interaction
Author/audience interaction
Structural equivalence
Rhetoric interaction
Rhetoric intent and truth
Possible worlds

16 Spectator’s Complementation
Real vs. implied spectator
Implied spectator’s contribution
Holistic fictional experience
Experiencing suffering
Limits of spectatorial contribution
Implied dialogue author/spectator
The textual fallacy

Part III Poetic Surface Structures

17 Hamartia/Catastrophe Structure
Basic distinctions
Aristotle’s surface structures
Hamartia and catastrophe
Generic surface structures

18 Virtue/Villainy Structure
Single and double structures
Lope’s Peribañez
Corneille’s Le Cid
Tirso’s The Trickster of Sevilla
Deus ex machina

19 Hamartia and Christianity
Quem Quaeritis
Jeu d’Adam
Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Calderón’s Life is a Dream

20 Absurdist Structure
Experience of the absurd
Euripides’ Hippolytus
Arrabal’s Guernica
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
Theatre of the Absurd

21 Structure of Conflict
Hegel’s notion of ‘conflict’
Sophocles’ Antigone
Aristotle and Hegel
The conflict fallacy

22 Ritual Experience and Truth
García Lorca’s Yerma
Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Chekhov’s The Seagull
Pre-structuration and truth

23 Anti-Aristotelian Poetics
Anti-Aristotelian tradition
Modernist experimentation

Part IV Analyses of Fictional Worlds
24 Generic Transformation: The Hippolytus–Phaedra
Racine’s Phèdre
Euripides’ Hippolytus
Seneca’s Phaedra

25 Generation of Life is a Dream from Oedipus the King
The source fictional world
Catholic qualifications
Adaptations to the target culture
The myth of Buddha
26 Deconstruction of Archetypal Characterization in
The Seagull
Archetypal vs. cognitive characterization
Medea: a negative anima
Nina: deconstruction of a positive anima

27 The Chairs in performance
The play-script
Yerushalmi’s production
Rhetoric implications

Appendix — A Compendium of the Theatre Medium
The notion of ‘iconicity’
Imprinting and language mediation
Segmentation of a theatre text
Basic forms of theatre description
Basic convention of theatre
The principle of ‘acting’
Textual nature of performance
Dialogue author/spectator
Fictional/iconic thinking

Analyzed and Cited Fictional Works
Cited Theoretical Works

For more than thirty years, Eli Rozik has been among the best known international theorists of theatre, thanks to his long-lasting and distinguished editorship of the journal Assaph – Studies in the Theatre, and to his numerous and wide-ranging books on theatre history and methodology. The current book, his most recent, is also among his most ambitious, and few modern theatre scholars would attempt or carry to such a successful conclusion a project of this size and scope. Drawing upon a range of strategies, poetic, rhetorical, aesthetic, and pragmatic, Rozik provides a series of explorations and analyses of the creation of the fictional world of theatre and the audience response to that world. Despite the impressively wide range of this analysis, working on a variety of levels and taking into account both surface and deep structure of the fictional construction, the book is organized in such a manner that the various approaches are both clearly developed in themselves and yet mutually illuminating. Abstract theoretical concerns are clarified and grounded by extensive reference to the work of major theorists from Aristotle to Wilshire and by major dramatic works from Aeschylus to Handke. This study makes a major and unique contribution to the field.
Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Distinguished Professor of Theatre and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Rozik mines his own field for examples, but sets out to construct a general theory of fictional worlds that could inhabit any language or medium once the natives are exterminated. Among his topics are the mythical layer of poetic deep structure, characterization and credibility, rhetoric structure, spectator’s complementation, absurdist structure, anti-Aristotelian poetics, the generation of Life is a Dream from Oedipus the King, and The Chairs in performance.
Reference & Research Book News

The helpful structure and tone of this book confidently leads the expert and uninitiated alike through the potentially difficult terrain of the ways in which fictional worlds are created and presented to the spectator, and how a variety of theoretical approaches can enhance understanding and analysis of the oft-contested questions of dramatic structure and audience response.
Platform, Karen Quigley, c/o Department of Drama and Theatre Royal Holloway, University of London

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.