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Theatre Sciences

A Plea for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Theatre Studies

Eli Rozik is Ph.D. and professor emeritus of theatre studies. He was twice head of the Department of Theatre Studies and Dean of the Faculty of the Arts at Tel Aviv University. He specializes in theatre theory, particularly in non-verbal communication in performance analysis; and has published numerous articles in international leading journals in Europe and the US. His books include The Language of Theatre (1992), The Roots of Theatre – Rethinking Ritual and Other Theories of Origin (2002), Metaphoric Thinking (2008), Generating Theatre Meaning (2008), Fictional Thinking (2009), and most recently Comedy: A Critical Introduction.

Traditional theatre semiotics promoted a scientific approach to theatre studies, albeit viewing semiotics as the unique discipline of research. Theatre Sciences: A Plea for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Theatre Studies suggests instead a multi-disciplinary approach, including the following theoretical disciplines: narratology, mythology, pragmatics, ethics, theatre irony, theory of genres, aesthetics, semiotics, theory of nonverbal figures of speech, rhetoric, psychoanalysis, reception theory, history, and sociology – with semiotics being only one among equals. These disciplines are presented from the perspective of their possible contributions to a sound methodology of theatre-texts analysis.

Traditional theatre semiotics, moreover, holds the view that the actual performance on stage is the genuine text of theatre, instead of the play-script. Despite this paradigmatic shift, however, this viewpoint has failed to produce commendable analyses of such texts. The alternative presupposition put forward in this volume entails a series of novel perceptions of the theatre-text and its possible impact on the experiencing spectator, whose role in reading, interpreting and experiencing the theatre-text is not less crucial than that of the text itself. This view presupposes that the theatre-text is a description of a fictional world generated by the theatre medium.

The author also contests the age-old view that a theatre/fictional-text reflects a simple narrative structure, and suggests instead a complexity that consists of seven layers: personified, mythical, praxical, naïve, ironic, modal and aesthetic – with each one of them re-structuring the previous layer. Prof. Rozik also presents and describes a semiotic layer that lends communicative capacity to the description of a fictional world, and two additional metaphoric and rhetoric layers, which structure the theatre experience. The underlying purpose is to illustrate the application of the aforementioned disciplines to these fictional layers, and eventually their joint application to entire theatre/fictional texts. Organization of the book reflects the structure of a university course.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-628-8
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $74.95
Release Date: June 2014
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-725-4
Paperback Price: £27.50 / $39.95
Release Date: August 2015
Page Extent / Format: 340 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Part I – Disciplines of Theatre Research

Chapter 1 – Cognitive Intent of Theatre
Notion of ‘fictionality’
Fictional mode of thinking
Cognitive intent of fictional experience
Hegel vs. Aristotle
Scientific mode of thinking
Comparing modes of thinking

Chapter 2 – Theatre Narratology
Notion of ‘structure’
Aristotle’s structures of tragedy
Saint Augustine’s paradox
Hegel’s ‘reaffirmation’
Frye’s fictional mode
Propp, Sourieau and Greimas
Todorov’s equilibrium
An alternative approach

Chapter 3 – Theatre Mythology
Basic features of myth
Functional approaches to myth
Mythical mappings
Mythos and logos
Myth and fictional creativity

Chapter 4 – Theatre Pragmatics
Segmentation of real interaction
Ingarden’s fictional interaction
Serpieri’s pragmatic approach
Segmentation of iconic interaction
Segmentation of stage objects
Segmentation of Habima’s The Seagull

Chapter 5 – Theatre Ethics
Kant’s ‘categorical imperative’
Hegel’s ‘ethical substance’
Aristotle’s ‘philanthropon
Adjusting Hegel’s theory
Sophocles’ Antigone

Chapter 6 – Theatre Irony
Inversion of meaning
Ironic contemplation
Ironic pleasure
Dramatic irony
Eiron and alazon

Chapter 7 – Theatre Genres
Fictional mode and mood
Lofty and lowly modes
Serious and comic moods
Mode and mood relations
Laughing and crying
Pure and mixed moods
Humor and satire
Generic considerations

Chapter 8 – Theatre Aesthetics
Roots of aesthetic experience
Nature of aesthetic experience
Function of aesthetic experience
Range of aesthetic experience
The object/subject dispute
Objective and subjective principles
An aesthetics of theatre

Chapter 9 – Theatre Semiotics
Imagistic approach to ‘iconicity’
Imprinting and language mediation
Basic convention of theatre
Forms of theatre semiosis

Chapter 10 – Theatre Figures of Speech
Verbal metaphor
Iconic metaphor
Metaphoric theatre experience
Iconic symbol
Iconic metonymy

Chapter 11 – Theatre Rhetoric
Verbal interaction
Author/audience interaction
Structural equivalence
Rhetoric interaction
Rhetoric overall metaphor

Chapter 12 – Theatre Psychoanalysis
Imagistic representation
Fictional thinking
Notion of ‘archetype’
Archetypal characterization
Archetypal expectations
Compensatory function
Reconsidering catharsis

Chapter 13 – Theatre Reception
Real vs. implied spectator
Implied spectator’s contribution
Shared fictional thinking
Overall theatre experience
Interpretive limitations
Implied dialogue author/spectator
Thinking experimentation

Chapter 14 – Theatre History and Sociology
Theatre history
Origins of theatre
Origins of theatre genres
From chorus to stage conventions
From mask to bare face
From archetypal to naturalistic characterization
From pre-structuration to search of truth
From capocomico to director
From play-script to performance-text
Theatre sociology

Part II – Structure of Fictional World

Chapter 15 – Personified Layer
Personification and self-reference
Ur theatre
Fundamental personification
Personification and involvement

Chapter 16 - Mythical Layer
Mythos and logos
Binding of Isaac
Passion of the Christ
Mythical mappings in secular culture
Detecting a mythical mapping
Mythical fallacy

Chapter 17 – Praxical Layer
Praxical structure
A pragmatic approach
Causation and logos
Deus ex machina
Detecting a praxical layer
Praxical fallacy

Chapter 18 – Naïve Layer
Naïve perspective
Character’s ethical independence
Detecting a naïve perspective
Naïve fallacy

Chapter 19 – Ironic Layer
Ignoring the naïve layer
Archetypal expectations
Role of dramatic irony
Ritual experience
Detecting an ironic layer
Ironic fallacy

Chapter 20 – Modal Layer
Mythical layer
Praxical layer
Naïve layer
Ironic layer
Aesthetic layer

Chapter 21 – Aesthetics Layer
Aristotle’s aesthetic principles
Hegel’s aesthetic implications
Nietzsche’s ‘metaphysical solace’
Freud’s deeper sources
Tragedy’s paradox
Detecting an aesthetic layer
Aesthetic fallacy

Chapter 22 – Structure of Character
Mirroring the layered structure
Static characterization and development
Chorus as character
Episodic structure
Functions of characterization

Chapter 23 – Metaphoric Layer
Verbal and theatre metaphor
Overall fictional metaphor
Expression through ready-made texts
Mechanism of fictional metaphor
Metaphors of harmony and disharmony
Metaphoric nature of Oedipus the King

Chapter 25 – Rhetoric Layer
Fictional world as macro-speech act
Structural equivalence
Rhetoric interaction
Rhetoric overall metaphor

Part III – Analyses of Whole Fictional Worlds

Chapter 25 – Euripides’ The Bacchae
Pentheus’ motivation
Dionysus’ triumph
Agave’s misery
Cadmus and Teiresias
Naïve chorus
Structural analysis
Interpretive errors

Chapter 26 – Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Sevilla
Notion of ‘burlador’
Narrative sources
Episodic structure
Poetic Justice
Archetypal characterization
Catalinón as confidant
Structural interpretation
Spanish idiosyncrasy

Chapter 27 – García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba
Narrative synopsis
Bernarda – fear of gossip
Bernarda – class pride
Bernarda – blindness
La Poncia as confidant
Maria Josefa’s trinity
Pepe el Romano
The stallion metaphor
Adela’s rebellion
Structural analysis
Espert’s stage interpretation

Concluding Remarks

List of Analyzed and Cited Work
Primary sources
Secondary sources


Eli Rozik examines traditional theatre semiotics in this book, looking at the ways in which they have promoted a scientific approach to studying the theatre arts. He argues instead for a multi-disciplinary approach bringing together several diverse theoretical disciplines, such as psychoanalysis, ethics, narratology, pragmatics, and mythology to provide fresh insight and perspective on contemporary and historical theatre studies. Additionally, the author argues against the simple-narrative structure view of theatre, offering up a seven-layer approach to examining theatre arts. The author is retired faculty member of Tel Aviv University, Israel.

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