The Vulnerable Body of Text and Stage

Published by:                                                                                                       

Mestno gledališče ljubljansko,

zbirka MGL, 145

Ljubljana, 2007, 305 p.


This book explores the series of crises the “dramatic theatre” and the “dramatic author” underwent during the last decades of the 20th century. Combining analyis of the post-structuralist crisis of the author in relation to contemporary theories of drama with discussions about selected dramatic authors of the 1980s and 1990s whose works further pushed Aristotelian theatre into crisis, we determine that the role of the dramatic author has evolved through the creation of new textual and performative practices, though its status remains vulnerable.


The first part of the book re-examines the crisis of the author as defined by the (post)structuralist theories of Roland Barthes (the death of the author), Michel Foucault (the author function) and Jacques Derrida (the deconstruction of logocentrism).


The second part links these theories with contemporary theories of drama and theatre and the latter’s preoccupations with the crisis of the dramatic author and the dramatic form: Peter Szondi and his concept of the drama in crisis; Erika Fischer-Lichte, her connection of the crisis of drama and individuality, and later, her aesthetic of performativity; Robert Abirached and his analysis of the crisis of the character; Jean-Pierre Sarrazac and his attempt to surpass the dialectic of Szondi’s terms of drama and epic theatre, his concept of rhapsodization; Gerda Poschmann and her concept of “no longer dramatic text for theatre”; Hans-Thies Lehmann and his notion of postdramatic theatre; and Patrice Pavis and his analysis of the return to textuality in the 1980s and 1990s.


In the third part we link the theoretical field with selected dramatists and authors of theatrical concepts. We start with Artaud, Brecht, Ionesco and Beckett, the crucial figures who marked the transition from the “dramatic theatre” to the theatre beyond drama. We proceed with selected dramatic authors of the period: Peter Handke, Dane Zajc, Veno Taufer, Milan Jesih, Ivo Svetina, Dušan Jovanović, Bernard-Marie Koltès, Heiner Müller, Elfride Jelinek and Sarah Kane. By this procedure we test the following hypothesis: The crisis of the dramatic author in the 1980s and 1990s has to be perceived and understood as a part of the process of the crisis of Aristotelian theatre – the crumbling of representation, mimesis and the dominance of logos and the word – which started in the very beginning of the century (Craig, Appia, Artaud, Brecht), led to the Theatre of the Absurd and laid the ground for the performative turn of the 1960s with its severe rupture of the dramatic author and drama which were highlighted and provisionally solved during the last two decades of the century. By examining this process in relation to the above authors, we locate a series of destabilizations and deconstructions of the dramatic form.


These destabilizations and deconstructions of the Aristotelian theatre thus resulted in a variety of the possible models of drama beyond drama and representation, decoded by the theory as a deconstruction of the language, metatheatricality, metadrama, the dissolution of the dialogue and the intrusion of monologic forms, desemantization … But the dramatic author has survived this crisis of drama by assuming the role of the author-rhapsode – creating new textual practices combining the multitude of forms: simulacra of neoclassical forms, novelistic and cinematic structures, speech plays, post-Brechtian dramaturgy of the fragment, paraphrases … Although the status of these practices remains unstable, the author-rhapsode persists in his schizophrenic position between textual and performative culture.