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Theater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950

Theater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950: A Critical Anthology

Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 546
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  • Book Info
    Theater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950
    Book Description:

    This critical anthology of avant-garde drama offers comprehensive coverage of that distinctively twentieth-century tradition. It includes the full texts of sixteen important plays, each preceded by a historical-critical introduction and followed by an essay, often written by the playwright, that elaborates on the dramatic and aesthetic issues raised by the play. Cardullo and Knopf, in making plays and documents of the avant-garde available in one collection for the first time, underscore the place and importance of the movement.In a provocative general introduction to the book, Bert Cardullo traces the history of the avant-garde tradition and argues for a revisionist history of modern drama that would acknowledge the innovative contributions of the avant-garde. The anthology, which presents examples of French and Russian Symbolism, Italian Futurism, German Expression-ism, and Dada-Surrealism, as well as work by such seminal figures as Jarry, Strindberg, Artaud, and Kandinsky, illuminates the astonishing daring of these writers from many Western countries and diverse theatrical movements.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13304-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. editors’ note
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. En Garde! The Theatrical Avant-Garde in Historical, Intellectual, and Cultural Context
    (pp. 1-40)
    Bert Cardullo

    The plays, biocritical prefaces, and historical documents presented here, together with theoretical manifestos and bibliographies, are designed to provide a history of genuinely avant-garde drama, as isolated from twentiethcentury developments in conventional veristic forms. The materials assembled inTheater of the Avant-Garde, 1890-1950are thus meant to contribute to a revisionist history of modern drama, for many still persist in viewing modern drama as moving from the realistic (yet formally neoclassical) plays of Ibsen and the naturalistic plays of Strindberg to the socially, politically, and psychologically oriented “problem plays” of the twentieth century, even if occasionally influenced by “techniques” from...

  5. part one Franco-Russian Symbolism
    (pp. 41-76)

    maurice Maeterlinck, playwright, essayist, theorist, and poet, was born on August 29, 1862, in Ghent, Belgium, where he was educated in the law, a profession he practiced during the early stages of his writing career. He joined the Parisian Symbolists in 1886 but did not relocate to France until 1897, following the success of his early plays—Princess Maleine(1889),The Intruder(1890),The Blind(1890), andInterior(1894)—which represent his primary contribution to avant-garde drama. In these plays, Maeterlinck sought to achieve a form of “total theater” that would harness all the elements of production in the...

  6. part two Pataphysical Theater
    (pp. 77-126)

    alfred Jarry, novelist and playwright, was born on September 8, 1873, in Laval, France. As a fifteen-year-old schoolboy, he began writing his most influential play, the five-act satirical farceKing Ubu.Jarry originally performedKing Ubuwith marionettes, and over the next eight years he continued to revise the play. As the assistant to Aurélien Lugné-Poë, the director of the Théâtre de I’Oeuvre in Paris, he succeeded in securing a production there ofKing Ubuin 1896. This premiere, with designs by Bonnard, Vuillard, and Toulouse-Lautrec, caused a riot in the theater (comparable to the one caused by the staging...

  7. part three Intimate Theater/Chamber Drama
    (pp. 127-168)

    august [Johan] Strindberg, playwright, novelist, painter, and dramatic theorist, was born on January 22, 1849, in Stockholm, Sweden. Before turning to playwriting in the 1880s, Strindberg worked as a teacher, librarian, journalist, and actor. Strindberg was not the misogynist he is often declared to be, but his relationships with women were complicated by the idiosyncrasies of his personality. And since he was surely one of the most subjective of writers, his three marriages provided background (and foreground!) materials for much of his fiction as well as drama. A prolific author, Strindberg wrote more than sixty plays in four decades, and...

  8. part four Correspondences
    (pp. 169-186)

    Wassily Kandinsky, painter, playwright, and theorist, was born on December 4, 1866, in Moscow. After studying law at Moscow University, he lectured on jurisprudence there until 1896, when he declined a professorship at the University of Dorpat to study painting in Munich. There he was able to gain traditional training as a painter while associating with many young experimental artists working in Munich at the turn of the century. In 1908, Kandinsky began to create Expressionist landscapes, and, from this point on, he moved steadily in his painting toward more abstract visual forms. Along with Franz Marc, he founded Der...

  9. part five Italian Futurism
    (pp. 187-206)

    Umberto Boccioni, playwright, painter, and theorist, was born October 19, 1882, in Reggio Calabria, Italy. Following Mariinetti’s publication of the first Futurist manifesto in 1909, Boccioni became one of the authors of the “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting” (1910), the first manifesto to adapt the principles of Futurism to painting. In his bookFuturist Painting and Sculpture(1914), Boccioni proposed a Futurist aesthetic for the visual arts. He was one of several painters featured in the first Futurist exhibition of paintings in Milan in 1911. His sintesiGenius and Culture(1915), a satiric indictment of artistic criticism, exemplifies the Futurists’...

  10. part six German Expressionism
    (pp. 207-264)

    reinhard [Johannes] Sorge, the first German Expressionist playwright to be published, was born on January 29, 1892, in Rixdorf, Germany. His single most important play,The Beggar(1912), introduced the chief element of Expressionist drama to the stage—the use of the central character’s completely subjective point of view to develop the action and distort the other characters. Although outwardly structured as or divided into a traditional five-act play,The Beggarepisodically blended realistic scenes with dreams, thereby disrupting the notion of objective reality onstage. Even though all his plays support the notion of some form of renewal for humankind,...

  11. part seven Dada
    (pp. 265-290)

    tristan Tzara (1896-1963), poet, playwright, editor, and theorist, was born in Romania and moved to Zurich, Switzerland, at the beginning of World War I. Tzara was one of the founders and the chief theorist of Dada, which originated in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich and spread to several major European cities, including Berlin and Cologne. From 1917 to 1920, Tzara wrote seven manifestos expressing the central tenets of Dada in his typically angry, mischievous, and nonsensical writing style. In the 1918Dada Manifesto,his bestknown theoretical text, Tzara affirms the famous declaration that brought Dada to the notice...

  12. part eight The Theater of Pure Form
    (pp. 291-326)

    Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, playwright, painter, photographer, theorist, novelist, and philosopher, was born on February 24, 1885, in Warsaw, Poland. The son of a famous painter and writer of the same name, Witkiewicz coined the name Witkacy to carve out his own artistic identity. Between 1918 and 1939, he wrote more than thirty plays, all based to some extent on his theory of “pure form,” in which he proposed the replacement of the causal logic of psychological realism with a theater dominated by form, movement, music, and scenic elements, in which “meaning would be defined only by its purely scenic internal...

  13. part nine French Surrealism
    (pp. 327-372)

    roger Vitrac, poet and playwright, was born on November 17, 1899, in Pinsac, France. He was one of the original signers of theFirst Surrealist Manifesto(1924), but along with Antonin Artaud he was later expelled from official Surrealist circles because of his pursuit of commercial theater opportunities for his work. In 1926, he founded the Théâtre Alfred-Jarry with Artaud and Robert Aron, and there he produced his first two full-length plays,The Mysteries of Love(written in 1924 and first produced in 1927) andVictor, or The Children Take Over(1928), which combine farce and fantasy with the darker...

  14. part ten The Theater of Cruelty
    (pp. 373-388)

    antonin Artaud, poet, theorist, playwright, actor, director, and designer, was born in Marseilles, France, on September 4, 1896. From 1921 to 1924, he worked as an actor for some of the most respected and influential avant-garde directors in Paris, including Aurélien Lugné-Poë, Charles Dullin, and Georges Pitoëff (in the last case, in Georges and Ludmilla Pitoëff’s influential production of Pirandello'sSix Characters in Search of an Author). In 1924, Artaud joined the Surrealist movement and served as director of the Bureau of Surrealist Research in 1925. Because of his devotion to theater, however— a theater that Andre Breton found to...

  15. part eleven Russian Oberiu
    (pp. 389-420)

    aleksandr Vvedensky, playwright, children’s fiction writer, poet, and theorist, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 6, 1904. After graduating from the Lentovskaia gymnasium (secondary school) in 1921, he briefly studied law and Asian languages before focusing on the writing of poetry and drama. From 1923 to 1926, Vvedensky did research into the nature of poetry with Igor Terentev, the Futurist poet and theater director who headed the Institute of Artistic Culture in Leningrad. In 1925, Vvedensky met Daniil Kharms, and together the two of them formed the core of a group of avant-garde writers that would officially found...

  16. part twelve American Dada and Surrealism
    (pp. 421-466)

    gertrude Stein, poet, novelist, playwright, and theorist, was born February 3, 1874, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. As a student at Radcliffe College from 1893 to 1897, she studied psychology with William James, a pursuit that influenced her subsequent experiments with language. Two of her undergraduate research papers focused on automatic writing, a technique later championed by Andre Breton and the early Surrealists. From 1897 to 1901, she studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University, but she did not complete the degree. Stein moved in 1903 with her partner and personal secretary, Alice B. Toklas, to Paris, where she became closely associated with...

  17. part thirteen The Theater of the Absurd
    (pp. 467-502)

    arthur Adamov, playwright and translator, was born on August 23, 1908, in Baku, Azerbaijan, the son of wealthy Armenian parents. Following the Russian Revolution, his family moved to Geneva, Mainz, and eventually Paris, where he settled in 1924. In the 1930s, he was associated with the French Surrealists, including Cocteau and Artaud, and his first writings were Surrealist poems. Adamov did not begin to write plays until he was almost forty years old. His first play,The Parody(1947), depicts the futility of humankind’s search for meaning in life. His next seven plays, produced at small experimental theaters in Paris,...

  18. general bibliography
    (pp. 503-514)
  19. index
    (pp. 515-523)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 524-524)