Mimetic Disillusion: Eugene ONeill, Tennessee Williams, and U.S. Dramatic Realism
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The fact is viewers want first and foremost engaging drama. If in the process they are also treated to a morally agreeable and historically accurate picture, they are indeed fortunate. Dramatic Realism. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press Mimetic Disillusion is a poststructuralist reading of Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams between the years and , an era in U. In this excellent and erudite study, Fleche posits that both O'Neill and Williams challenged the accepted theories of dramatic realism and, by extension, the entire mimetic conundrum first articulated by Plato and Aristotle.
Fashioned through various textual and non-diegetic innovations, their radical inquiries into the deceptive nature of realism's representation made them both mainstream playwrights yet marginalized skeptics of mimetic art's sociopolitical efficacy, referential history and representative reality, inquiries which Fleche believes situate them comfortably at the then-burgeoning poststructuralist movement's epicenter. Because of its unique relationship to its audience one not really found in other, "unperformed" literary genres , drama must in many ways confonn to realist tastes of representation.
In other words, a play's form must be accessible to a wide range of artistic sensibilities or its contents will cease to carry any meaning at all. As Fleche writes, "The presence of real people in the theatre , responding to real systems of signification, however they interpret them, makes mimesis the crucial issue for anyone concerned with dramatic theory" 2.
Therefore, Fleche begins by first addressing the two standard theories of Book Reviews mimesis, or truth approximated by representation: 1 however it is perceived, drama is still just the process of reproducing reality already once removed from its truer form and therefore essentially false i. Much of the dramatic theory in recent years, however, has deconstructed this Platonic-Aristotelian binary by challenging the premises upon which the two theories are built, namely, the political systems that gave rise to the standards inherent in both definitions.
Since Western drama and dramatic theory is centered on three necessary realist ingredients - that is, a language, a representation of an action and an assumed history - and modernist and poststructuralist theorists have challenged the legitimacy of each, the certitude of classical dramatic realism has been brought into question. Certainly Ibsen, Chekhov, Shaw and Brecht revolutionized modernist drama, much the way Beckett, Pinter and Albee did the postrnodern theatre.
But poststructuralists, with their concerns over time and space, referents and representation, prioritized structures and politicized history, have supplied new theoretical materials with which to criticize - and apparently write - drama. Yet, Fleche postulates, despite these new theories on dramatic realism from modernists Brecht and Artaud and poststructuralists Derrida and Lacan, U.
In other words, to be "commercially successful," U.
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