Puppets and "Popular" Culture

By Scott Cutler Shershow | Go to book overview

Four
Modern and Postmodern Puppets
in Theory and in Practice

My focus necessarily becomes more diffuse in this final chapter, as I pursue the continuing appropriation of the puppet by a cosmopolitan twentieth‐ century culture in which the distinction between the popular and the elite beomes ever more problematic. I consider here how the puppet figures in three distinctly different fields of cultural theory and practice: the early modernist theater; the contemporaneous theories of theater developed by philosophers, critics, and semioticians; and the mass culture of film and television. In our century the actual performing object of ancient folk practice would be not merely appropriated as metaphor, and occasionally interpolated into the literary drama, but, as it were, swallowed whole—construed as the primal reality (or theoretical paradigm) of theater itself, and reappropriated within new forms of quasipopular performance. As in the preceding chapters, I attempt no comprehensive account of modernist theory and practice or, still less, of the emergence of a truly cosmopolitan mass culture. Rather, I suggest here, as I have throughout, that apparently unrelated instances of dramatic theory and practice represent broadly similar instances of cultural appropriation, and finally join in a much larger process of cultural distinction in general.

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