The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976-2000

The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976-2000

The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976-2000

The Dubious Spectacle: Extremities of Theater, 1976-2000

Excerpt

These essays span just about a quarter of a century, from the mid-seventies to the millennium. They track certain mutations in my thinking about the theater, and by way of theater about education, politics, fashion, photography, and the other arts, as well as the more than residual modernism in the postmodern condition. As there are other writings I might have included (some from almost a quarter century before), this is not exactly a full-scale retrospective, but the collection moves through and around most of the issues that have engaged me over the years, some of them inexhaustibly. Although the essays are not organized in chronological sequence, they constitute by accretion in the conceptual back and forth a sort of intellectual history of a turning from theater to theory, charged as it was to begin with by the work I had done in the theater— which, elsewhere, I have defined as “blooded thought.” What was also there to begin with, in the theater as in theory, are certain elliptical habits of mind that may rub against the grain of the new historicizations, no less the often foregone conclusions in the heuristics of cultural studies or—in the ethnographic consciousness now prominent in the field—the more predictable liminalities of performance studies.

Now that it is pretty much orthodoxy to think of artistic and cultural practices through the quadrivium of social construction (gender, race, ethnicity, class), it may seem peculiar to encounter, from the opening essay on, a view of the theater so insistently ontological. If that remains the egregious reflex of a hopeless essentialism, the fascination of theater . . .

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