Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890-1900

Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890-1900

Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890-1900

Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890-1900

Synopsis

Best known as the author of such plays as A Doll's House and Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen is one of the most influential figures of modern drama. During the 1890s, his works were staged by radically different avant-garde groups in England and France, a simultaneous cross-cultural exchange that demonstrated his centrality to early modernist activity both in the theatre and in other arts. This book locates the basis for an early modernist theatre in the new wave that Ibsen created internationally. Looking specifically at four Ibsen plays and their production and reception in England and France in the early 1890s, Shepherd-Barr examines Ibsen's seminal role in the radical artistic movements of this period.

Excerpt

Arthur Symons poem 'Nora on the Pavement' features one of Ibsen's bestknown heroines and is written in a style that consciously emulates French Symbolism. Symons envisions the moment after the door has slammed at the end of A Doll's House--an action that still resonated with him in 1895, and with audiences throughout Europe--and the image of Nora standing alone on the pavement outside, overwhelmed by her sudden sense of freedom, is surcharged with the symbolist motif of the dance. This English poem, written in the 1890s, thus reflects the interplay of ideas and cultures that was characteristic of early modernism; it also reflects two of the decade's most disturbing outside influences on a society in deep crisis and transition. Like Symons's poem, this book attempts to synthesize several of these important influences. It takes Ibsen's breakthrough in England and France as a case study in theatrical historiography, exploring issues of cross-cultural understanding and early modernist ideas about art, literature, and language as reflected in productions of Ibsen's plays and their reception during the first few years of the fin de siècle.

Ibsen never saw England, and his only experience of France was a two-week stay in Paris in 1868 at the age of forty, a visit of which we know next to nothing, since he characteristically left no record of his impressions. Since he knew very little English and less French, his only real contact with the literature and ideas of these countries came through translations of major texts and, more importantly, through a few close contemporaries like the influential Danish critic Georg Brandes. In turn, the introduction of his work to these two countries relied almost entirely on intermediaries and interpreters, providing extraordinarily rich material for the theatre historian engaged in the challenge of recon-

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