Academic journal article American Drama

David Mamet's Old Neighborhood: Journey and Geography

Academic journal article American Drama

David Mamet's Old Neighborhood: Journey and Geography

Article excerpt

A Journey requires a geography: for a process to occur, there must be a site. The journey is both a physical act and an idea of it, as journey; and its geography is not nowhere but involves city, country, ocean, planets, Eden, heaven, hell, paradise--any of which would allow thought of them as "worlds." Among these settings, the journey is constituted both of the movements between worlds, which should, to qualify as journey, form some sort of pattern (if nothing more than getting from A to B), and of possible ideas such as purpose, circumstances, outcome, and design. Odysseus, for instance, is not merely wafted by ocean and breeze on "meanderings." Talk about his wanderings will consider the possible purposes, circumstances, etc., of his journey; and wandering might be considered as an idea opposed to directness, a represented action akin to the indirectness of poetic language as opposed to scientific or philosophical language. In the drama, characters enter and leave the stage--moving between a stage world and some other real or imagined one "on missions and with purposes; they might be entering or exiting to deliver a message or they might be on "A Long Day's Journey" or a trip "Into the Woods."

The journey as object of thought might be imaginative or actual. I shall pursue the idea as image and metaphor and as culturally generated and transmitted-concept. My thinking about a journey is grounded in Edmund Husserl's phenomenology, his definition of "intentionality" and his concern for the need to experience "pure essences." Husserl tries to recover experience from the reductive assignment of reality to either the subjective or the objective dimensions, a split that remains in psychologism and science. That essence, Husserl argues, "can be exemplified intuitively in the data of experience, data of perception, memory, and so forth, but just as readily also in the mere data of fancy (Phantasie)" (50). The imagination, then, can capably discover what is essential to experience, the eidetic image that reveals itself when presuppositions are put into suspension. The imagination is especially well qualified to perform this task, since it does not posit the image as simply "real" in the world "out there." This phenomenological approach is a ground for the contemporary archetypal thinking of James Hillman, who is attempting to rehabilitate Jungian images for a phenomenological psychoanalysis. Hillman's concern is to deactivate traditional epic stereotypes, the Titanic myth, which "practically keeps us still in the pattern of the heroic ego" (158). In addition to his "polytheistic" psychology's allowing a pantheism of images to come into play, he suggests that a counter-image to the Titan is the Knight Errant, whose "path has been deviant ever since Parmenides decried loose-limbed wandering as the way of error, deceptive opinion, going astray" (161).

My looking toward essential images in Husserl and Hillman aims for the possibility of noticing recurring, persistent patterns and characteristics that appear and transform themselves amidst cultural diversity. I might appeal, too, to the apprehension of ourselves as readers and interpreters in the approaches of intertextual and possible worlds theories. The way I have related Husserl and Hillman might be taken in terms of intertextuality. One definition of intertextuality seems to echo both the Husserlean eidetic and Hiltman's archetype: "as the enlargement of a familiar idea ... intertextuality might be taken as a general term, working out from the broad definition of influence to encompass unconscious, socially prompted types of text formation (for example, by archetypes or popular culture); modes of conception (such as ideas 'in the air'); styles (such as genres); and other prior constraints and opportunities for the writer." Under this rubric, my pursuit of the journey image in David Mamet's plays would appear to be, I trust, a productive errancy. Lubomir Dolezel's argument for the possible worlds outlook as opposed to the "One-World Frame," which assumes "that there is only one legitimate universe of discourse (domain of reference), the actual world" (2), pursues a kind of intertextuality in setting up the "Classical" against the "Modern Myth" (185-98). …

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