Argument Revised

user-pic
Vote 0 Votes

Bryan,

I know this is not a pretty version of things, but we have done all this work. I didn't think it was what you were looking for in the 4-5 sentences.

1. Argument: Bourgeois drama, specifically Diderot used drama to inspire social change through the use of new perspectives and cultural viewpoints- Family Picture- Blind man example. Give the middle class power.-Kevin
2. Visual changes- Draya
- Architecture
-painting
-changes in costuming
-getting the nobles off the stage
-introducing spectacle- Voltaire
3. Changes in theatrical practice -Kiara & Abby
- introduction of the fourth wall
- new subgenres
- movement toward sentimentalism
- representation and undermining identity (acting piece for diderot- actors taking on identities that are external. You can change roles by deciding to. There is no underlying identity. Putting on masks!)
- Can actors represent truth on stage? Rousseau, representations of reality undermine. Diderot says fiction is it's own truth. Presentational v representational.
- Changing from depicting ideal to everyday
- Who is the audience? Movement from court audience to everyday audience
- village as family (analogy of how to view the municipality) coming from the higher ups.
4. Political movements result from the changes and social - Abby & Kiara
- french revolution
- Enlightenment
5. A Family Picture- Everyone should incorporate this!
- Main character is patriarch- but he is not the wise all powerful (could the main character be the son?)
- Mistaken identity
-Upper class is depicted as evil
-Real human emotions given to lower class- no longer just a foil
-Lower class woman has agency and choices
-The sister portrays the moral ideal- refusing to lie to her father.
6. Why does this even matter? -Lizi
- How does focusing on specificity affect the larger universal truth of a piece? Fundamental truths.
- Let's move toward idealized world instead of traditional.
- THEATRE IS IMPORTANT. By focusing on a new audience/ finding a new way to communicate with them- we are more likely to be able to affect change. Give them access and new perspectives and social change is possible!

Argument

user-pic
Vote 0 Votes

We believe that Bourgeois drama, specifically the playwright Denis Diderot, used drama to inspire social change through the introduction of new perspectives and cultural viewpoints. In order to illustrate this, we will be evaluating Diderot's A Family Picture as well as the social and political movements of this time in France. Bourgeois drama instigated changes in the theatrical world that are still felt today. And by evaluating Diderot's tactics of inspiring change, we can understand how similar changes can be initiated in our theatrical and political world today.

Annotated Bibliography

user-pic
Vote 0 Votes

Ankersmit, Frank R. "Pygmalion: Rousseau and Diderot on the theater and on representation." Rethinking History. 7.3 (2003): 315-339. Web.

In Diderot's Paradox of Acting and other writings there is a seed of an idea that is explored further here by Ankersmit, about how the unreality of the stage can be a direct route to truth, contrasted with Rousseau's belief that fictional representations could actively unsettle and undermine the audience's perception of reality. The anxiety of Rousseau and the passion of Diderot regarding the same concept show the incredible power both of them attributed to the stage as a space for destroying and rewriting both personal identity and social order. In this article Ankersmit claims that the 18th century was undoubtedly the most "theatrical" of any era in the history of the western world (although based on his evidence his claim should probably be properly limited to western Europe) invokes the spectacle of festival days in Venice, where identity could be exchanged simply by participatory members of the public exchanging masks, and in so doing exchanging the identity represented by those masks, acting entirely as the persona of that mask throughout the remainder of the time they possessed it. There is a further claim that the idea of an underlying psychological identity, an ego that is separate from the persona, while being the fundamental basis of modern psychoanalytic theory and treatment is actually a Romantic notion that will only rise to prominence long after Diderot and Rousseau's era, and that they were working in a culture that might well believe you could change who you were entirely by changing your behavior, by putting on a mask. This suggests the possibility of vastly increased class mobility.

Brockett, Oscar G, and Franklin J Hildy. History of the Theatre. 10th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2010. 235-51. Print.

The introduction of Diderot's works to the French cannon marked a significant shift away from neoclassical drama. He proposed a couple new forms of drama to enlarge the scope of the theater. Drama now consisted of laughing comedy, which ridiculed vice, serious comedy, which depicted virtue and duty, domestic tragedy, which was centered around domestic troubles, and heightened tragedy, which dealt with public catastrophe and the fall of the mighty. Diderot also marked a shift toward illusionistic theater. He proposed the fourth wall, which became a large part of naturalism. In this light, Diderot negates the practice of interacting with the audience. Along with shifts in acting styles toward naturalness, there was also a shift in costuming and architecture. Beginning in the 1750's actresses tended away from the lavish court dresses of the day toward authentic dresses, fitting to the social role of their character. This change remained inconsistent however, as actors were allowed to choose their own costuming and therefore showed much variance in what style of theater they subscribed to. Also in the 1750's, the architecture of the theatre space itself began to change. Theater artists no longer subscribed to the outdated French structures and instead shifted toward the enlarged stages of the Italians. This period of French theater also marked the removal of spectators from the stage, which allowed a marked shift toward more elaborate settings and greater spectacle.

Diderot, Denis. The Paradox of Acting. Trans. Walter Herries Pollock. London: Chatto & Windus, 1883. Web.

This is an incredibly valuable resource since the entire work is devoted to how a stage actor and a play might each influence an audience. Diderot addresses both the emotional impact on an audience member as well as the moral effect on their character of observing the actors and the play. This is where I first encountered Diderot's belief (explored further in Ankersmit) that the unreality of the theatrical world is what allows it to better function. Actors better function when they remove themselves from character, not basing their performance on their own experience and reliving an internal emotional drama, but instead finding the external gestures that will bring them, and above all else their audience, through that emotional journey. Diderot has a very Platonist belief that there are ideal forms of characters that actors should strive to reach, and that bringing nothing of themselves to the stage better allows the actors to reach the world of ideal forms. Examining comedy Diderot makes a distinction between a specific form based on a particular person and says this can only be called Satire, while comedy based on universal forms can actually be called Humor, giving Moliere's character Tartuffe as a recognizable "type". He also claims that plays are morally instructive because due to their removal from the reality of everyday life, people are able to recognize the moral underpinnings of characters and situations, even when they cannot find these truths in real life. He believes that seeing the "unreal" version is what makes it possible to later recognize this form in real life and behave in a more moral fashion.

Jourdain, M. Diderot's Early Philosophical Works. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1916. Print.

This book contains a complete copy of Denis Diderot's "Letter on the Blind" which played an important role in inspiring Valentin Hauy to create the first school for the blind in late 18th century France. It seemed essential to read the original letter and have a sense of both Diderot's original intent as well as his voice. His intent is really an intellectual exploration of a series of philosophical propositions, particularly the Molyneux Problem which is concerned with the recovery of sight in a person who has been completely or mostly blind in his or her entire life up until the removal of cataracts or some other treatable cause. As a tool, Diderot creates a complete image of a blind acquaintance with whom Diderot has observed and extensively discussed the effects of blindness on this man's life, and the implications of restoring the man's sight, and whether he would choose such a thing. What is truly important is that Diderot also explores the morality and ethics of the blind, and how they might be shaped by the condition of their senses, noting that the magnitude of theft as a crime is greater to the blind who cannot conceive of being successful perpetrators and also run a greater risk of being victims of the crime, or that they might have a detached indifference to certain kinds of suffering, when they cannot observe it themselves. This very particular image of a single blind man is frequently credited (see Wittenstein) as transforming the perception of the blind as not a needy, childlike or less than human class of people but as a group of rational, ethical individuals. Also in a work where he is not speaking through character, it is valuable to hear Diderot's voice, and see where it might be visible in the lecturing characters of La Pere de Famille and Paradox of Acting.

Wittenstein, Stuart H. "Braille and Revolution, Diderot and Enlightenment, and the Pursuit of Happiness." Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness. 103.9 (2009): 516-518. Web. 20 Nov 2012.

This is a very brief article, but it succinctly summarizes a few things about the Enlightenment and Denis Diderot, and is mostly concerned with the long-term impact of Diderot's "Letter on the Blind". This article goes on to explain how this letter changed the perception of the blind and inspired Valentin Hauy to believe he could start a school for the blind and teach them to read or write. The significance of this single school is magnified by one of its later students and teachers: Louis Braille, whose tactile writing system transformed the written word for the blind. This does provide a solid example of how effective Diderot's writings could be in igniting change. In addition this article does also provide several useful quotes from Diderot that illustrate certain aspects of his philosophy, such as my personal favorite, "Mankind shall not be free until the last king is strangled in the entrails of the last priest." The other great illustrative quote is, "No man has received from nature the right to give orders to others. Freedom is a gift from heaven, and every individual of the same species has the right to enjoy it." This article also provides several citations to other works, including Jourdain's book which contains Diderot's "Letter on the Blind", so this article was useful in finding other sources.

Guerin, Jean-Yves, and Susan B. Grayson. "Part Three: Crisis in Culture; Pre- and Postrevolutionary." The French Revolution in Culture and Society. Ed. David G. Troyansky, Alfred Cismaru, and Norwood Andrews. New York: Greenwood, 1991. 71-91. Print.

Though this source does not specifically talk about Diderot's The Family Picture, it does address the deviance from social norms that we are arguing Diderot helped influence prior to the Revolution. It also gives a comparison of his work to another contemporary, Sade who's social compass and agenda are very similar to that of Diderot though they differ in method. I also looked at the section about Beaumarchais' Figaro plays of the same era and the cultural norms he played with as well as the questions of morality that he posed, in comparison with Diderot. The book as a whole can serve as a brief and specific sampling of the role of French culture in the time of the French Revolution. It also incorporates ideas developed prior to the Revolution which help build a culturally philosophical case for the resulting of the Revolution at the end of the 18th Century. The addition of post-revolutionary thought then brings things full circle. The source is essentially a compiling of analytical essays written about works of relevance of the time as well as pieces that derive their topical context from the actual histories of France at the time and expounding on those histories by giving them a new meaning by setting them against other parallel events. For example, one chapter takes the politics of a Revolutionary France and set them against the politics and culture of Shakesperean plays being performed in France at the time. From this we get an idea of how European culture transitioned across borderlines and what concepts were transposed or discarded along the way, giving us a better understanding on the structure of the multiplicity or perhaps lack thereof in this time.

Anderson, M. S. Europe in the Eighteenth Century, 1713-1789. Harlow, England: Longman, 2000. Print.

This book was particularly helpful in giving an overview of European life during this time. The book is divided in to sections that focus on one aspect of life such that Government and Administration is in its very own group and Diplomacy and International Affairs is another. Staying true to our research goals, sections of primary interest were those dealing with Society, Cultural Life, Religion, The Enlightenment and The Coming of the Revolution. This book required a little more digging as it was very broad and generalized much of Europe. Again due to the divisive nature of the book into broad categorical chapters, this book is probably not the most useful source if to be used as a reference of culture and history for a particular European nation. Much of the information is strung together as though it were one long history, which is valid if the goal is to draw parallels and make cross-cultural persepectives. However, this complicates much of the history and makes it difficult to distinguish where the history of one state ends and another begins, as if to say that these histories are in fact all one in the same. This book is probably more properly an introductory survey of catergorical information with several attached themes in order to help readers attempting to familiarize themselves with the information to find jumping points with which to begin their own research and delve deeper into the material presented here on their own.

One unmistakable thread of 18th century France is the possibility of change, particularly in one's own identity, as a rising middle class redefines a centuries old strict relationship between upper and lower classes, changing the meaning of social roles, of titles, and even of physical space as a new social and architectural reality takes root. (This claim is no doubt much more meaningful for white males of that era.) Given that the century is building to a tumultuous change and the introduction of the modern era of world history, our study of art does have to be grounded in this history, meaning the rise of a middle class and the setting of the stage for the violent end of a rigid social order.

While the previous era's neoclassical theatrical art is didactic, formulaic, and focused on grandiose, unmistakable spectacle, beginning with Voltaire's agitation for laxer rules there is an increasing freedom to move in new directions. The work of Denis Diderot illustrates a shift into a new space, the family living room, even though he will continue in the footsteps of the Neoclassicists by using theater as a vehicle to present absolute truths to audiences in a didactic way.

This freedom of identity is a conundrum for essentialists, and its most obvious expression is in the theater where an actor takes multiple roles on a nightly basis. Diderot again explores this problem in his analysis of what it means to be an effective actor, simultaneously expounding a belief in platonic ideals while insisting that an actor can through their body, their external frame, adopt and present any of these idealized forms, in this way presenting Truth with a capital V (for Verité). Despite reflecting the spirit of the age, this is an anxiety inducing claim to some: to quote Ankersmit, "Rousseau argues that the theatre may threaten our moral integrity since we may forget who we really are when confronted with a pseudo-reality consisting of representation only." (324)

As for what we will leave out: since Diderot has his fingers in so many rich pies we have to leave out anything he didn't touch. Most of Europe falls under this list, as we narrow our study to Diderot's La Père de Famille and to the changing social and political reality of pre-revolutionary France.

Ankersmit, Frank R. "Pygmalion: Rousseau and Diderot on the theatre and on representation." Rethinking History. 7.3 (2003): 315-339. Web.

Diderot, Denis. The Paradox of Acting. Trans. Walter Herries Pollock. London: Chatto & Windus, 1883. Web.

Given the subtleties of differentiating Bourgeois or Domestic Drama from other forms of drama that preceded it, we feel that a pure performance will not be sufficiently explanatory, but we want to retain the creative engagement of performance on both our understanding and our ability to present our material. Our solution is to present what we are calling a PBS special: a brief performance analyzed and debated by talking heads. Given that our audience is composed entirely of people who came to this class because of a deep interest in creating and performing art, our performance will help ground what we have to say about the art form and its historical context.

Addressing the ethical responsibility we have as artists: in order to confine a performance to a short enough time period to present it and still discuss it, we necessarily have to compress and inflate different aspects of it to make them visible to an audience. This necessarily distorts the vision of the playwrights who created them, making such an unsubtle version of events. But this is an unfortunate necessity.

One notion we have for keeping the class engaged is to present our argument as an actual argument, or an actual debate. We might ask our audience of theatre kids to actively judge this argument, moment to moment, by vocalizing their response to whether we are making good, credible illuminating arguments, and by taking sides. Given the didactic moral clarity of the plays we have examined so far and Diderot's belief that an audience can hear the truth when it is presented on stage, this seems appropriate, and in no way foolishly combustible.

To narrow our focus, as a group we seized upon one of the earliest major figures we encountered who appeared to be at the heart of the genesis and development of Bourgeois drama in France: Denis Diderot. Two factors we considered in making this decision are the number of scholars who credit his play La Pere de la Famille as the prototype for French Bourgeois drama, as well as M. Diderot's position as the editor of L'Encyclopedie which made him a central figure in the French Enlightenment (a movement which our preliminary research suggests is highly connected to the rise of Bourgeois drama as an art form) as well as making him a central, public figure in the intellectual and cultural scene of mid-18th century France. We further felt that the influence of earlier French and English dramatists on M. Diderot's work, as well as his position at the beginning of the French Bourgeois drama movement might make him a logical starting point for further research, and a lynchpin for bringing our work together.

To address more directly how we as a group reached the idea of using Denis Diderot and George Lillo, let me explain our process: we agreed to each return to class on Thursday with at least one thing of interest related to the topic of "Bourgeois Theatre: 1700-1770", generally understood to be an article from an academic journal or some information to share from a scholarly source. M. Diderot's name appeared prominently in the research of several group members, suggesting to us that he would be somebody about whom a lot would have been written, meaning we could use his name as a gateway to further research. When we discussed other potential areas of interest such as the beginnings of Bourgeois drama in England, or Voltaire's initial attempts to undermine the dominant Neoclassical aesthetic, or looking forward towards the impending Revolution, we realized that Diderot could still be a way to join any of these topics together into a logical chain.

Another strong interest expressed by the group members who had encountered his work in their research was George Lillo, and his play The London Merchant. Some scholars also credit this work as the original Bourgeois drama, and given the interest in our group in this play and the recurrence of his name in our discussion, it seemed foolish to leave him out in the cold. Nobody wants to shut down other people's interest or research at this point in the process, so when someone suggested that we examine both Diderot and Lillo with an interest to comparing and contrasting their work, this immediately opened up a bright vein of research in examining the potential influence of The London Merchant on Diderot and French Bourgeois drama, and determining if there truly are artistic and historical links.

A brief list of the scholarly sources that (along with other materials) led us to select this direction:

Brockett, Oscar G. History of the Theatre. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc, 1968. Print.

Huet, Marie-Hélène. "The Chastised Stage: Bourgeois Drama and the Exercise of Power by Scott S. Bryson." Review. Modern Philology 91.4 (1994): 523-26. Print.

Kennedy, Denis, Ed. The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. N.p.: Oxford UP 2010. Print.

Trott, David. "French Theatre from 1700 to 1750: The "Other" Repertory." Eighteenth-Century French Theatre: Aspects and Contexts. Ed. Magdy Gabriel Badir and David J. Langdon. University of Alberta, 1986. 32-43.