February 24, 2005

week six: profile of disciplinary discourse

The discourse community of academic theatre and performance studies is heavily informed (and to an extent determined) by the post-structural and postmodern literary and cultural semiotic theories of the twentieth-century that pervade several disciplines in higher education humanities. Where the application of this material is distinct in theatre is the prescription of these theories as an ethical modality in producing performance; ethical not altruistic since what constitutes fair sometimes clashes with what the audience wants, especially in regards to the capitalist system of exchange that the post-structural project locates itself in opposition towards; modality not method because as the post-structural project signifies a body of scholars and artists with like-minded goals and rules of solvency.
The purpose of this project--metaphorically--is not to view the forest from the trees or vice versa but instead to locate and articulate the space between the trees--the limen--and thus to draw implications about relationships between these trees and by proxy the forest as a whole. to this extent, the project relies on the shifting of existing meaning or semantics--specifically terms or words--in order to describe new phenomena (or at least invisible) in social relations. Thus precision is valued in the technical language of theatre (scenery, script analysis, acting pedagogy) as well as the critical language that relates these performance apparatus to the ideas of the post-structural project. In short, the language of post-structural theatre studies is not driven by 'smartening' itself but in articulating new thoughts through new words. for example, it would be inaccurate in a post-structural discourse community to say 'commodity fetishism teaches the social relations in the capitalist system of exchange'; better would be 'commodity fetishism reifies...' since the latter describes the obfuscating mechanism of the sentence subject not implied by using teaching (and of course 'reifies' reveals the limen or space between the trees so to speak). Any scholar or proselyte capable of using these terms and their ideas with facility and felicity to substantiate, challenge or significantly alter the trajectory of the post-structural project is informally invited into the discourse community and usually given voice. Note, however, that agreement is not a requirement for communal acceptance. As part of the post-structural ideology, scholars in theatre studies and other post-modern humanity-based disciplines typically view identity or definition as an act of freezing--a methodological sophistry. Thus is it acceptable and in some cases even encouraged for existing or new members of the community to engage in a dialectical or dialogic process that can at times significantly change the course of the discipline and even its goals.
Typical genres of theatre studies also distinguish it from other post-structural disciplines. Foremost, the play is regarded as the basic unit of critical, theoretical and pragmatic of analysis. Further, the play is divided into the text as text, text as site of potential performance and text as performance. With limited exception, this series is viewed as a hierarchy for critical and interpretative engagement. Constituent to the play are articles, reviews, manifestos, books and theoretical works that either inform or comment on the performance or text and their relationship to the formation of social relations inside and outside the theatre. indeed, it may be reasonable claimed that any document that substantiates a scholars claims can be regarded as credible so long as it contains ample historicity and/or rhetorical competence; by historicity is meant verified by a reasonable number of reliable primary sources; by rhetorical competence is meant void of internal or external intellectual contradiction. Also of distinction is the division in theatre studies between the audience proper (performance) and the audience as discourse community. Implied in this claim is the fact that performances based on the theoretical contributions of post-structural thinkers may not be read in totality by the audience proper--that there may be an esoteric function in certain performances that is intended to say more to the discourse community than the remainder of the audience. Whether or not this is an excluding device is a judgment and outside the scope of this profile.

Posted by hudd0016 at February 24, 2005 9:38 AM