Theses Doctoral

Print, Performance, and the European Avant-gardes, 1905-1948

Buckley, Jennifer Ann

Early twentieth-century Europe witnessed a particularly intense moment in the long debate concerning the relationship between the dramatic text and performance. Modernists asserted the predominance of the text, which is easily assimilated to the printed page and incorporated into the institution of literature. The avant-gardes proclaimed the primacy of the live theatrical event, and they worked to liberate performance from its association with literature. At stake was the definition of the theatre as a medium--and its power to re-enchant the modern world. This dissertation reveals that even as the avant-gardes rejected the print genre of drama, they fiercely embraced print, producing some of the century's most extraordinary publications. Focusing on the material aspects of performance-related texts from Symbolism to Surrealism, I show that the avant-gardes not only maintained but amplified the centuries-old relationship between the theatre and print. They did so in ways that profoundly altered the conventions of performance and of the visual and graphic arts, expanding our sense of what is possible onstage and on the page. Under pressure from the insurgent cinema and also from a pervasive print culture that had absorbed, and been absorbed by, realist and naturalist drama, the theatre was a medium particularly in need of formal reassessment. In response to these conditions, the avant-gardes declared (to varying degrees) that literary plays should give way to ultra-physical performance; print-friendly playwrights to stage-steeped directors; dialogue to dance, song, or non-verbal sound. Because print was still the mass medium of the early twentieth century, the avant-gardes also produced performance texts--texts which embodied their theatricalist agendas through typography, page design, and illustration. In chapters on Edward Gordon Craig, Francesco Cangiullo, Lothar Schreyer, and Antonin Artaud, I argue that print was crucial to the avant-garde attempt to redefine, renew, and revolutionize the theatre.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Puchner, Martin
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 28, 2013