Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dramatic Performance

Reading Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author

All drama is metafiction
, is the declarative statement I thought to make.  Not that all drama is about drama, but that all drama is intensely self-aware, overtly and constantly aware of itself as performance.  I've never read nor seen a play that wasn't knowingly performative, and am not sure I'd like to.  Perhaps it is inevitable that drama has a long tradition of knowing gestures toward the audience.

But I'm not sure that makes drama particularly special. All literature is knowingly performative, in the writer's creative work as a performance to be viewed and in the reader's awareness of being performed to.  

And then I'm not sure that makes literature particularly special.  Everyday life is filled with performative acts (is telling a story a performance?  When something interesting happens, do you think ahead to how you'll tell others about it?).  Many careers are performative (teaching, as an obvious and personal example), as are many of the roles we take on in our lives.  A religious service is usually a scripted performance (is it terribly surprising that drama was reborn in Europe through church plays?), as are the various rituals we use to mark moments of transitions (graduations, weddings).

Perhaps this leaves drama is the most artificial of life's performances, the most inauthentic.  Or perhaps this makes drama, with its deep focus on performance itself, the premiere literary genre.

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