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410Philosophy and Literature Modern French Drama, 1940-1990, second edition, by David Bradby; xiii & 331 pp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, $54.50 cloth, $17.95 paper. David Bradby's Modern French Drama, 1940—1990, updated here in its second edition, is uncommon among surveys of French theater. Bradby's presentation and analysis of the massive changes that French dramatic expression has undergone in Parisian and regional theaters since 1940 emphasize continuity where others might revel in rupture. The book's eleven chapters trace in meticulously researched detail the origins of the decentralization movement, the division within the theater into absurdist and political camps that accompanied decentralization in the fifties and sixties, the subsequent reunion of the two camps in the seventies, and the aimlessness of French theater in the eighties. Read in its entirety, it tells the story of the forty-year struggle within the French theater to unseat the Aristotelian model of organic unity, and to erect in its place a theater of multiple viewpoints depicting the individual as a constructed, often incongruous product of ideological, social, cultural, and material conditions . Rather than begin his study with the euphoric moment of Liberation, as others have done, Bradby is one of the few authors to treat the theater of the Occupation period and to explicate its impact upon postliberation theatrical activity. FollowingJacques Copeau, Bradby locates the impetus for many of the innovations in French dramatic expression in the split from the Parisian theater occasioned by the German Occupation. In 1941, Copeau had prophetically foreseen the effect that the exile ofyoung theater companies in the unoccupied "free zone" would have upon subsequent theatrical activity in France, deeming it an "excellent point of departure" for theatrical renewal. In addition to providing the needed break with Paris that would lay the groundwork for the decentralization movement, the war experience would also convince directors and political groups alike of the theater's fundamental role in cultural renewal and popular education. Bradby points out that the batde against Nazism led members of the Resistance "to articulate an ideology of popular culture as a militant political force, integral to the social life of the community" (p. 32), a belief inherent in the work of proponents of decentralization and the théâtre populaire movement in the ensuing decades. Central to Bradby's analysis is the intimate relationship between theatrical activity and external currents, belying the assumptions common to many histories of the theater that present artistic creation as an insular activity, operating within a cultural vacuum. While Bradby offers an extended and insightful look at such major figures as Sartre, Genet, Planchón, Vinaver, and Koltès, the originality of his presentation lies in the depiction of the evolution of dramatic practices largely as a function ofvicissitudes in the intellectual, social, ideological, Reviews411 and political climate. The work of these playwrights and theater practitioners is shown to be indissolubly bound up with that of theorists (Artaud and Brecht) and directors (Planchon's exemplary seven-year collaboration with Adamov receives its own chapter), and with shifts in the socio-political scene. Notable among the forces at work in shaping French drama are the developments in dieater criticism and practice resulting from advances made in the fields of sociology and structural linguistics. Focusing on the contributions of Roland Barthes and the structural linguistic school, Bradby demonstrates how the démystification of signifying codes has led in the theater to the abandonment ofmimetic representation, unity, and identification in favor ofa semiotic presentation and an aesthetic of discontinuity and estrangement. Barthes's investigation of the problems of semiology was instrumental to French understanding of Brechtian dramaturgy, since Epic theater depended as much upon scenic writing as textual writing. Barthes's intense admiration of Brecht—"a Marxist who has reflected on the function of signs"—underscores the manifest rapport between critical methodology, ideology, and aesthetics. If Bradby's study has a shortcoming, it is the inconsistency with which he addresses the relationship prevailing between critical theory and theater practice , particularly in his newly added chapter devoted to the eighties. While Bradby cites early in the book Terry Eagleton's argument that poststructuralism emerged as a reaction to the political disillusionment of 1968...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 410-411
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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