A Beggar’s Art: Scripting Modernity in Japanese Drama, 1900–1930. By M. Cody Poulton. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2010; 296 pp.; illustrations. $56.00 cloth, $29.00 paper.
In the preface, Poulton contends that the relationship between Japanese modernization and the “New Theater” of the early 20th century has not been adequately examined, and this book undertakes this study. He argues that during the Taishō era, most major Japanese writers at least dabbled in the theatre and produced excellent works, even while public estimation of theatre as an art form fell. Poulton locates this contradiction in the tension between drama, theatre, and performance. What he considers the victory of monologic expression over dialogue led to a strong antitheatrical bent in Japan. To support his argument, he structures the remainder of his book as a combination of analytical and historical essays, and English translations of one-act plays. In chapter one, “Meiji Drama Theory before Ibsen,” Poulton traces the evolutions in Japanese theatre during the Meiji era, including the transition of theatre as an oral tradition to a more literary art form; the elevation of the playwright; and a new emphasis on Aristotelian unities, character, and action. Chapter two, “The Rise of Modern Drama, 1909–1924,” examines Ibsen’s influence on Japanese drama and literature. In “After the Quake,” the third chapter, Poulton looks at commercial theatre in Japan after the 1923 earthquake. The one-act plays he includes reflect a variety of styles and subject matter, but all bear markers of this bumpy journey toward modernity.
Movable Pillars: Organizing Dance, 1956–1978. By Katja Kolcio. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2010; 220 pp.; illustrations. $26.95 paper, e-book available.
Kolcio examines the six major dance organizations in the US: The American Dance Guild, Congress on Research in Dance, American Dance Therapy Association, American College Dance Festival Association, Dance Critics Association, and Society of Dance History Scholars. These entities lobbied for federal recognition and created new communities of scholars and dancers, which enabled them to communicate and work together. The book contains excerpts from interviews with 19 people involved in these organizations as founders, members, or supporters. Kolcio argues that the founding of these grassroots organizations reflected a confluence [End Page 181 ] of material conditions, intellectual ideas, and values in the US during this short span of time. By institutionalizing the body as a site of knowing, or what Kolcio calls intelligent bodily practice, these organizations challenged the Cartesian mind/body split that undergirds most disciplines and institutions in this country. In so doing, the groups elevated the field intellectually and artistically. Each section of the book focuses on a different dance organization and contains interview excerpts, historical context, and an analysis of the organization’s impact on the field of dance.
Women on Stage in Early Modern France, 1540–1750. By Victoria Scott. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010; 336 pp. $103.00 cloth, e-book available.
Scott sets out to write a history of French actresses that does not rely on stereotypes, focusing primarily on actresses who lived and worked in Paris between 1540 and 1750. She begins the book by detailing the difficulties in undertaking this work with evidence consisting primarily of anecdotes. Finding the value in anecdotes requires contextualizing them historically, evaluating the people involved and their individual motivations, and determining patterns that ultimately can constitute evidence. In chapter two, she chronicles a history of social attitudes toward actresses, particularly attitudes associating them with prostitution, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome, through Christian antitheatricality, early French law, and Protestantism. Chapter three delves into the lives of actresses before the founding of Paris theatres in 1629 and 1631. In chapters four and five she examines the relationships between actresses and playwrights, and obscurity and celebrity. She concludes in chapters six and seven with a critique of evolving acting styles and approaches to theatre.
— Lindsey Mantoan email@example.com
Georg Büchner: The Major Works. By Georg Büchner. Edited by Matthew Wilson Smith, translated Henry J. Schmidt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012; 412 pp.; illustrations. $16.25 paper.
What sets apart Büchner from other major playwrights of European modernism is, among...