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302Comparative Drama "like any other interpenetrating aspect of reality," artists like Cage, Spolin. Chaikin, and the Wooster Group are not diminishing or fleeing the self: The positive desire of artists to participate with their materials rather than use them to express themselves (or even profundities about themselves) can be understood as a way of embracing the world, not of withdrawing from it. Perceivers and makers are intertwined with what they see and make. Neither the self nor that seen is discreet, inviolable, and constant. Contemporary artists do not find this idea depressing. Its exploration has not led them to abandon interest in or feeling for the world. On the contrary, for them the exploration is exciting: it has become not only an aesthetic necessity but a moral and political one as well. (p. 130) Actors and Onlookers is an exceptionally thoughtful, penetrating analysis of contemporary theatrical practice, the aesthetic principles on which it is implicitly based, and the correspondences between these principles and the world view of modern physics. I wish, however, that Schmitt would have extended or broadened her historical context to include pre-Cagean artists whose art embraced a modernist scientific world view and to whom Cage indeed has certain debts. One thinks most immediately of Surrealists like Artaud, but even Monet was in some respects a Cagean precursor. Jack Flann, for example, reviewing an exhibition of Monet's Serial Paintings, acutely observes how they implicitly reflect an aesthetic based on observing, spontaneity, and the non-hierarchical and a view of nature that is "inseparable from the individual temperament that perceives it at a specific time and from a specific place" ("Monet's Way," The New York Review of Books, 17 May 1990, pp. 9-13). But this is a minor criticism in the light of the many critical insights Actors and Onlookers provides. It should be, in my view, required reading for anyone interested in or puzzled by avantgarde theater and the welter of new approaches to and theories about the craft of acting. DANIEL WATERMEIER University of Toledo Gail McMurray Gibson. The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989. Pp. xiv + 252. $34.95. Twenty-five years ago, in an essay titled "The Study of English Medieval Drama," Arthur Brown called for a series of detailed regional studies of medieval drama: "This kind of study will consider the drama of a single locality not so much from the point of view of its resemblances to drama elsewhere, not so much as a single manifestation of the great spirit of religious drama in Europe in the Middle Ages, but rather as a local product, influenced to a great extent by local circumstances, reflecting local conditions and attitudes, produced and performed by local people, often tradesmen, regarded as a local responsibility" (in Franciplegius: Medieval and Linguistic Studies in Honor of Francis Peabody Magoun, Jr. [1965], pp. 269-70). Although the Malone Society and the Records of Early English Reviews303 Drama (REED) project have published many of the local records of dramatic production in English counties over the past three decades, comparatively few scholars have responded to Brown's call for focused studies of play-texts in their regional context. Gail McMurray Gibson's book, then, is pioneering work, a fresh and important interdisciplinary approach to the drama of fifteenth-century East Anglia. Although records elsewhere indicate the thriving of playmaking across provincial England in this period, East Anglia is unique in the diversity and extent of its surviving play-texts. East Anglian theater (as we can surely know it) encompassed biblical plays (notably those of N-town and Norwich), the only two extant saints' plays, all but one of the period's morality plays, and the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. This rich heritage of East Anglia's "golden age" provides the spur for Gibson's exploration of the devotional aesthetic and local patronage that inspired and produced it. Her first chapter clearly and thoughtfully redefines the general terms for her localized study. Challenging prejudices against fifteenth-century culture and spirituality (derived in part from Johan Huizinga's Waning of the Middle Ages), Gibson identifies the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 302-306
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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