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396Comparative Drama present explorations of theater by means of insights borrowed from anthropology, psychology, and sociology, but that difficulty cannot be overcome by a few paragraphs, most of which show the differences rather than the similarities. Though she appends an extensive bibliography of works in Russian, she does not leave the reader with confidence in a solid background in Russian theater history. (On page 20, for example, she seems unaware of the move toward realistic acting from the middle of the nineteenth century.) And her knowledge of Soviet history is very tentative indeed. (Suggesting "a loosening of controls or sensitivity toward Western criticism" hardly shows an understanding of the first thaw after Stalin's death.) I regret to say too that careless proofreading is rampant: there are errors in spelling ("Commelynk" instead of "Crommelynck," "loose" instead of "lose," "parodoxical" instead of "paradoxical," "En entendant Godot" instead of "En attendant Godot"), errors in sentence structure, punctuation, reference, tense sequence, coherence. Diction is imprecise. MARTHA MANHEIM Siena Heights College Carlson, Marvin. Theatre Semiotics: Signs of Life. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. Pp. xviii + 125. $22.50. The introduction to Theatre Semiotics led me to think that here at last was the book to use in teaching a graduate Introduction to Research Studies in Theater. Its individual chapters disappointed me, but I cannot think of another work with a specific focus on theater that summarizes current theoretical interests so aptly. Each of the chapters was conceived as an independent paper, and this is the cause of the frustration I felt. There is a sense of stopping and re-starting, or even that we are being treated to alternative starting points. Each chapter starts with a wonderfully speedy critical review of key concepts—in essence, a highly selective review of the relevant literature —and then moves to an illustrative discussion. The discussions, however, tend not to get very far. For example, a chapter on readerresponse theory emphasizes its applicability to theater audiences but then ends with some comments on the shaping of audience expectations by reviews, posters, and programs rather than seeking to answer the question Carlson raised at the beginning of the chapter, "whether performance in fact 'fills or rejects' the same gaps as Iser suggests a normal reader does, or whether it fills some and leaves others or creates new ones of its own" (p. 11). One feels the restrictions on length of the journal or conference for which the papers were written. The occasional nature of the chapters' origins can obtrude in other ways. Carlson's first chapter opens with a discusssion of what he considers a naive and unhelpful definition of semiotics by E. T. Kirby. This paper was written as a response to an article by Kirby. Doubtless the shortcomings of poor definitions can be instructive, but one wonders whether Carlson would have started in this way if he had set out to write a book on theater semiotics from scratch. All in all, however, this is a useful book. Carlson cogently relates Reviews397 to the theater a great deal of theory whose focus is elsewhere, with a wealth of examples not only from historical but also from contemporary experimental theater. The common thread is audience response and its manipulation, whether by the theater buildings, by the audience's generic expectations, or by elements embedded in the texts themselves such as characters' names. Carlson unwraps concepts from the jargon in which theorists have enfolded them, and when he does borrow a term he is careful to define and discuss it. While most useful to those who seek an introduction to current theoretical directions, it will be a rare reader who does not wish to pursue some of the references which Carlson's alert reading provides and who does not find his thinking clarified by the critical juxtaposition of the work of one theorist with another and of one kind of theory with another. ANTHONY GRAHAM-WHITE University of Illinois at Chicago Sidney Berger. Medieval English Drama: An Annotated Bibliography of Recent Criticism, Garland Medieval Bibliographies, 2. New York: Garland, 1990. Pp. xxii + 500. $67.00. It seems a suitable indication of the youth of the field that the first...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 396-397
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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