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530 Book Reviews whole argument, as she applies this "vision" retrospectively to "all Pinter's work" ("it was lodged there from the begiIUling") and to "much current drama and film" (xxviii). Prentice's critical approach and vocabulary. redolent of the 60S and 70s, create a nostalgic time warp. She repeatedly refers to "Kant's three choices in life" - "attitude, intention, and action" (liv); to Aristotle's "classic definitions" of "friendship" and "love" - a "driving force toward justice.....,(7); and to the "tension" between "Eros" and "Thanatos" (278, 285. 317). Reverberations of past literature (including his own) detected in Pinter's work by other critics suggest such philosophic, humanistic, and mythic resonances. When Prentice updates this language, comparing the complex structures of Pinter's plays more fashionably to "fractal geometry" from "chaos theory " (4-6, 155-56), she mistakenly calls the mathematical measure of complexity "logarithms" (5) instead of "algorithms" ("precisely defined, step-by-step computational procedure[s] that [are] not ambiguous" - A.B. <;ambel, Applied Chaos 'Theory: A Paradigm for Complexity (Boston: Academic Press, 1993] 35-37). She insists: "Never, throughout the whole of Pinter's work, does the conflict expressed through the fractal geometry become repetitive or assume a merely mechanical form" (169). Her references to Pinter' s "fractals" and "fractal geometry" become both, cumulatively obfuscating more than they illuminate. The Pinter Ethic contains many other errors. Throughout the book Prentice grossly distorts the critical record and biographical details relating to both Pinter (e.g., 82, 83nl, 86, 353) and his critics (e.g., 42n2, 122, 149nr&3). She misspells the names of characters and actors (e.g., Hirst [143], Ernestina [225-26]; Nicolas (277]; Michael Hordern [I 16], Paul Rogers [356]). The 1982 American premiere of The Hothouse was not "at Provincetown" (Ixix) but in Providence. Prentice confuses illusive with elusive (161) and allusion with illusion (163); and substitutes genii (plural) for genie (singular) or genius (xxvi, 361). In The Pinter Ethic Prentice's critical practice frequently abrogates her own ubiquitous warnings about Pinter's "ambiguities," the "tragic flaw" of"hubris," "self-knowledge as a basis for all ethical action," "compassion" for others, and the "destructive" consequences of"the drive to dominate." Though she occasionally sprinkles some references to "postmodemism" (xvii), Foucault (xxixn2), and "deconstructing" (41), her critical strategy might benefit from a finn grasp of contemporary critical theory. Critical, logical, scholarly, and stylistic lapses, along with length and cost, limit this book's appeal. SUSAN HOLLIS MERRITT, CORNEll. UNIVERSITY LYNDA HART and PEGGY PHELAN, eds. Acting Out: Feminist Performances. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1993. Pp. 406, illustrated. $49.50; $18.95 (PB). In their separate introductions, the two editors define the type of "feminist perfor- . mance" to be discussed in this volume. Hart stresses both the principle of heterogeneity·of perfonnance traditions, as opposed to a canonical feminist theater, and a "desire to Book Reviews 531 displace the dominance of text-based work in theater studies, to value the ephemerality of perfonnance" (4). This is also "not a book that pretends to retrieve a past in feminist perfonnance" (6), although some of the essays document the work of feminist performance collectives, but rather such contributions are conceived as "strategical interventions in the discourse of performance studies" (6). Both Hart and Phelan are ultimately concerned with the positionality of feminist performance in an increasingly hostile political environment and they both ask whelher greater visibility (acting Qut, acting up, coming out) is the best strategy to resist the New Right's agenda. Many of the essays in this book are thus contexlualized in a critical examination of visibility politics with the injunction to rethink Audre Lorde's dictate that "master's tools will never dismantle the master's house" (I I). That is, as Phelan argues, it may no longer be enough for feminist criticism that "various sightings of feminist appearances" be recorded for posterity in order to ensure "visibility for women in the specular economy" but rather that a combination of old and new "tools" provide us with Ii different way of reading appearance itself (24). Ultimately, the editors question the premise of a disruptive utopian promise in feminist perlormance and challenge readers to confront the production of reality and the reproduction of visibility in the present. The anthology consists of nineteen essays (in addition to the two introductory pieces), which are divided into three major categories: Politics of Identities, Perlorming Histories. and The Reproduction of Visibility. Some of the contributions are revised versions of previously published material (Carr, Petrarka. Dolan, Diamond. Phelan), but most of the essays were written for this volume with an awareness of its conceptual framework. In their selection, the editors have included discussions of both theatrical performance (site: the perlonning body) and the discursive perlormative (site: language and the codes of textuality), and they have striven for diversity in terms of racial, national. and sexual identity. Therefore, the anthology represents a broad cross-section of writing on the production and reception of feminist performance. Eight essays are devoted to the perfonnance work of a single artist or author (e.g., AlUla Devere Smith, Holly Hughes, Cherne Moraga, Karen Finley, Robbie McCauley, Zora Neal Hurston, MadoMa); five provide the performing histories of women's performance groups in Britain and the US (e.g., Monstrous Regiment, Siren Theatre Company , Women's Experimental Theatre, Split Britches, Spiderwoman); two examine lesbian performance/theory (Hart, Harris); and the remaining four discuss pornography as the intersection of feminist sexual politics and the pOlitics of representation (Dolan), the role of rage in women's stand-up comedy (Auslander). the relationship between mimesis, mimicry, and the "tru-real," and the perlonnative context of Operation Rescue 's interventions at abortion clinics (Phelan). The alternation between the more theoretical and the more historical essays is a productive one, as the fonner provide a discursive context in which the reader can locate the latter. In addlion to this, the previous publication of several theoretical pieces enables a form of intertextuality within the anthology, where the reader can observe the application of some of the theoretical premises (e.g., Phelan on visibility politics, Dolan on pornography, or Diamond on mimeLic representation) or have a more nuanced understanding of performers like 532 Book Reviews Karen Finley or groups like Split Britches when they occur in passing as examples in more general discussions of representation. The overall impact of the volume, assuming one reads most or all of the essays and doesn'1 just approach it for critical material on a specific performer or topic, is that the reader is forced to rethink certain categories of representation that might appear as given. The essays encourage us to question our assumption of a public - versus - private sphere or the nature of mimesis; to explore the juncture of visibility and gender in a political context; to debate the pros and cons of lesbian visibility; and to experiment with the consequences of altering the assumed sexuality of the audience. The essays contained in this volume are both informative and provocative. Reading them as a group and pursuing some of the questions the authors raise has changed both the way I will approach performance in general and the way in which I will teach more traditional drama courses. SUSAN L. COCALIS, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETIS, AMHERST 'IHEOOORE SHANK, ed. Contemporary British Theatre. BaSingstoke & London: Mac~ millan Press 1994. Pp. xi, 243, illustrated. £40.00. "Theatre" is a genuine keyword in this title. The focus, says'the editor, is on the work of artists who are creating "unique forms of theatre" in Britain today. "Artists" is freely interpreted by the essayists to take in those who present performance as well as practitioners . They are oflen the same thing, of course, in the world of experimental theatre, as Philip Prowse spectacularly demonstrates at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre by being designer/director/co-manager in one. Several contributors are practitioners too. Theodore Shank is playwright and director ; and latinda Verma's positio~ as Artistic Director of Tara Arts enables him to write with warmth, as well as cogently, on the "cultural transformations" effected by this company (successfully, as anyone will agree, who saw their wittily exotic Tartuffe). Another writer/director, Tim EtcheLls, draws on his experience with the Sheffieldbased Forced Entertainment Theatre Co-operative, a group committed to bold mixes of the arts. Their idea of "continual flux" and of performers as "ideal schizophrenics" recurs in various forms in other essays. Theatre into dance, art-college surrealism, environmental theatre: the breaking of boundaries is a major theme. The fascination with multiplicity which distinguishes the volume means that small attention is paid to actors as individuals. They figure more often as anonymous elements in a group, being "sculpted" by a director/designer. Howard Barker owes his status among the contributors in part to the fact that a group of actors, The Wrestling School, is austerely dedicated to his work (Tony Dunn sees this as a sign of the power in Barker's dense theatre language and his courageous battle against received ideas). Named actors figure rarely, usually in company with directors. AlUla Massey explains her differences with Bond when he directed her in Summer, Fiona Shaw gets notice through Deborah Warner, a director who regularly sparks off controversy. ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 530-532
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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