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Book Reviews PostmodernBrecht: A Re-presentation Elizabeth Wright Routledge; 208 pp.; $45.00 (cloth), $13.95 (paper) Elizabeth Wright's Postmodern Brecht: A Re-presentation performs much useful explication. American readers (Wright is a Cambridge lecturer with a Marxist orientation) cannot be reminded enough of the need to understand the political principle of contradictionwhen confronting Brecht. In addition, she summarizes current critical approaches to Brecht ("Is Brecht Dead?"), recaps the Brecht-Benjamin-Lukacs-Adorno alliances and contentions, and shows how these debates are echoed in postmodernism. Her clear one-page introductions to Habermas, Eagleton, and Lyotard will be appreciated by theatre scholars. Yet (perhaps this validates her credentials as a postmodernist) Wright never quite gets past the margins of her subject: how to claim Brecht for postmodernism. In the last forty pages of her short book, Wright takes two approaches to this project. First she identifies the "early Brecht, the Brecht without the Fabel,generally still taken as the anarchistic, nihilistic, undisciplined phaseone Brecht" as a proto-postmodernist. Wright challenges the usual conceptual approaches to Baaland In theJungle of Cities(vitalism, nihilism, anarchism ), and concentrates instead on the plays' formal properties, their "blatantly anti-narrative" stance, their subversions of "our assumptions of stable identity," their "deliberately decentered view of reality." In the Brecht of the early plays, Wright says, "the performative mode appears in159 stead of the denotative mode . . . with the result that accidental meaning subverts any didactic intention." In her final chapter, "The Brechtian Postmodern," Wright claims that Brecht's significance for and in the postmodern theatre cannot be seen in the reverent productions of his interpreters, but appears in the works of other artists. She must discuss, in the words of Andrzej Wirth, a "Brecht reception without Brecht." Thus Wright turns to Pina Bausch and Heiner M~ller. Wright traces Brecht's V-effect (Wright's preferred rendering) in Bausch, but postmodernized, containing "no guide to interpretation" through the programmed text or the self-conscious, political actor. Mfller is presented as a postmodern deconstructor of Brecht, literally, as in the case of Mauser,deconstructingThe Measures Taken; and more globally, as in a Hamletmachine that follows Brecht in resisting theatrical conventions. This resistance, she points out, would also include Brecht's own conventions of resistance-for instance, the unproblematical insertion of the subject into history. Though it has patches of awkward writing, I like Wright's tough, clear, politically-conscious book. (Example of the former: "the aim of this section is to use MUller as a pivot for the issues of what a postmodern political art might look like or does look like, rather than contribute to an assessment of his work as such.") What I would have liked Wright to help me see, however, is whether and how Brecht's standard oeuvre, the later plays, might be re-imagined in a postmodern context. Wright excuses herself from this task on the double ground that that work is resolutely modernist, and that Brecht production is mired inconservatism. But theorists don't have to wait for directors to show the way. Is no new act of imagination possible? To begin with, Wright should look at Elin Diamond's brilliant "Brechtian Theory/Feminist Theory: Toward a Gestic Feminist Criticism," (TDR, Spring, 1988), published too recently to have influenced Wright's thinking. ElinorFuchs Russian andSoviet Theater 1905-1932 Konstantin Rudnitsky Harry N. Abrams; 320 pp.; $75.00 (cloth) There is a curious difference between the British and American editions of this book, which are otherwise, except for their jackets, identical. While the American edition follows the title with dates, the British opts for a subtitle : "Tradition and the Avant Garde." Perhaps Abrams thought the British subtitle offputting, but it accurately describes the book's double vision , its concern with both the continuation of the older theatre and the in160 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 159-160
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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