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valid and necessary today as one hundred years ago. His new book constitutes both a defense and a development of this thesis. The first four chapters explain the notion of "supertext" and rebut claims of several competing schools of Ibsen criticism. The remaining chapters are dose readings, some previously published, of five plays in the Cycle. The "supertext" of the title refers to the cultural code from which an artist draws signs and adds resonance to their meanings. Johnston does not consider a major artist to be "spoken by" a time period but to enter its predominant discourse decisively. For the greatest artists, this supertext forms a spider-web composed of "circumferences of implication" in which "any significant action involves all the layers simultaneously." Ibsen's supertext involved, at its core, the attempt to reconcile Hellenism and Christianity in what Ibsen called a "third empire of the spirit." Johnston sometimes assumes that not only fellow scholars, but the common reader as well, share his familiarity with Ibsen: in a discussion of Rosmersholm he suggests it "is likely that many in the audience will ... pick up the link with EmperorandGalilean," a play nearly unknown to all but Ibsen specialists. He also occasionally falls prey to asserting, rather than demonstrating, his subject's strengths. His reading of the plays, however, shows a marvelous awareness of their sensuality as textsfor performance. Designers will particularly gain from his explanations of Ibsen's stage space. Johnston's work has the same potential for revitalizing Ibsen as Jan Kott's had for Shakespeare. For its analyses of subtext and supertext and its connotations for the function of art in a despiritualized age, Text and Supertext should be required reading for anyone involved in making theatre. Walter Bilderback Plays by Women: An InternationalAnthology Ubu Repertory Theater Publications; 249 pp.; $15.95 (paper) "Weep, Jocasta/Today it seems so easy to speak, to weep/Perhaps because they are the same thing." So says Michele Fabien's latter-day Jocasta, invoking the solitude and silence which recur throughout all five plays in this new anthology. All are written by women from Frenchspeaking sovereignities or colonies past and present: Guadeloupe, Algeria, Quebec, Belgium, and France itself. And all portray individual, agonized experiences of "otherness," of being a stranger in a strange land or in your own. Beyond these common concerns, the plays are also bound by texture and tone. Even in the most conventional, melodramatic among them (Gallaire166 Bourega's You Have Come Back and Farhoud's The GirlsFrom the Five and Ten) traditional dialogue is gradually superseded by a terrifying escalation of ritualized action. Gestures, settings, physical details become part of alternative languages with a significance verbal approximations can never have. What emerges is a desperate fight to articulate one's experience. Denise Bonal echoes Chekhov and Fornes in A Picture Perfect Sky, a play which binds three sisters, their husbands, and an aging mother in meditative conversation about the ambiguities of family responsibility. Abla Farhoud focuses on the virtual enslavement of two emigre sisters to their parents' five-and-ten store. Fatima Gallaire-Bourega details the return of a Westernized Muslim princess to her homeland, where she is beaten to death by orthodox women under the guiding eye of their male elders. And Simone Schwarz-Bart fills Your Handsome Captainwith a Guadeloupean woman's disembodied voice, heard on the tapes she sends to her husband working in Haiti. But the most extraordinary is Fabien's monologue Jocasta, the shattered memoirs of this fallen queen. In a dialogue with herself Jocasta explores notions of marginalized identity and dramatic absence. Both a corporeal stage character and a voice speaking from the dead, she is free to analyze the meaning of her body: symbol and source of Sophocles's drama, and its most ignored sacrifice. This small volume is weakened only by its almost complete lack of editorial commentary. The context provided is generic and bland: "The visions are unique, but the concerns are universal," write Catherine Temerson and Frangoise Kourilsky; and George C. White lukewarmly congratulates an effort that "could not be more important or timely ... a key element of cultural exchange." I would have liked to know more about...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1537-9477
Print ISSN
1520-281X
Pages
pp. 166-168
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Open Access
No
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