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as a zone of insight and surprise. The emphasis was on spontaneity, immediacy and doing the impossible. This excellent reference book about the early Judson period contains photographs of dances and a bibliography for further reading. Laurie Lassiter Theory of the Avant-Garde Peter Burger Theory and History of Literature, Volume 4 University of Minnesota Press; 136 pp. (plus 56 pp. foreword); $25.00 (cloth); $10.95 (paper) The Postmodern Condition:A Report on Knowledge Jean-FranSois Lyotard Foreword by Fredric Jameson Theory and History of Literature, Volume 10 University of Minnesota Press; 112 pp. (plus 26 pp. foreword); $19.50 (cloth); $8.95 (paper) These two volumes represent important contributions to the state of "Continental theory" which has caused a radical re-evaluation of philosophy and aesthetics in recent years. One of the problems with this theoretical enterprise has been the fact that these theories remain ethnocentric, with an emphasis on European art and culture as the prima face apex of cultural development. The "postmodern" condition represents an acknowledgement of contingency as a primary factor in discourse, that is, the idea of relativity becomes a pervasive ideological reality. The idea of the work of art as an arbiter of "truth" becomes devalued, as the possibility of alternative points of view is propounded. Of course, this is the result of the theoretical implications of "the avant-garde," as Peter Burger's essay makes clear. The implications for the establishment of "knowledge" have created a crisis in the very nature of discourse, with the attendant possibility of duplicity or deception in any utterance now held in abeyance, resulting in the trauma of cultural relativity. One of the insights gained from a reading of Burger and Lyotard is the difficulties in accepting the potential freedom in the decentralizing of cultural imperatives. If the point of view of Western culture, a rationalist perspective which attempted to emphasize "progress," is subject to continual redefinition , the very nature of "definition" in discourse becomes suspect and must be reconsidered. For this reason, the process of critical inquiry, of thought as a precept, of analytic functioning, becomes one which cannot claim the conclusion of teleology. For this reason, speculative practices, such as philosophy and art, redefine the aims in terms of process, thus the rise in conceptualism in art practice and the emphasis on data processing in 99 analytic fields. Although the postmodern procedures have been the primary mode of continuity in most cultural realms, these volumes help make evident the fact that the theatre remains resistant to the full development of contemporaneity , for such a development would require an intelligent application of the awareness of alternatives. Instead, the theatre remains, by and large, tied to traditions of narrative continuity which inhibit the acknowledgement of contingency and relativity. There is no place in the theatre for an enterprise which would foster uncertainty, for the base of the theatre remains tied to the notion of "entertainment," a notion which has been increasingly under attack in the most serious realms of discourse. The theatre, then, will be mired in the miasma of triviality until the possibility of discourse which is not allied to the pleasure principle is embraced by the practitioners. Theory of the Avant-Garde and The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge are stimulating and provocative; however, in both cases, the actual essay is very short, and the volumes are padded out with lengthy introductory essays (which are quite good, by the way). The exorbitant prices of these volumes make the series as a whole inaccessible to many of the people who might have an interest in such writing. This protest (regarding the economic practices in the current culture) is made in order to acknowledge what Burger calls "the production apparatus" which makes the conditions of our culture a continual reflection of class structure and elitism. Daryl Chin 100 ...


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