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Reviews 85 Einar Haugen. Ibsen ’s D ram a: A u th o r to A u dien ce. Minneapolis: Uni­ versity of Minnesota Press, 1979. Pp. ix + 185. Hardcover, $15.00; paperback, $6.95. Einar Haugen’s brief study “is based on a series of lectures given in 1978 at Concordia College . . . [and] conceived as an attempt to answer a question that had puzzled me in the years I taught Ibsen. . . . What, exactly, was he communicating” (p. vii)? Perhaps it is best to consider Haugen’s work from this standpoint of introducing English-speaking university students to the complexities of the great nineteenth-century Norwegian playwright; for, on the whole, Haugen offers very little that is new here to Ibsen scholarship, with which his own name has been so closely and critically linked since the early 1930’s. While the language of the book is at times hyperbolic, the informal nature of the discussions and frequent employment of lucidly translated literary and critical texts are in keeping with the classroom environment they were initially in­ tended for. It is undoubtedly because of his own linguistic training and teaching background that Haugen has likewise chosen a linguistic frame­ work in which to organize an otherwise complicated and extensive criticism surrounding Ibsen drama. Haugen’s model derives from a verbal communication scheme de­ veloped by linguist Roman Jakobson (in the latter’s article “Linguistics and Poetics” from 1960, the date omitted in Haugen’s final bibliographic reference). 2 CONTEXT (Topics) 3 CHANNEL (Drama) 1 AUTHOR (Expression) —> MESSAGE —> 6 AUDIENCE (Reception) 4 CODE (Symbolism) 5 FORM (Poetry) Haugen does not attempt any complex analysis of Ibsen’s dramatic structure or an explication of text which might show the priorities or interrelationships of these various elements of communication. Instead, the model provides Haugen with a logical and easily followed organiza­ tional plan for communicating his own ideas about the different angles from which Ibsen’s message has been examined. The first of Haugen’s introductory sections, “A Dramatist for All Seasons,” identifies Ibsen’s primary communicative method as “shock treatment” (p. 4), follows it through key plays, and shows Ibsen’s deliberate attempt to provoke readers and viewing audience with a scandalous message which “chal­ lenged accepted and conventional views and broke taboos on what could be printed in books and spoken on the stage” (p. 4). Together, the six elements of this message form “a model for communication,” the title given the second introductory section concerning the diagram above; subsequently, each element is segregated and discussed separately in the book’s six central chapters. “Not one of the many analysts of Ibsen,” Haugen certifies about this approach, “has explored his work as com­ munication” (p. 14). The idea of Ibsen’s drama as communicating a message is of course not new. Most recently, for example, Wilbur S. Howell, “Literature as an Enterprise in Communication,” in P oetics, R h etoric, an d L o g ic (Ithaca, 1975) refers to Ibsen briefly, and Stein H. Olsen, “The Structure of the Literary Response,” in T h e S tru ctu re o f 86 Comparative Drama L iterary U nderstanding (Cambridge, 1978) details his study of message with textual explications of Ibsen drama, utilizing an interpretative framework very similar to Jakobson’s and Haugen’s. Chapter 1, “Who was Henrik Ibsen,” focuses upon those aspects of Ibsen’s personal life that bear on his expressive function as an author whose attitudes are reflected in what he’s writing. Haugen reveals an important duality in Ibsen’s personality as a struggle between his bour­ geois and bohemian temperaments, and he shows that “Much of the dramatic tension in his work comes from the way in which he dialecti­ cally expressed these two identities in his plays” (p. 36). One paradox of Ibsen’s literary accomplishment, then, becomes the eventual accep­ tance by the same bourgeois society his bohemian ideas initially shocked and outraged. Chapter 2, “Topics of the Times,” examines Ibsen’s familiarity with five major traditions of European life and letters: classicism, romanticism, Christianity, idealism, and realism/naturalism. As the context of reference within Ibsen drama, these traditions appear in the plays in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 85-87
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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