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386 Comparative Drama the subject. I won’t go into the probable distortions involved in that image. But its effect on Dillon’s reading of the plays is clear. They be­ come statements, even polemics: “King Lear displays its medieval roots . . . in its assertion that society is necessary not only for life in terms of survival, but for life in terms of fullness, happiness and spiritual fulfil­ ment. . . . The play affirms the absolute nature of certain social and divine laws” (pp. 127-29). I have criticized Dillon for not attending enough to scenes dramatizing solitude, but when she does so, the scene becomes “emblematic” in the service of the play’s lesson (p. 136). The full experience of solitariness that might be impressed upon us by these plays recedes as their lessons are enforced. And a Shakespeare who is so patently instructive seems to teach us less rather than more. ROBERT C. JONES The Ohio State University Russian Dramatic Theory from Pushkin to the Symbolists. Trans, and ed. by Laurence Senelick. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981. Pp. lv + 336. $35.00. There are at least three good reasons for adding Laurence Senelick’s critical anthology to any serious theatre library: its lively, forty-page historical overview of Russian critical literature on drama and theatre; its carefully-rendered English translations of seventeen seminal essays by fourteen different writers; and its extensive notes, which often make for interesting reading in their own right. The editor-translator squarely con­ fronts the often ungrateful scholarly task of providing access to important but hitherto unavailable works of dramatic theory. Most of the essays had not previously been published in English, and some are not readily obtainable even in Russian. Laurence Senelick’s witty Introduction begins with a summary of the “pre-history” of his subject, from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, a period during which “there was no Russian drama outside of folk plays (beneath criticism), church tropes (above criticism), and court spectacles (beyond criticism).” Senelick then relates the authors of his selections to such developments as foreign fads like melodrama and vaudeville, the debate between classical and romantic acting, the influence of Nietzsche, the opposition of Slavophiles and Westernizers, and the symbolist-provoked “Crisis of the Theatre”; and he sketches in the contributions of theorists not represented in the anthology section. The pieces included there are as diverse as Nikolay Gogol’s hilarious social commentary in play form, A Theatre Lets Out After the Perform­ ance of a New Comedy, and Vyacheslav Ivanov’s philosophical treatise on Dionysian drama, “The Essence of Tragedy.” Senelick’s English is remarkably flexible as it captures nuances of the individual styles of Russian writers. An example from Gogol’s “Petersburg Notes for 1836” illustrates this sensitivity: “Everyone on the road, nobility and mobility alike, speeds to the song of the coachman.” It requires a poet’s ear to render Gogol’s “dvoryanstvo i nedvoryanstvo” (gentry and non-gentry) as “nobility and mobility,” and the Gogolesque choice of the archaic Reviews 387 “mobility” for “mob” also evokes the sense of movement and the sug­ gestion of social interdependence that Gogol injected into the paragraph. Russian Dramatic Theory from Pushkin to the Symbolists purposely excludes well-known and widely available texts from its anthology, so the characteristic Russian artistic orientation toward realism is eclipsed in this book by the case for theatrical stylization presented in essays such as Valery Bryusov’s “Realism and Convention on the Stage.” Indeed, the book is heavily weighted toward the symbolist end of the spectrum; over half of the selections are dated between 1904 and 1914. Andrey Bely’s article on The Cherry Orchard compares Chekhov’s symbolism to Maeter­ linck’s, and Innokenty Annensky’s “Drama at the Lower Depths” treats Gorky as a symbolist! Maeterlinck’s influence for better or for worse is touched upon by Aleksandr Blok in his far-ranging essay “On Drama,” by Nikolay Evreinov in his “Introduction to Monodrama,” and by Leonid Andreyev in his “Second Letter on the Theatre.” Andreyev, whose piece caps off the collection, calls for a new, post-Chekhovian psychological drama and deals thus with the Belgian: Watching Maeterlinck is exactly the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 386-387
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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