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Dionysus Writes

Dionysus Writes
Your Price: $25.50 CDN
Author: Jennifer Wise
Publisher: Cornell University Press
# of Pages: 269
Pub. Date: 2000
ISBN-10: 0801486939
ISBN-13: 9780801486937

About the Book:

What is the nature of theatre's uneasy alliance with literature? Should theatre be viewed as a preliterate, ritualistic phenomenon that can only be compromised by writing? Or should theatre be grouped with other literary arts as essentially "textual," with even physical performance subsumed under the aegis of textuality? Jennifer Wise, a theatre historian and drama theorist who is also an actor, director, and designer, responds with a challenging and convincing reconstruction of the historical context from which Western theatre first emerged.

Wise believes that a comparison of the performance style of oral epic with that of drama as it emerged in sixth-century Greece shows the extent to which theatre was influenced by literate activities relatively new to the ancient world. These activities, foreign to Homer yet familiar to Aeschylus and his contemporaries, included the use of the alphabet, the teaching of texts in schools, the public inscription of laws, the sending and receiving of letters, the exchange of city coinage, and the making of lists. Having changed the way cultural material was processed and transmitted, the technology of writing also led to innovations in the way stories were told, and Wise contends that theatre was the result. However, the art of drama appeared in ancient Greece not only as a beneficiary of literacy but also in defiance of any tendency to see textuality as an end in itself.

What people say:

"Wise argues that the rise of drama in classical Athens depended on literacy. True, drama is enacted rather than read; nevertheless, she contends, performance of a script differs fundamentally from ordinary speech: the distance between the actor and the character played corresponds to the space between the written sign and what is signified. Jennifer Wise draws from a wide variety of modern studies (in English), which she summarizes elegantly... [This] book says much that is interesting concerning the role of writing in Greece." — Choice

"This book offers impressive arguments for the fundamental dependence of Greek drama upon alphabetical literacy. Wise's claims about the relationship between writing and the origins, generic features, and social function of theatre are persuasive and well made. Dionysus Writes will interest scholars and theatre professionals of many stripes." — Geoff Bakewell, Creighton University

About the Author:

Jennifer Wise is a Canadian playwright and Associate Professor of theatre history at the University of Victoria, specializing in opera, acting theories, theatre criticism, the Enlightenment, ancient Athens, philosophy and aesthetics.