Discourse as Performance

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One of the first books to apply contemporary linguistic and semiotic research to drama, Discourse as Performance is an investigation into theatrical discourse - the specifically theatrical use of language in the broadest sense, from verbal utterance to non verbal uses comprising the visual elements of gesture, facial expression, movement, costume, players' bodies, properties, and decor. The book is in three parts. In the first part, the author deals with theatrical discourse proper and distinguishes between its two main modes: dialogue and stage directions. Both modes address the problem of the specificity of theatrical discourse in contrast to other types of discourse, both literary and non-literary. The dialogue raises the questions of who speaks in a play (author, characters, actors) and to whom; the stage directions raise the question of reading a play, as opposed to seeing it performed onstage. The author links these issues to speech act theory and intertextuality. The second part, with its focus on space and discourse, examines the context of dramatic discourse and hence the various constraints - spatial, topographical, or political - that shape the meaning of utterances on stage. It thus offers a detailed discussion of the types of theatrical space, together with an analysis of the tensions and interplay between them in many major contemporary plays. In contrast, the third part shows how comic discourse in the theater, as opposed to the other modes of theatrical discourse, manages to free itself from these constraints. The author studies the referential status of comic discourse and the ways it violates normal relations between sign and referent and within the sign between signifier and signified. Believing that empirical analysis ought to look further than fragments cited in support of theoretical hypotheses, the author supports his claims with detailed analyses of complete plays by Beckett, Genet, Ionesco, Jarry, Satre, Labiche, Tardieu, Stoppard, and Pinter.