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Theatre stylistics: performance, aesthetics, style

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posted on 2023-08-30, 19:41 authored by Nazlihan Yenisehirlioglu
In this research, the concept of style has been problematised as in need of redefinition within the context of theatre studies. In order to do this, existing arguments from rhetoric, aesthetics, linguistics, literature, art and sociology are reviewed. In return, style is argued as increasingly relevant in contemporary theatre due to new aesthetic forms being created by established and emerging artists. This evolution in the world of theatre is seen as a result of the shifting focus from a literary understanding of drama to the theatrical event itself as a performative experience. For the purpose of analysing the stylistic transformations in the theatrical performances of present times, stylistics is proposed as a complementary methodology to existing practices such as semiotics and phenomenology. In spite of originating as an extension of linguistics in the twentieth century, this approach has expanded into several branches over the years, becoming an interdisciplinary field in its own right. While favouring a communicative model in its early stages, stylistics now presents a suitable framework for the analysis of multimodal texts. In theatre studies, its application has mostly been to the written language of the play text because of the unstable nature of staged performances. Therefore, the multiple codes forming the audio-visual performance text have been neglected from a stylistics perspective, leaving a gap in the theory of contemporary theatre and in the practice of analysis. The performance text is presented as a multimodal system of artistic communication. The interaction among the individual stage languages in their multiple modalities becomes realised through acts of retelling by the makers of the performance and perceived through acts of interpretation by its receivers in cycles of repetition. This cyclical movement in artistic communication surfaces as inherent to the nature of the performance text and it is enhanced further while facilitating the creation of an individual style idiosyncratic to the theatrical performance. The proposal here has been to investigate this process through two case studies: Master and Margarita by Complicite (directed by Simon McBurney) and Einstein on the Beach by Robert Wilson (composed by Philip Glass). The aim is to gain an insight into the conception of style idiosyncratic to each of these productions and to conduct its analysis informed by the principles of stylistics from the perspective of performance.



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