Publication details [#5155]

Glen McGillivray, Sydney. 2009. The discursive formation of theatricality as a critical concept. 17 : 101–114. 14 pp. URL
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The metaphor of theatricality has, in recent years, been recuperated as a key term in the fields of Theatre and Performance Studies. This scholarly “re-valuing” of the term arises, in part, as a reaction to performativity, a term that has achieved a certain discursive dominance in the field. Rather than taking sides in favour of one or the other, in this essay I argue that theatricality is critically formed by this struggle. Historically, theatrical metaphors have been employed in anti-theatricalist discourses to suggest ideas of inauthenticity and deception; most famously, in art critic Michael Fried’s “Art and Objecthood” (1998). Yet, for the European avantgarde, theatricality was the “essence” of theatre. What appears to be a contradiction seems less so when it is understood that “truth” in these instances lies not in what is claimed for theatricality, but in the juxtaposition of it and another term. This essay analyses how the metaphor of theatricality is flexibly applied in the service of particular arguments as either ally or foe. At stake is the assertion of interpretive authority that allows only one interpretation in the struggle for discursive dominance. (Sydney Glen McGillivray)