EF's Visit to a Small Planet

EF's Visit to a Small Planet - A chart of Mars Illustration...

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Unformatted text preview: A chart of Mars. Illustration: Sir Robert Stawell Ball E l i n or F u c h s EF ’s Vi s i t t o a S m a l l P l a n e t : S om e Q u e s t i on s t o A s k a P l ay Since its origination as a classroom tool in the early 1990s, Elinor Fuchs’s essay has acquired a devoted following, with tattered photocopies circulating in literary o ffi ces and university departments. More recently it has inspired discussions in Internet chat rooms and garnered citations in scholarly journals, despite remaining unavailable to a broad readership. The time has come to publish “EF’s Visit to a Small Planet,” an essay that widens our perception of dramatic worlds. Like good plays, it grows more mean- ingful with each reading. — Editors The following walk through dramatic structure is a teaching tool. For the past several years I have used it at the Yale School of Drama as an entry to Reading Theater, a crit- ical writing course for students in the MFA Dramaturgy Program. The “Questions” below are in part designed to forestall the immediate (and crip- pling) leap to character and normative psychology that underwrites much dramatic criticism. Aside from that corrective bias, the approach o ff ered here is not a “system” intended to replace other approaches to play analysis; I often use it together with Aris- totle’s unparalleled insight into plot structure. Rather, it could be thought of as a tem- plate for the critical imagination. In a fine article on Hedda Gabler , Philip E. Larson described the nature of “a genuine performance criticism.” If criticism “is unwilling to rest content with the eval- uation of ephemera,” he wrote, “[it] must attempt to describe a potential object, one that neither the dramatist, the critics, nor the reader has ever seen, or will see.” 1 These “Questions” are intended to light up some of the dark matter in dramatic worlds, to illuminate the potentialities Larson points to. No matter what answers come, the very act of questioning makes an essential contribution to the enterprise of criticism. — Elinor Fuchs 5 We must make the assumption that in the world of the play there are no accidents. Nothing occurs “by chance,” not even chance. In that case, nothing in the play is without significance. Correspondingly, the play asks us to focus upon it a total awareness, to bring our attention and curiosity without the censorship of selective interpretation, “good taste,” or “correct form.” Before making judgments, we must ask questions. This is the deepest meaning of the idea, often-repeated but little understood, that the study of art shows us how to live. I . Th e Wor l d of t h e P l ay : Fi r s t Th i n g s Fi r s t A play is not a flat work of literature, not a description in poetry of another world, but is in itself another world passing before you in time and space. Language is only one part of this world. Those who think too exclusively in terms of language find it hard to read plays. When you “see” this other world, when you experience its space-timeread plays....
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This note was uploaded on 08/02/2011 for the course TD 301 taught by Professor Dvoskin during the Spring '07 term at University of Texas.

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EF's Visit to a Small Planet - A chart of Mars Illustration...

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