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The Rhetoric of Theory: the Role of Metaphor in Brook's ‘The Empty Space’

  • Graham Ley


In his discussion-piece for NTQ 28 (1991), Graham Ley raised questions about the self-determination of the avant-garde, drawing on analogies from dance and design to explore the problem of the post-modern in the theatre. He also outlined a critique of what he called an ‘alternative establishment in theatrical endeavour’: here, he extends that critique into an analysis of the techniques of persuasion to be found in one of the most influential texts in post-war theatrical theory, Peter Brook's The Empty Space, arguing for an enhanced attention to be given to the language and textuality of theory. Graham Ley is a writer and researcher who has taught in the Universities of London and Auckland. As Australian Studies Fellow in Theatre at the University of New South Wales in 1984, he compiled jointly with Peter Fitzpatrick of Monash University the survey of new developments in Australian theatre published in NTQ5 (1986). Among his numerous publications on ancient performance, A Short Introduction to the Ancient Greek Theater appeared from the University of Chicago Press in 1991. He is currently working on a book on theatrical theory.



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Notes and References

1. I refer fairly directly here to deconstruction, which – despite its influence on most forms of literary criticism – has had very little impact on the variety of discourses in theatrical and performance theory. The key texts for me are Derrida, Jacques, Of Grammatology, trans. Spivak, Gayatri (Baltimore, 1977), and de Man, Paul, Allegories of Reading (New Haven, 1979).

2. ‘Sacred Idiocy: the Avant-Garde as Alternative Establishment’, New Theatre Quarterly, VII, No. 28 (1991), p. 348–52.

3. All page references to The Empty Space are to the Pelican Books edition.

4. Not, however, unique: the metaphor of search and movement presides over the recent collection of occasional writings by , Brook, published as The Shifting Point: Forty Years of Theatrical Exploration, 1946–1987 (London, 1988).

The Rhetoric of Theory: the Role of Metaphor in Brook's ‘The Empty Space’

  • Graham Ley


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