Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
This is a book about a small slice of performance: the stage performance of scripted drama. Until fairly recently dramatic performance provided the paradigm of performance analysis; the salutary impact of the massive globalization of performance, and an energetic expansion of scholarly and critical practice in the fields of literary, theatre, and performance studies, have now displaced dramatic theatre as the paradigm of performance. This expansion of our ways of understanding and analyzing performance has had – or should have – critical consequences for our understanding of drama, both as a literary genre and on the stage. Although a corner of drama studies has usually been occupied by “performance criticism” and the stage history of plays, in the past three decades the discussion of dramatic performance has been innovated by the importing of methods from anthropology and ethnography, from the psychoanalytic semiotics of film and media studies, from critical practices derived from phenomenology, from the densely materialist consideration of performance practices in cultural studies, and even from a new attention to the ways the changing character of printed texts changes the material “performance” of writing in history. Disciplinary divisions still have an edge, of course, and the energetic expansion of the field of performance studies has sometimes framed an overly static, even simplistic understanding of dramatic performance. Despite recent enthusiasm for the idea of “performance” in literary studies, there, too, the critical gain promised by “performance” is often tacitly set apart from a sense of the banality of dramatic theatre.