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W. B. Yeats began writing about the theatre in the mid-1890s, after a trip to Paris where he first saw French symbolist theatre. From the time that the Irish Literary Theatre (later the Abbey) began producing his plays in the early 1900s, Yeats was regularly, and vigorously writing about theatre, with key essays appearing in the little magazines Samhain and Beltaine. From about 1910 onwards, his writing about theatre becomes more meditative, more concerned with his occult interests, and for a period focused on his interest in Japanese Nō theatre. Collectively, Yeats’s fugitive writings for the theatre constitutes an organum for the theatre, which is consistent across more than forty years, and which stands among the most significant contributions to modernist reconceptualisations of theatre.
Figurines made of wood, bone, amber, clay and lithics are occasionally discovered in prehistoric contexts in Fennoscandia, but the discovery, in 2020, of a unique wooden snake figurine during the excavations of a Neolithic wetland site in Finland broadens our understanding of the worldview of northern peoples 4400 years ago.
Ibsen, more than any other playwright, established realism as a vital mode in the theatre. The nature of Ibsen’s realism, however, warrants careful description. Realism for Ibsen is simultaneously a theatrical technique and a philosophical stance. We find realism at work in Ibsen’s dialogue, scenery and characterization, as well as in the plays’ relentless critique of bourgeois ideals. Ibsen was not the first realist dramatist, but he remains its most influential practitioner. This legacy is somewhat ironic, given the disturbing surreality that leeches through the realist surface of his plays. And yet, the spark of recognition the plays continue to ignite bears witness to realism’s effectiveness, as audiences continue to find themselves represented, in all their faults, in his towering dramas.
This chapter explores what was distinctive about the French response to Ibsen. It discusses key points and examples that illustrate Ibsen’s complex relationship to France and French history, politics, and culture, and how Ibsen and French culture have subtly influenced one another for nearly 150 years. To Ibsen, France stood for revolutionary idealism. The chapter gives an overview of Ibsen’s breakthrough in France in a succession of modes, from realist to naturalist to symbolist, and discusses the theatrical and cultural contexts that shaped the translations, productions and reception of his plays. Examples of specific productions reveal there was another side to the French Ibsen, as he was often adapted to the boulevard theatres in ways that radically altered the plays, for instance by dampening their feminism.
The Introduction sets out the aims and methods of the book. It outlines how the literary-critical approach adopted differs from the predominately philosophical interests of existing scholarship on these texts. A key distinction is the focus on the emotional experiences of audiences rather than narrowly defined argumentative content. The treatment of Archaic verse as literature is defended against the charge of anachronism: some have argued that early Greek verse differs essentially from later literature in that it was valued primarily for its purported truthfulness, but the ‘truth’ of Archaic Greek poetry seems to go far beyond mere factual accuracy, encompassing symbolic and emotional truths that are also hallmarks of later conceptions of the literary. Furthermore, the modern perspectival theory of literary truth espoused by many theorists articulates a concept that is already implicit in the emphasis on the visual quality of verse found in Homer and ancient criticism. It will be argued that Xenophanes, Parmenides and Empedocles use verse in conformity with a poetics of truth in this expanded sense. Finally, this chapter explains how the book will use the surviving fragments of these authors as a source for ideas about the nature and function of poetry.
Some critics polarize Joyce and Yeats by invoking the Irish Literary Revival. This practice, which can seem unduly based on sectarian divisions, the politics of post-1916 Ireland, and the retrospective formulation of ‘Modernism’, fails to address adequately Yeats’s and Joyce’s common origins in the Aesthetic and Symbolist ethos of the 1890s, their common dedication to ‘the religion of art’. Yeats’s profound influence on Joyce attaches Joyce to the Revival, as does the struggle between different brands of cultural nationalism as represented by Joyce in Stephen Hero and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Walter Pater was fundamentally important to the aesthetics of both Yeats and Joyce; the Paterian ‘epiphany’ as a symbolic structure bridges their poetry and prose; and Charles Stewart Parnell, who can assume qualities of Pater’s ‘artist-hero’, complements Pater in his importance to both: to their dialectics between art and history. The chapter ends with a discussion of some startling thematic overlaps c. 1914 between Yeats’s Responsibilities and Joyce’s Portrait.
Stravinsky was a composer frequently given to announcing music’s independence from the other arts – in particular, its independence from literature. ‘In general’, he wrote in a well-known screed of 1924, ‘I consider that music is only able to solve musical problems; and nothing else, neither the literary nor the picturesque, can be in music of any real interest.’1 Almost forty years later he still defined music in anti-literary terms, asserting (in an article for the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League, of all things): ‘The language of music is a special language; it is not the same as the language of literature.’2
This chapter addresses aspects of the trans-cultural or merging process at play in Kurosawa’s three Shakespeare adaptations Kumonosu-j / Macbeth (1957), The Bad Sleep Well / Hamlet (1960) and Ran / King Lear (1985) in terms of narrative and thematic parallels, correspondences from local models to Shakespearean ones and symbolic collusions. For each film, the mode of representation is suggestive rather than literal. The play-film dialectical effects never produce the same pessimistic discourse as in the model text, but one essentially of the same nature and depth. Narrative shifts, radical dialogues transformations allow the necessary adjustments and seamless coalescence between Japanese cultural contexts and Shakespeare worlds. Thematic parallels highlight similar circular, tragic patterns. Various techniques and aesthetics (Noh, painterly effects) blend with the sheer cinematic to depict a dark human saga in realistic worlds verging on symbolism.
Spanish American writers’ engagement with Decadence in the fin de siècle entailed a careful negotiation of ideas about their own region’s future and its historical evolution within the Western world. Their position regarding Decadence repeatedly turns to a discussion of the New World’s geopolitical and artistic position, keeping an eye on Spain’s decline in the global landscape of the fin de siècle. To illustrate these transatlantic negotiations, Blanco engages with the writing of several Spanish figures from the fin de siècle who dealt with Decadence’s controversial arrival in Spanish America. A central figure in this discussion is the Nicaraguan writer Rubén Darío, spin doctor of modernismo and a principal recipient of the ‘Decadent’ label throughout the 1890s and beyond. A writer who moved across different urban centres from Spanish America to Europe, Darío was a prime theorist of new literary developments in the region. As Blanco argues, while modernismo took in Decadence’s poetic energy as well as its diverse artistic work ethic, it had to become something else to breathe new life in Spanish American letters.
It is difficult to identify Decadent art in the same manner one can identify Decadent poetry or a Decadent novel. This chapter argues that late nineteenth-century neoclassical British, French Symbolist and Decadent painting were neglected by art historians of the first half of the twentieth century, disparaged for their lack of formal innovation, with their Decadent subject matter – in particular its investment in violence and eroticism – largely neglected. Painters such as Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton were acceptable to a late Victorian art public because their depictions of violent death and sexual dissidence were anchored in the classical past and myth. The nude, when linked to religion, still had the capacity to outrage Victorians, as did artists like Félicien Rops, whose darker, less idealized depiction of sensuality marked them as Decadent. These anxieties came together in responses to depictions of Salome, the ultimate Decadent femme fatale.
‘Decadent theatre’ is not an established genre within British theatre studies. Barring Wilde’s Salomé, Maeterlinck’s Symbolist theatre had little impact on the British stage, though it strongly influenced the Irish theatre. Frequently applied to Ibsen as a term of abuse, ‘Decadent’ denoted plays that challenged social and moral conventions. Sensuality and sexual temptation became a staple within purportedly moral plays, and ‘fallen woman plays’ like Bella Donna (1911) and ‘toga dramas’ like The Sign of the Cross (1894–5) made box office gold. British avant-garde theatre was shaped by Bernard Shaw, who blended realism and theatrical extravagance into an alternative form of Decadent theatre. Shavian realism and social critique were key to the development of the British theatrical avant-garde, and ‘Decadent’ theatre thus took on different forms from on the Continent. The verbally extravagant, self-consciously theatrical comedies of Oscar Wilde produced one brand, whose legacy was the poised black comedies of Noël Coward and Joe Orton. Elizabeth Robins and Florence Bell, by contrast, pushed unrepentant realism to the point of awakening critics’ lurid imaginations.
Based on the inductive analysis of the previous chapters of the book, the conclusion provides closing remarks on the historical, political, social, religious and symbolic meanings of the practice of self-coronation among medieval kings, using a long-term approach. From a political point of view, self-coronations are proofs of the activation of individual agency rather than the stability of established structures in the Middle Ages. This ritual demystifies certain anthropological tendencies to constrain the rites to the boundaries of their particular context or to fix them in an essentialist symbolic meaning. From a social perspective, medieval self-coronations pushed for collective innovation and dynamism. These rituals were in a perpetual state of flux, confirming anthropologists’ belief that ritual symbols are not static, absolute objectifications, but social and cultural systems, gathering meaning over time and altering in form. This contextualised approach to the seminal concept of the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’ requires us to revise a vision of the past altered by the lens of the modern nation-state and modern rationalism. Some of its qualities may be projected onto the present. The king’s skill in avoiding ecclesiastical mediation may help to explain the frontiers and limits between the temporal and spiritual, between politics and religion, which is essential for the stability of modern societies. In the end, the analysis and interpretation of self-coronations lead us to debunk the myth or grand narrative of the process of secularisation.
Did Neanderthals have language, and if so, what was it like? Scientists agree overall that the behaviour and cognition of Neanderthals resemble that of early modern humans in important ways. However, the existence and nature of Neanderthal language remains a controversial topic. The first in-depth treatment of this intriguing subject, this book comes to the unique conclusion that, collective hunting is a better window on Neanderthal language than other behaviours. It argues that Neanderthal hunters employed linguistic signs akin to those of modern language, but lacked complex grammar. Rudolf Botha unpacks and appraises important inferences drawn by researchers working in relevant branches of archaeology and other prehistorical fields, and uses a large range of multidisciplinary literature to bolster his arguments. An important contribution to this lively field, this book will become a landmark book for students and scholars alike, in essence, illuminating Neanderthals' linguistic powers.
During the reign of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II (1894-1917), the advocates of freedom clashed sharply and frequently with the forces of order. The standing of the authorities suffered greatly with the humiliating loss of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. As the war was fought, domestic political unrest was also coming to a head. On “Bloody Sunday” in January 1905 hundreds of workers who had gathered to petition for better conditions and modest political reforms were shot down outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, opening a year of revolutionary protest and strikes. The era’s passionate political life forced writers and artists to confront anew how their art related to politics at home. Some joined the fray with striking works of political satire; others retreated to rarified aesthetics. Young rebellious writers under Maxim Gorky’s lead captivated the public with neo-Realism. Visual artists embraced experimentation; they and a group of writers took up aesthetic Modernism under the twin banners of Symbolism and Decadence. Innovations in music and dance – notably the Ballets Russes – found admirers at home and abroad. Avant-garde artists embraced humor and publicity, in the process introducing Russia to a new melding of art and celebrity.
By the end of the first tumultuous decade of the twentieth century, all sides of Russia’s cultural polygon would distance themselves from the tradition of Realism of prior decades. The center of gravity of Russian high culture would shift to Modernism – and Russia’s writers and artists would establish and defend a new claim to independent positions of authority within the country’s political and social hierarchy. In the immediate period of 1905 and its aftermath, left-leaning illustrators and authors, especially satirists, took aim at the old regime itself, enlisting ghouls, goblins, winged phantoms, and, most of all, the figure of death to mock the tsarist regime that had failed so miserably on several fronts. Other artists and writers, also seeking to rebel against the autocratic and the Orthodox, celebrated and adopted the occult and the Gothic as expressions of their own artistic and personal freedom. The lauded illustrator of Lermontov’s Demon, Mikhail Vrubel, turned the demon into an icon of artistic rebellion. The overt and open political rebellion of cultural figures coupled with the celebration of the Gothic represented a further step in the empowerment of a Russia defined by culture. The Russia of officialdom, in contrast, suffered successive defeats.
The second chapter, “Paris Recognized,” shows that Joyce’s discoveries in Paris shape his subsequent understanding of Dublin life. The chapter traces a series of meetings between Stephen Dedalus and Emma Clery in Stephen Hero and Portrait, culminating in an encounter in the colonnade of the museum library that undoes the transactional relations that mar their earlier encounters. In tracing their relations, the chapter uncovers Joyce’s development of a desublimated and unconscious aesthetic practice. Even though Stephen rehearses Joyce’s earlier aesthetic theory, in the scene in the colonnade he is an artist in a way that has been overlooked. Joyce draws on the synesthesia of Rimbaud’s “Voyelles” to present Stephen and Emma as engaged in a sensory exchange that defies calculation; in their encounter, the Thomistic integritas, consonantia, claritas of the artwork are replaced by a transient expression of physically digested material
The production of abstract engravings is considered an indicator of modern human cognition and a means for the long-term recording and transmission of information. This article reports the discovery of two engraved bones from the Lingjing site in Henan Province, China, dated to 105–125 kya. The carefully engraved nature of the incisions, made on weathered rib fragments, precludes the possibility of unintentional or utilitarian origins. Residue analysis demonstrates the presence of ochre within the incised lines on one specimen. This research provides the first evidence for the deliberate use of ochred engravings for symbolic purposes by East Asian Late Pleistocene hominins.
The distinctive character of Olmec art and culture within the wider Mesoamerican tradition was only fully recognised in the twentieth century. The authenticity and significance of several aspects of Olmec workmanship and imagery, however, remain the subject of debate. Here, the authors report on an incised stone celt (axe) from southern Mexico, which bears imagery relating it to the Middle Preclassic Olmec of the earlier first millennium BC. The image is interpreted as a Mesoamerican maize deity grasping a corn ear fetish. Originally discovered in 1910, its early date makes the object valuable for confirming debated aspects of Olmec art and culture.
Rock art is key for understanding European Palaeolithic societies. Long thought to have been restricted to South-west Europe, recent discoveries on the Balkan Peninsula have expanded significantly the geographic distribution of Upper Palaeolithic figurative rock art, calling into question the idea of its limited distribution. This article presents the first example of figurative cave art discovered in the Balkan region, at Romualdova Pećina (‘Romuald's Cave’) in Croatia, discussing its chronology and relevance in the context of recent research in Pleistocene art.
The date of unique symbolic carvings, from various contexts across north and east Scotland, has been debated for over a century. Excavations at key sites and direct dating of engraved bone artefacts have allowed for a more precise chronology, extending from the third/fourth centuries AD, broadly contemporaneous with other non-vernacular scripts developed beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire, to the ninth century AD. These symbols were probably an elaborate, non-alphabetic writing system, a Pictish response to broader European changes in power and identity during the transition from the Roman Empire to the early medieval period.