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Strindberg before annihilation: Reading the Chamber Plays as dramatic texts
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Language, Literature and Intercultural Studies. (KuFo)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6170-0666
2017 (English)In: TijdSchrift voor Skandinavistiek, ISSN 0168-2148, E-ISSN 1875-9505, Vol. 35, no 1, 48-55 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Literary scholars are sometimes reprimanded for reading plays as literary texts rather thantexts intended for the stage. To avoid a purely textual approach, it is often argued that youshould always “visualize” the action as if it took place on the “theater of the mind”. In thisarticle, I suggest that such a hermeneutics of “mind-staging” is misleading. Referencingtheater semiotics and the phenomenological theory of reading of Wolfgang Iser, I argue thatsuch a practice will close the radical openness of the dramatic text, by eliminating its definingindeterminacies. If performance “annihilates” the text by becoming a theatrical event (assuggested by theater semiotics), this will, nevertheless, result in a view of the text aspreceding and enduring outside of performance. Thus, the argument from theater semioticswill also come to motivate a purely textual approach to the play as a literary work.The argument is illustrated with examples from the Chamber Plays of AugustStrindberg. Building on scholars noting his “carelessness” as a playwright, I argue that areading trying to visualize the action will encounter several hermeneutical pseudo-problemsrelevant to the producer of the play but irrelevant to the reader. My first example concerns thesequential distribution of the setting in The Pelican: whereas the reader will experience itsspace as a desolate wasteland (fitting to the theme of the play), the producer, forced tovisualize it all at once, will rather experience it as cluttered. My second example concerns thestrange dialogue in The Ghost Sonata: whereas the literary reader may settle with an analyticdescription of its weird poetics, the producer must try to make new meaningful coherency outof this very weirdness. The third example regards an authorial mistake in The Storm, whichbecomes a puzzle the producer must solve, although it remains unsolvable for the reader.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
University of Groningen Press , 2017. Vol. 35, no 1, 48-55 p.
Keyword [en]
August Strindberg, The Pelican, The Ghost Sonata, Chamber Play, theatre semiotics, performance studies
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Comparative Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-57086OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-57086DiVA: diva2:1121512
Available from: 2017-07-11 Created: 2017-07-11 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved

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