Lyman and Scott, the sociologists who collaborated on The Sociology of the Absurd (1969) have been struck by the amazing...



Lyman and Scott, the sociologists who collaborated on The Sociology of the Absurd (1969) have been struck by the amazing fact that all the world's a stage, an insight they pursue from two directions. The first and longer part of the book examines Shakespeare the sociological observer, who contrived to ""transcend the particular culture and society of his day"" by his prophetic realizations of role alienation (Macbeth), political gamesmanship (Hamlet), erosion of social institutions (Troilus and Cressida), and the triumph of rationalistic bureaucracy over life forces (Antony and Cleopatra). The second part tries to elucidate the ""dramatistic approach to the study of social life"" in terms of psychoanalytic, sociological, and governmental theory, patterns of authority and resistance, and private sexual escape. A tremendous array of material, which might have produced exciting results--but Lyman and Scott achieve only a series of ill-connected and tendentious cliches. Apparently aimed at the general reader, their discussion is full of silly little errors like their recurrent, glaring confusion of the Greek words theoria and theoros (one refers to an abstraction, the other to a person), fumbled Shakespearean grammar, and misconstrued terms (Calvinistic ""justification""). Their interpretations of the plays are original only in the application of modish terms to situations that are perfectly intelligible without them--Rebecca West, in a few paragraphs, says more about ""information games"" and ""exploitation games"" in Hamlet than Lyman and Scott say in twenty pages, without the annoying parochialism of their vocabulary. The second section is only slightly better; it promises all kinds of glimpses into the dynamics of self and society but breaks down into a sequence of sophomoric generalizations about the lonely crowd, role-playing, sterility, stratagems of power. As if this were not enough, the prose style is painfully bad; can anyone really say with a straight face that at unexpected moments of role suspension we ""approach a phenomenological understanding of the dramatic fundament of human existence""? We'll stick with Melville's ""Strike through the mask.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1975


Page Count: -

Publisher: Oxford

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1975