THE MAKING OF MODERN DRAMA: A Study of Buchner, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett, Handke by Richard Gilman

THE MAKING OF MODERN DRAMA: A Study of Buchner, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett, Handke

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Professor Gilman's excellent short study of dramatists from Buchner to Handke is appropriately about the imaginative processes, the shifts and stresses of modern consciousness, the ""mysterious changes and sudden leaps,"" which connect the theatre to analogous revolutionary pursuits in fiction and poetry. When Buchner, in the 19th century, spoke of creation, the dramatic art, as that which ""glows, and surges, and glitters, and is born anew with every moment,"" he was foreshadowing the experimental concerns of later playwrights, Ibsen and Strindberg, Chekhov and Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett and Handke. These are the representative figures Gilman discusses in neat, instructive essays, showing us, for instance, the tendency of the modern drama to break away from orderly plot and characterization in favor of the poetic and fragmentary, as in Buchner and Strindberg, or a poetic realism, as in Ibsen and Chekhov, or the pursuit of metaphysical matters, as in Pirandello, or a didactic expressionism, as in Brecht who saw the theatre of the future growing more and more philosophical. And when Gilman rightly states that ""Hedda Gabler is one of the greatest anti-romantic plays we possess, for its perception is of what remains possible after the outcries and seductive whispers of our own impossible cravings have faded,"" we see a further illustration in Beckett and Handke, the theatre as an essay in denudation, the obliteration of the emotions, where the only force is a verbal one -- ghostly words spoken by ghostly characters, as in Beckett, or self-dramatization as linguistic complexities or estrangements, as in Handke. Gilman impresses upon us, modestly but exactingly, the great seriousness and diversity of these developments.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1974
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux