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ERIC Number: EJ849367
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0021-8510
Theatrical Performances and the Works Performed
Irvin, Sherri
Journal of Aesthetic Education, v43 n3 p37-50 Fall 2009
James Hamilton's "The Art of Theater" is an outstanding contribution to aesthetics that fills an important gap, since treatments of theater have been much less frequent than those of other art forms. Moreover, the book's appearance requires aestheticians of many stripes to engage with questions about theater because it raises issues of ontology, interpretation, and appreciation that are relevant to one's understanding of works in all art forms. Hamilton offers a spirited and convincing defense of the claim that theatrical performance is an art form eventuating in performances that are artworks in their own right. Since a theatrical performance may be a one-off event with no particular relation to any earlier text or performance, Hamilton observes, it is not necessary that a performance be "of" some other work. In this commentary, the author agrees with many of Hamilton's central claims. Hamilton's discussion demonstrates convincingly that theatrical performance is an art form in its own right, not simply a quasi-artistic activity that is derivative from some other art form like dramatic literature. The author also agrees that in typical cases of professional or serious amateur performance, the performers introduce elements that are highly aesthetically significant, and their performances should be thought of as artworks in their own right. Moreover, Hamilton is surely right to point out that a theatrical performance may be independent of any previously existing artwork, or may bear such a loose relation to another work (such as a dramatic literary text) that to say it is a performance "of" that work would be quite implausible. The author does not think, however, that Hamilton succeeds in making the case for the complete autonomy thesis, or the view that no performance is a performance of any other work. The author argues that this thesis should be rejected. Likewise, the author denies Hamilton's claim that works of dramatic literature lack a "theatrical mode of presentation." The author suggests that the aesthetic appreciation of both theatrical performances and works of dramatic literature is best facilitated by acknowledging that the former are sometimes performances of the latter. Ultimately, though, the author does not think this is devastating to Hamilton's overall project: Hamilton does not need to defend the complete autonomy thesis, or its correlate about dramatic literature, in order to make his case for theatrical performance as a highly significant art form in its own right. (Contains 21 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A