Brecht and Method
Like several other modern playwrights, Bertolt Brecht wrote not only a large body of work for the stage but theoretical manifestos as well. Of central importance to practitioners who came after him is his notion of distantiation or estrangement—the famous V- effect—that is the hallmark of the epic form of theater: an episodic play that narrates events and characters from the outside, asking audiences to confront what they see, thereby provoking analytical thought, judgment, and action rather than empathic feeling. such didactic intent is generally seen as inimical to modernist aesthetics, and so Fredric Jameson sets out in BRECHT AND METHOD to recuperate Brecht for modernism and appropriate him, through his attention to information technology as a form of production, for postmodernism.
Although Jameson discusses the elements that contribute to Brecht’s innovative dramaturgy—scene titles or synopses; commentative songs; summative morals or proverbs—his book is too densely written to ever serve as a primer on Brechtian theater for the uninitiated. Yet shining through many sections are brilliant moments of textual analysis, as when he reads THE LIFE OF GALILEO (1943) as “autoreferential”: If Galileo’s scientific innovations are analogous to modernism’s agenda, then by his submission to the Church, he commits the cardinal sin against the New, making him prototypical of Brecht’s own decision to compromise a stark proletarian theater with...
(The entire section is 331 words.)
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