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A critical history of avant-garde performance and the problematic relationship of text to performance

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Introduction (James M. Harding) - 1

Part I: Text and Antitext in the Historical Avant-Garde
Text and Violence: Performance Practices of the Modernist Avant-Garde (Laurence Senelick) - 15
Antonin Artaud and the Authority of Text, Spectacle, and Performance (David Graver) - 43
Text/Pre-Text/Pretext: The Language of Avant-Garde Experiment (Christopher Innes) - 58

Part II: Theorizing Antitext and Beyond
The Avant-Garde and the Semiotics of the Antitextual Gesture (Erika Fischer-Lichte) - 79
Which Theories for Which Mise-en-Scenes? (Patrice Pavis) - 96
Fluxus Art-Amusement: The Music of the Future? (Philip Auslander) - 110
"Mais je dis le chaos positif": Leaky Texts, Parasited Performances, and Maxwellian Academons (Michael Vanden Heuvel) - 130

Part III: Textual Spaces, Theatrical Spaces, and Avant-Garde Performances
Bad Memory: Text, Commodity, Happenings (Mike Sell) - 157
Dissent behind the Barricades: Radical Art, Revolutionary Stages, and Avant-Garde Divisions (James M. Harding) - 176
An Interview with Richard Schechner (Conducted by James M. Harding) - 202

Part IV: Reflections on the Institutions of the Avant-Garde
Institutionalizing Avant-Garde Performance: A Hidden History of University Patronage in the United States - 217
Never Enough is Something Else: Feminist Performance Art, Avant-Gardes, and Probity (Kristine Stiles) - 239

Index - 291


This collection of essays explores the development of avant-garde theater and its relation to questions of textuality, authority, and the academy. Although the canon of modern and contemporary drama would be difficult to imagine without the influential legacy of the movements and strands of the historical avant-garde, this critical history is often overlooked in courses on modern and contemporary drama and theater.
Though primarily focusing on issues of textuality and performance, the essays regard the antitextualism of the avant-garde as indicative of the wide variety of anti-cultural sentiments that have characterized avant-garde performance. The volume begins with the anti-textual sentiments of the avant-garde, then offers antitextual models, explores specific performances, and ends with a critical analysis of the avant-garde. Uniting the array of opinions articulated is a belief that despite the problems that haunt the traditions of avant-garde theater, it can nonetheless offer continued valuable insights into the industries of literature, theater, scholarship, and culture.
James M. Harding is Assistant Professor of English, Mary Washington College. He is author of Adorno and a "Writing of the Ruins."

James M. Harding is Assistant Professor of English, Mary Washington College. He is author of Adorno and a "Writing of the Ruins."

"These essays by an impressive roster of contributors offer an excellent historical consideration of the concept of the avant-garde and also consider the implications of this concept as an ongoing stimulus of new thought and new performance activity. . . . Contours of the Theatrical Avant-Garde will find an eager and receptive audience here and abroad, and will be a most attractive item for study in advanced courses in modern culture as well as in theatre and performance studies."
—Marvin Carlson, City University of New York Graduate Center

- Marvin Carlson, City University of New York Graduate Center