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Andrzej Wicher

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to show the role, the possibilities and the limits of Wyspiański’s national thinking through Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Of particular importance, in this context, is the role the Ghost takes in Wyspiański’s celebrated interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. By the Ghost we mean the spirit of history, the ghost of a father, the spirit of the fatherland, the voice of the ancestors, and particularly that of the Polish king Casimir the Great, as well as the Holy Ghost and the Evil Spirit because all these aspects of the Ghost belong to Wyspiański’s vision. The play in question bears witness to what the Polish poet calls “the truth of other worlds,” as well as the truth of the theatre, which Wyspiański calls the labyrinth. The poet manages to reduce, to some extent, this difficult truth to the truth of the world he cared most about, that is the present and historical reality of Poland, more specifically the city of Cracow, known as Poland’s spiritual, that is “ghostly,” and only virtual, capital. It is also remarkable that Wyspiański saw the Ghost in Hamlet in the context of other Shakespearean ghosts, apparitions and magicians, such as those that appear in Macbeth, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Richard III. At the same time, Wyspiański realizes that the Ghost, with its irrationalism, offends the spirit of post-medieval times, and as such, is understandably neglected by Hamlet, who for Wyspiański, in anticipation of Harold Bloom, stands for modernity.

Open access

Miguel Ángel Hernández Navarro

Abstract

Quoting Flaubert through time, Mieke Bal and Michelle Williams Gamaker’s Madame B brings Madame Bovary’s reflections on love and emotions to the present day, in a productive anachronism. Their work produces an intertemporal space where the past is relevant for the present, and the present enables us to understand the past. Intimacy and routine are central in their exploration of Flaubert’s contemporaneity. Those issues are precisely one of the keys in Karl Ove Knausgård’s project of literary autobiography, where he expands narration foreclosing the ellipsis and giving visibility to small things and emotions; a project with some resonances with Munch’s crude-obscene uses of intimacy. This essay explores how both proposals, Bal and Williams Gamaker in film, and Knausgård in literature, can serve us to connect present and past sensibilities and, more than that, demonstrate resistances to the hegemonic discourses of temporality.

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Małgorzata Sugiera

Abstract

Contagion is more than an epidemiological fact. The medical usage of the term is no more and no less metaphorical than in the entire history of explanations of how beliefs circulate in social interactions. The circulation of such communicable diseases and the circulation of ideas are both material and experiential. Diseases and ideas expose the power and danger of bodies in contact, as well as the fragility and tenacity of social bonds. In the case of the theatre, various tropes of contagion are to be found in both the fictional world on the stage (at least since Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex) and in many theories defining the rules of interaction between theatre audiences, fictitious characters and/or performers. In consequence, the historically changing concept of contagion has in many respects influenced how mimesis was conceived and understood. The main goal of my article is to demonstrate how the concept of contagion has changed over the last few decades and how it may influence our understanding of the idea of mimesis and participation in performative arts. This will be achieved in two steps. Firstly, I will compare the concept of contagion as the outbreak narrative that had influenced, among others, Antonin Artaud’s The Theater and the Plague with the more recent and dynamic concept of epidemic structured around the tipping point. Secondly, I will look for performative art forms with similar structure of audience responses, analyzing Mariano Pensotti’s project Sometimes I Think, I Can See You (2010), in order to demonstrate new forms of performativity and (re)presentation.

Open access

Griselda Pollock

Abstract

This paper proposes a conversation between Charlotte Salomon (1917–43) and Edvard Munch that is premised on a reading of Charlotte Salomon’s monumental project of 784 paintings forming a single work Leben? oder Theater? (1941–42) as itself a reading of potentialities for painting, as a staging of subjectivity in the work of Edvard Munch, notably in his assembling paintings to form the Frieze of Life. Drawing on both Mieke Bal’s critical concept of “preposterous history” and my own project of “the virtual feminist museum” as a framework for tracing resonances that are never influences or descent in conventional art historical terms, this paper traces creative links between the serial paintings of these two artists across the shared thematic of loneliness and psychological extremity mediated by the legacy of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Open access

Piotr Spyra

Abstract

The article investigates the canonical plays of William Shakespeare—Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest—in an attempt to determine the nature of Shakespeare’s position on the early modern tendency to demonize fairy belief and to view fairies as merely a form of demonic manifestation. Fairy belief left its mark on all four plays, to a greater or lesser extent, and intertwined with the religious concerns of the period, it provides an important perspective on the problem of religion in Shakespeare’s works. The article will attempt to establish whether Shakespeare subscribed to the tendency of viewing fairies as demonic agents, as epitomized by the Daemonologie of King James, or opposed it. Special emphasis will also be put on the conflation of fairies and Catholicism that one finds best exemplified in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. The article draws on a wealth of recent scholarship on early modern fairies, bringing together historical reflection on the changing perception of the fairy figure, research into Shakespeare’s attitude towards Catholicism and analyses of the many facets of anti-Catholic polemic emerging from early modern Protestant discourse.

Open access

Mieke Bal and Rachel E. Burke

Abstract

After Rachel E. Burke briefly introduces the essays presented with a focus on our contemporary relationship to modern subjectivity, Mieke Bal will make the case for the sense of presentness on an affective and sensuous level in Munch’s paintings and Flaubert’s writing by selecting a few topics and cases from the book Emma and Edvard Looking Sideways: Loneliness and the Cinematic, published by the Munch Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Emma & Edvard. It is this foregrounded presentness that not only produces the ongoing thematic relevance of these works, but more importantly, the sense-based conceptualism that declares art and life tightly bound together. If neither artist eliminated figuration in favour of abstraction, they had a good reason for that. Art is not a representation of life, but belongs to it, illuminates it and helps us cope with it by sharpening our senses. As an example, a few paintings will clarify what I mean by the noun-qualifier “cinematic” and how that aesthetic explains the production of loneliness.

Open access

Patricia G. Berman

Abstract

This article is an edited version of the response paper offered at the conclusion of the symposium, Modern Sensibilities. It ties together themes from the symposium papers, as well as ideas prompted by Mieke Bal’s exhibition, Emma & Edvard: Love in the Time of Loneliness, and her accompanying book, Emma and Edvard Looking Sideways: Loneliness and the Cinematic. It focuses on the anachronistic entanglements among Flaubert’s “Emma,” Munch’s motifs, Mieke Bal and Michelle Williams Gamaker’s Madame B, the Munch Museum’s architecture and exhibition scenography, and the exhibition viewer.

Open access

Jadwiga Uchman

Abstract

The expression “Pinteresque” describing the characteristic features of Harold Pinter’s artistic output, established its position as a literary critical denominator many years ago. The aim of this article is to analyze some of the specific aspects of the playwright’s use of language. On several occasions, the artist made comments pertaining to certain issues concerning communication. He rejected the idea of the alienation of language and promoted the concept of evasive communication, thus showing people’s unwillingness to communicate. He also spoke about two kinds of silence, the first referring to a situation where there is actual silence, when “no word is spoken,” and the second, when “a torrent of language is being employed” in order to cover the character’s “nakedness.” Accordingly, Pinter’s plays may, depending on their perspective, be treated as dramas of language or of silence. This led Peter Hall, Pinter’s favourite theatre director and also a close friend, to notice that in the playwright’s oeuvre there is a clear distinction beween three dots, a pause and a silence. This article discusses in detail the uneven distribution of pauses and silences in Harold Pinter’s 1977 play, Betrayal. It becomes evident that the use of different kinds of silence clearly indicates the emotional state of the characters at any given moment.

Open access

Aleksandra Ożarowska

Abstract

Opera is undoubtedly a particularly high and traditional genre of art, but recently there have been numerous attempts at breaking this stereotype and presenting opera in a contemporary light. The most popular way of achieving this aim is either staging modernized opera productions, i.e. transferring their plot from their traditional setting to the here and now, or considerably changing their interpretation. Staging modernized productions involves, first of all, the issue of stage design, and an alteration in the traditional interpretation is mostly created by acting, but nowadays it is also the translation shown in the form of surtitles that creates the significance of operatic productions.

Open access

Paulina Mirowska

Abstract

In the course of a career that spans half a century, from the Vietnam era to the America of Barack Obama, Sam Shepard has often been labelled as a “quintessentially American” playwright. According to Leslie Wade, “[d]rawing from the disparate image banks of rock and roll, detective fiction, B-movies, and Wild West adventure shows,” Shepard’s texts “function as a storehouse of images, icons, and idioms that denote American culture and an American sensibility” (Sam Shepard 2). The article addresses Shepard’s work in the 1990s, when—as suggested by Stephen J. Bottoms—the writer’s prime concern was with depicting “a Faustian nation mired in depravity and corruption” (245). The discussion centres primarily upon a brief anti-war play first presented by the American Place Theatre in New York City on 30 April 1991, States of Shock, whose very title appears to sum up much of the dramatist’s writing to date, aptly describing the disturbing atmospheres generated by his works and the sense of disorientation frequently experienced by both Shepard’s characters and his audiences. The essay seeks to provide an insight into this unsettling one-act play premiered in the wake of the US engagement in the First Gulf War and deploying extravagant, grotesque theatricality to convey a sense of horror and revulsion at American military arrogance and moral myopia. It investigates how Shepard’s haunting text—subtitled “a vaudeville nightmare” and focusing on a confrontation between a peculiar male duo: an ethically crippled, jingoistic Colonel and a wheelchair-using war veteran named Stubbs—revisits familiar Shepard territory, as well as branching out in new directions. It demonstrates how the playwright interrogates American culture and American identity, especially American masculinity, both reviewing the country’s unsavory past and commenting on its complicit present. Special emphasis in the discussion is placed on Shepard’s preoccupation with the aesthetics of performance and the visual elements of his theatre. The essay addresses the artist’s experimental approach, reflecting upon his creative deployment of dramatic conventions and deliberate deconstruction of American realism.