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Within historical avant-garde movements from the beginning of the 20th century, a curious taste and fascination for boxing burst out, and developed later into the claim that art must become more similar to boxing, or to sport in general. This fascination with pugilism in the early stage of its popularity on the continent included such charismatic figures of the Parisian avant-garde as Arthur Cravan, who was Oscar Wilde's nephew, a pretty good boxer and an unpredictable organizer of proto-dada outrages and scandals.
After WWI, the zenith of artists' and intellectuals' love for boxing was reached in Weimar Germany. One of the well known examples connecting boxing with art was Bertolt Brecht with his statement that we need more good sport in theatre. His and other German avant-garde artists' admiration for boxing included the German boxing star May Schmeling, who was, at least until he lost his defending championship match against Joe Louis, an icon of the Nazis as well. Quite contrary to some later approaches in philosophy of sport, which compared sport with an elite art institution, Brecht's fascination with boxing took its anti-elitist and anti-institutional capacities as an example for art's renewal.
To examine why and how Brecht included boxing in his theatre and his theory of theatre, we have to take into account two pairs of phenomena: sport vs. physical culture, and avant-garde theatre vs. bourgeois drama. At the same time, it is important to notice that sport, as something of Anglo-Saxon origin, and especially boxing, which became popular on the European continent in its American version, were admired by Brecht and by other avant-garde artists for their masculine power and energy. The energy in theatre, however, was needed to disrupt its cheap fictionality and introduce dialectical imagination of Verfremdungseffect (V-effect, or distancing effect). This was "a hook to the chin" of institutionalized art and of collective disciplinary morality of German tradition.
The controversy around the RSC & The Wooster Group’s Troilus and Cressida (Stratford-upon-Avon 2012) among the spectators and critics in Britain revealed significant differences between the UK and the US patterns of staging, spectating, and reviewing Shakespeare. The production has also exposed the gap between mainstream and avant-garde performance practices in terms of artists’ assumptions and audiences’ expectations. Reviews and blog entries written by scholars, critics, practitioners, and anonymous theatre goers were particularly disapproving of The Wooster Group’s experimentation with language, non-psychological acting, the appropriation of Native American customs, and the overall approach to the play and the very process of stage production. These points of criticism have suggested a clear perception of a successful Shakespeare production in the mainstream British theatre: a staging that approaches the text as an autonomous universe guided by realistic rules, psychological principles, and immediate political concerns. If we assume, however, that Troilus and Cressida as a play relies on the dramaturgy of cultural differences and that it consciously reflects on the notion of spectatorship, the production’s transgression of mainstream patterns of staging and spectating brings it surprisingly close to the Shakespearean source.
The paper discusses radicalized aesthetics and politics of structure and form in the experimental autobiographical writing of American avant-garde author Leslie Scalapino. Associated with the innovative protocols of the “Language School” poetry movement, Scalapino’s oeuvre emerges as simultaneously a poststructuralist and phenomenologically oriented poetics in which writing performs a thoroughgoing scrutiny of how one’s implication in linguistic and cultural matrices determines one’s being in the world. Scalapino’s Autobiography, framed by Paul de Man’s remarks on autobiographical writing as always controlled by the external expectations of self-fashioning, sets out to examine and deconstruct the autobiographical project as in itself constructive of one’s life. In Zither the poet complicates her take on life-writing by interrogating and reconceptualizing hidden mechanisms of the genre and confronting it with its own fictional status, while in Dahlia’s iris Scalapino juxtaposes detective fiction with a Tibetan form of written “secret autobiography”, based on a radical departure from the chronology of one’s biography toward a phenomenological horizon of what she refers to as “one’s life seeing”, a practice of attempting to see one’s mind’s constructions as they are formed by the outside as well as by one’s internalization of the outside.