Yeats And Phelan's Theories Of Theatre

1620 Words7 Pages
Alessandra Adina
20 December 2014
Margaret Araneo
Theories of Theatre

A Comparison of Yeats’ and Phelan’s Ideas Regarding the Transformative Quality of Art as a Means of Elucidating Aspects of the Human Condition (1500-2000)

Both William Butler Yeats and Peggy Phelan believe that art should move towards an understanding of the human condition through its potential for the transformative. Their ideas on how this transformative quality is achieved differ, but are not mutually exclusive: Yeats focuses on the value of symbolism on stage, while Abramovic champions the intersubjective experience as a vehicle for the creation of transformative art. This essay will compare their ideas, as expressed through Yeats’ and Phelan’s respective essays, “The Tragic Theatre” and “Marina Abramovic: Witnessing Shadows”.

In “The Tragic Theatre”, Yeats expressed the belief that “art should go deeper than superficial mimesis of life to reveal universal truths regarding human nature” (Wedin). The use of the phrase “superficial mimesis of life” is paramount. Yeats’ rejection of depicting “the real world” (Yeats) in art is not due to a “hatred of the real world” (Pasley, 251), such as is suggested Malcolm Pasley; Yeats is not necessarily rejecting naïve realism. Rather, Yeats is acknowledging that the fallibility of the ‘realism’ depicted in theatre. It is a “surface reality” (Carlson); the trend of studying the “intricacies of character” (Carlson) only serves to “sacrifice vision”
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