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Modernism in Theater

A research paper on modernism in theater shows that an essential element of the unique aesthetic sensibility that imbued modernist theater was a renewed focus upon the human form and the ontological implications of the human body. Although the notion of a fragmented, nonessential self is more closely associated with the theoretical trajectory of postmodern literature and criticism, a significant number of texts produced in the first half of twentieth century begin to engage the idea of the body as nothing more than the sum of its constituent parts, and, by extension, to explore the meaning of the constituent parts outside of the context of the whole.

Modernism in Theater

Height of Modernism

While most writers working in the period construed today as the height of modernism were not philosophically inclined to discard the notion of an essential, authentic self, a number of them were beginning to question many of the assumptions that underlay conventional means of regarding the human body as a unified whole. This new strain of inquiry was paralleled by experimental forays into replacing human actors with alternate agents of expression. Art essays on modernism in theater are Paper Masters specialty for their insight on the complexity of the period.

Modernism and Drama

Varying considerably in degrees of realism and facility of movement, the marionettes that populated experimental modernist drama came to signify a number of the emergent philosophies and aesthetic principles that were in currency during the period. Even in productions that did not incorporate actual puppets, the human form came to be used in ways that mimicked the stiff artificiality of the marionette.

In your analysis, you should seek to delineate the role of the marionette in modernist theater and the relationship of the marionette to the image of the fragmentary, artificial human body, which became increasingly prevalent in the theater of the period. First, the bulk of the analysis should focus on developing a theoretical account of this relationship, based on the writings of two important dramatic theorists. Then, the marionette/image of the fragmentary body may be traced through various works such as:

  • Wilde’s Salome
  • Jarry’s Ubu Roi
  • Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape

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