Keir Elam, The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama Methuen, 1980.

One of the most obvious shortcomings of this semiotic theory of the theatre is that it does not take into consideration -- and still less accounts for -- the interest that audiences take in theatrical performances in their many, variegated forms, all over the world. "Interest" refers here to both cognitive motivation and emotional involvement, or conversely boredom and indifference. Would theatre have remained for so long such a productive institution if all it had offered to audiences to "look on" were mere combinations of "signs of signs"? Are not these signs subsumed by a narrative structure which commands and orients the cognitive experience of the spectators? Is it even possible to conceive the signifying material which unfolds on the stage as signs of signs, independently of the broader framework of the institution, and of the dynamic structure of the plot? How could the procedural decoding of theatre as normatively described by Fischer Lichte account for the deep, often passionate involvement -- both positive and negative of the spectators?

Elam, Keir The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. New York: Methuen 1980

a general semiotics of theatre, before i t breaks up into particular dis-

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Josette Féral has published articles on the semiotics oftheatre, naturalist theatre, carnival and the Québec theatre in, and has edited a special number of on (No. 18/19, 1977). She is studying the problem ofthe actor's performance, especially in the experimentaltheatre.

Elam, Keir. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama, Routledge , 2002.

The late twentieth century saw an explosion of interest in semiotics, the science of the signs and processes by which we communicate. In this study, the first of its kind in English, Keir Elam shows how this new 'science' can provide a radical shift in our understanding of theatrical performance, one of our richest and most complex forms of communication. Elam traces the history of semiotic approaches to performance, from 1930s Prague onwards, and presents a model of theatrical communication. In the course of his study, he touches upon the 'logic' of the drama and the analysis of dramatic discourse. This edition also includes a new post-script by the author, looking at the fate of theatre semiotics since the publication of this book, and a fully updated bibliography. Much praised for its accessibility, The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama remains a 'must-read' text for all those interested in the analysis of theatrical performance.

2. Elam, Keir, The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London: Methuen, 1980).
Elam, Keir (1980). The semiotics of theatre and drama. London: Methuen.

The Semiotics of Theater - Indiana University Press

On the other hand, applying to art the Saussurian definition of the sign, Mukařovský took the stance that a work of art resides in the collective consciousness of the public, and identified it as the semiotic unit whose is the work itself and the the "aesthetic object" (1976, 3-9). For Mukařovský, this application represents the first step towards a semiotics of performance, in which the performance text becomes a macro-sign whose meaning is constituted by its total effect. This approach is important for the semiotics of theater and drama for two different but closely related reasons. First, it emphasizes the subordination of all constituents to a unified whole and the importance of the audience as the maker of meanings of this whole (macro-sign). Second, it views the performance not as a single sign, but as a network of semiotic units belonging to different but cooperative systems.

Semiotics of theatre and drama

Places of Performance, The Semiotics of Theatre Architecture

The first part duplicates in many respects Fischer-Lichte's semiotic model of theatre what I have called earlier "the theatre of semiotics" -- although with more sensitivity to the problems which this approach creates. The notion of codes occupies a central position in both scholars' analytical strategies, thus focussing on the cognitive organizations and transactions implemented by performances. They are undoubtedly correct. However, the issue is whether this aspect is definitional. Upon reading their development, one cannot help notice that what they say about performance also applies to other types of social events which are not considered as "theatrical performances" in the contextual culture. A case in point is de Marinis' specification of "the two basic conditions that any theatrical events must fulfil in order to be included in the class (theatrical performance): (1) physical co-presence of sender and receiver, and (2) simultaneity of production and communication"(137). These conditions may be useful to distinguish, in communicational terms, theatre from cinema and television, but they apply to such an array of other social events that they are actually trivial with respect to the type of performance which is the focus of de Marinis' attention. This is a general reproach which can be addressed to the semiotic of the past decades. The communication model -- more particularly Jakobson's version -- acted as a revelator by showing how a wide range of events and objects which were previously considered unrelated could indeed be construed as communicative processes, but proved to be unable to account for the specificity of the classes of socio-cultural phenomena which map everyday experience. By contrast to Fischer-Lichte, whose general approach is confidently unproblematic, de Marinis seems acutely aware of this theoretical difficulty (e.g. 137-144) and attempts to come to term with it:

Semiotics of theater & drama

The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama - Goodreads

The theatre thus constructed by semiotics bears little resemblance with the experience of theatre, both for actors and spectators, but, more importantly, cannot account for this experience. Does the actor's "individual corporeality (become) thoroughly transformed into a symbolic order" (187) by the clustering of signs of signs -- those he/she wears (garments, objects, hair-style, etc.)? This is doubtful. Actors have more or less charisma, but behind their attires which are often designed to enhance their physical presence -- they often capture the erotic attention of their audience, or become the focus of hatred or repulsion. The director's choice of an actor is foremost the embodiment and "voicing" of a virtual character. Theatre explicitly "markets" the seduction of actors' physical presence and personality irrespective of the characters they embody. In a not so remote past, theatre was an intense locus of amorous intrigues, an interface between the cultural world of bourgeois respectability and the liminal realm of natural attraction and disorderly passion. The history of Western theatre is a chronicle of marginalization, representation, and scandal. The subversive presence of the actors' bodies is alive through both the natural signs they may unwittingly emit and the cultural signs of seduction which are often an important component of their parts. The erotic, or otherwise emotional investment of the spectators, the voyeuristic dimension of their experience, cannot be discarded as unessential. By focussing on staging through the lenses of her semiological model, Fischer-Lichte misses the complexity of the phenomenon she studies. Her analysis is certainly valid and useful within its ethnological limits, but fails to enable her to formulate a comprehensive semiotic theory of theatre.