“survival and Distance”: The Dramatic Voice in Robert Wilson's

Frederick J. Ruf

in Entangled Voices

Published in print March 1997 | ISBN: 9780195102635
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853458 | DOI:
“survival and Distance”: The Dramatic Voice in Robert Wilson's

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When Plato recommends that poets be banished from his republic, it is the dramatic poets that he specifies. His principal charge that poetry is at a double remove from reality is based on the representational nature of dramatic poetry, that the dramatic poet does not speak in his own voice (as does the lyric poet) but pretends to speak in another's. To Plato, the variety of voices in drama suggests (and threatens) the absence of harmony in the self. Stanley Hauerwas, Ronald Thiemann, and Alastair Macintyre seem to be Plato's counterparts today, but instead of urging the banishment of a literary genre, they recommend an alternative form for its usefulness in constructing a unified self, magisterial in its wise and calm possession of cohesion and intelligibility. This chapter examines the self modeled by the third of the traditional three genres, drama. In doing so, it proposes to take as an example of a drama a very unusual work, Robert Wilson's Einstein on the Beach. The chapter argues that Wilson presents the characteristic dramatic voice.

Keywords: Plato; drama; poetry; Robert Wilson; Einstein on the Beach; genre; voice; self; intelligibility

Chapter.  4838 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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