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By Julia A. Walker

Even though usually pushed aside as a minor offshoot of the better-known German circulate, expressionism at the American level represents a severe section within the improvement of yank dramatic modernism. Situating expressionism in the context of early twentieth-century American tradition, Walker demonstrates how playwrights who wrote during this mode have been responding either to new communications applied sciences and to the perceived risk they posed to the embodied act of that means. At a time while mute our bodies gesticulated at the silver monitor, ghostly voices emanated from tin horns, and inked phrases stamped out the character of the hand that composed them, expressionist playwrights started to symbolize those new cultural reports by means of disarticulating the theatrical languages of our bodies, voices and phrases. In doing so, they not just innovated a brand new dramatic shape, yet redefined playwriting from a theatrical craft to a literary artwork shape, heralding the delivery of yank dramatic modernism.

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Additional info for Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre: Bodies, Voices, Words

Sample text

The language of ideas is wholly arbitrary; that is, words, which are the signs of our ideas, have no natural connexion with them, but depend purely upon convention, in the different societies of men, where they are employed; which is sufficiently proved, by the diversity of languages spoken by the different nations of the world. But it is not so with regard to the language of emotions. 3 (150–1) Sounds, in other words, have an extra-significatory function, expressing the emotions in accord with the thought that is formulated into words.

His contemporary Thomas Davies, for example, commented on the chilling effect he and Mrs. Pritchard created in Macbeth when, after having murdered Duncan, the two characters reflect upon what they have done: “His distraction of mind and agonizing horrors were finely contrasted by her seeming apathy, tranquility and confidence . . Their looks and action supplied the place of words. You heard what they spoke, but you learned more from the agitation of mind displayed in their action and deportment” (quoted in West 64).

To their neoclassical tastes, the large and seemingly unrestrained passions that Burgh advocated were simply vulgar and incapable of producing aesthetic pleasure, admitting of no proportion and little learning. “Such a view, with its emphasis on eloquent speaking and reasoned, metrically precise discourse,” Leigh Woods observes of Garrick’s early critics, “contains an inherent class bias – translated into esthetic terms – and it was a critical stance which continued on with some vehemence and frequency through roughly the first half of Garrick’s career” (19).

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