Presence and Resistance: Postmodernism and Cultural Politics in Contemporary American Performance

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The experimental theater and performance art of the last decade have been frequently decried as apolitical by critics whose model was the radical theater of the Vietnam era. Unlike for their predecessors in the 1960s, it has not been possible for contemporary performance artists such as Spalding Gray, Laurie Anderson, Andy Kaufman, and Sandra Bernhard, in their critiques of postmodern culture, to represent themselves as somehow outside of the culture they are critiquing. Postmodern culture is so thoroughly saturated by media images and information that contemporary political art has had to find ways of mounting a critique while acknowledging its position within the culture. In this study, Philip Auslander sheds light on the political nature of postmodern pertormance, the understandings of postmodern culture that underpin it, and the particular strategies it employs. The first three chapters are devoted to a discussion of postmodern culture, which Auslander sees as mediatized culture, borrowing Baudrillard's term, and the general positioning of political art and performance within it. The five subsequent chapters are devoted to comparative discussions of issues raised by this positioning and by the critical strategies within specific pertormance practices drawn from both the avant-garde and popular performance, with emphasis on resistant representations of race and gender and on performance's engagement with an information-saturated culture. Presence and Resistance will interest readers in theater, drama, and performance studies and those concerned with issues in postmodern theory, cultural theory, feminism, popular culture, and media theory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472082780
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/1994
  • Series: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Postmodernism, Cultural Politics, Performance 5
Ch. 1 Postmodern Culture as Mediatized Culture 9
Ch. 2 Postmodernism and Cultural Politics 21
Ch. 3 From the Politics of Ecstasy to the Ecstasy of Communication 35
Pt. 2 Going with the Flow: Performance in a Mediatized Culture 53
Ch. 4 Performance Art and Television Culture 57
Ch. 5 L.S.D. from The Crucible: The Wooster Group 83
Ch. 6 Intellectual Property Meets the Cyborg: Technology and Textual Ownership in Postmodernist Performance 105
Ch. 7 "Comedy about the Failure of Comedy": Stand-up Comedy and Postmodernism 125
Ch. 8 Comedy, Mediatization, Resistance: Andy Kaufman and Sandra Bernhard 139
Conclusion 169
Notes 175
Index 199
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