The Spectator and the Spectacle: Audiences in Modernity and Postmodernity

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Spectators and audiences are everywhere in contemporary culture. However, even in conventional performance, whether in the theatre, in film or television, or at a sporting event, it is difficult to discuss spectators with any authority, since each of us experiences and understands the display in different ways and all methods of analysing spectators are flawed or unreliable. This book provides instead a series of investigations into specific types of performance activity, and how they relate to their audiences. Topics discussed include the relationship of audiences to the rise of the director, the avantgarde, tourism, gambling, the effect of cinema on live performance, and sport, including crowd violence. Spectatorship is an area of increasing importance in the field of theatre and performance studies, and this engaging study is a valuable contribution to the development of thinking about audiences and spectators.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Kennedy is well known for his work on Shakespeare, which often focuses on contemporary production...Given Kennedy’s wariness about attempting to speak about (or is it for?) audiences (or is it “the audience”?), a wariness in which I share, it is only fitting that there is no grand narrative underpinning The Spectator and the Spectacle, no proposed method for assessing reception. Instead, Kennedy engages the reader in a series of well-observed, clear-eyed, clear-minded, and finely wrought conversations that are thematically linked, yet also discrete about historically specific audiences and the inevitable failure of efforts to control or contain them in theory or practice."
-Philip Auslander, Georgia Institute of Technology, Modern Drama Fall 2010

"‘Kennedy’s scholarship is both precise and wide-ranging; he skillfully draws connections among a multiplicity of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance genres. . . . The Spectator and the Spectacle is a superb work; thoroughly engaging, and written in clear, conversational prose. . . . Scholars of theatre, performance, and Shakespeare – and even those people who are simply devoted to lifelong spectatorship and participation in the spectacle – will find much of value in this compelling book. They will remember it . . . for years to come."
-Dan Venning,Theatre Journal

"‘ . . . a series of well-observed, clear-eyed, clear-minded, and finely wrought conversations that are thematically linked, yet also discrete . . . bracing correctives to the pieties and simplifications often dished up in the name of theatre history."
-Philip Auslander,Modern Drama

"[A] work that extends from Shakespeare performance into sophisticated reconceptualizations of acts of performance . . . deliciously provoking."
-Peter Holland,Theatre Survey

". . . an extensive mapping that widely illuminates the topic . . . starting with the theatre but . . . taking in fields such as television, sport and ritual . . . a rich resource."
-Peter W. Marx,Forum Modernes Theater

"Dennis Kennedy takes the spectator . . . as main reference point in his varied study that diverges from ideologies of the historical avant-garde and intercultural theatre to sports events. . . . Kennedy pays attention to actual audiences and audience behaviour, [focussing] on the possibilities of the spectator’s agency and resistance against consumerist or political ideology. It is a very refreshing way of putting theoretical “big talk” into concrete perspective."
-Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink,Theatre Research International

"‘I will definitely assign parts of Dennis Kennedy’s The Spectator and the Spectacle . . . for the breadth of perspective he offers."
-Judith Milhous,Theatre Survey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521899765
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis Kennedy is Beckett Professor of Drama Emeritus in Trinity College, Dublin.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations

Pt. I The Problem of the Spectator 1

1 Introduction: assisting at the spectacle 3

2 The director, the spectator and the Eiffel Tower 26

3 The avant-garde and the audience 49

Pt. II Shakespeare and the Politics of Spectation 73

4 Shakespeare and the Cold War 75

5 The spectator as tourist 94

6 Interculturalism and the global spectator 115

7 The body of the spectator 133

Pt. III Subjectivity and the Spectator 151

8 Society, spectacle and sport 153

9 The aroused spectator 171

10 Memory, performance and the idea of the museum 189

11 Assisting belief: ritual and the spectator 204

Notes 227

References 231

Index 242

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