Reading the End
Author: June Schlueter
Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press
Category: Literary Criticism
In Dramatic Closure, author June Schlueter explores closure within both a traditional Aristotelian paradigm and contemporary reader-response theory, necessarily revising narrative insights to accommodate the special features of drama as a literary and performance form. Examples of plays from Oedipus to the present appear throughout the book, and individual chapters are dedicated to sustained discussions of William Shakespeare's King Lear, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan, and Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire. The author emphasizes Shakespeare and, especially, modern drama in the belief that these plays provide salient models of the theoretical principles of reading toward closure. A chapter on tendencies in modern plays covers a wide range of material, suggesting ways in which twentieth-century drama disrupts the Aristotelian model and defers to the provisional or unsettling end. In her theoretical discussion, Schlueter explores how literary, theatrical, and cultural conventions cooperate and collide; how the dramatic or performance text designates what Wolfgang Iser calls a text's "response-inviting structure"; how that structure activates conventions and predispositions throughout its sequence of reading moments, shaping, frustrating, and satisfying expectations; and how readers constitute texts as they read toward closure. The assumption throughout is that all texts, whether stable or transgressive, necessarily engage the question of how, when, and where to end and that all readers, whether of literary or performance texts, are implicated in closure.