Patrice Pavis: "The State of Current Theatre Research"

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3.1. Productive-Receptive Theory

For an analysis which is interested in both the final product of the mise en scène and its origins, we have to invent a theory which considers production as well as reception; a theory which is neither partial nor unilateral like the research on the creative process in literature and theatre or the aesthetics of reception (where everything is based on different readings of a work by different audiences). We must invent a model which combines aesthetics of production and reception, a model which studies their dialectical interaction, which looks at both the anticipated reception of the production and the activity of the spectator in the act of reception (Pavis, 1985: 281-297).
There is indeed a real danger, as Thies Lehmann points out, of simply transferring the production problems to the realm of reception, naively expecting the spectators to resolve them all with a wave of a magic wand, as if they were endowed with all theoretical power. Productive-receptive theory attempts to distribute evenly the process of shaping forms and signs among productive and receptive instances; it assumes that one cannot ignore the other, that in fact they work artfully in tandem, generating strategies and routes of greater or lesser negotiability. This productive-receptive concept results in an interactive strategy where we produce as a creator and receive as a spectator. Such a strategy prevents us from returning to the debate about the intentionality of the creator-producer and the subjectivity of the spectator-receiver. We must look for their mutual seduction (rather than reduction); this seduction is familiar to those cultures involved in intercultural exchange; they surrender to it without hesitation and not without pleasure.
In the same way, it hardly seems worthwhile to reintroduce the subjectivity/objectivity polarity in order to associate subjectivity with the artist and spectator, and objectivity with the work of art. Evidently, it is the subject who analyses and evaluates, but to say that analysis is subjective is not only banal, it also presupposes the existence of an objectivity on which everyone might finally agree, and which would be the common, lasting reference, the object finally trapped in the flight of desire.


3.2. Socio-Semiotics

Another field which needs to be developed is the kind of semiology which is interested in ideological questions and observes how signs are anchored and constituted in a whole socio-economico-cultural context Empirical studies on audiences have (or should have) understood that an examination of the cognitive, emotional and semiological mechanisms used by the spectator to create meaning cannot be neglected (Schoenmakers, ed., 1986 and Sauter, 1988). Is the semio-cognitive approach compatible with the sociological and ideological approach? A method such as socio-semiotics explicitly asks that crucial question. Socio-semiotics differs from reception theory stemming from German Rezeptionsästhetik and American reader-response criticism, both of which unfortunately neglect the ideological plurality of the reader or spectator because they presuppose an 'ideal,' isolated, individual reader rather than an ideological, cultural intersection of tensions and contradictions corresponding to conflicting tendencies and groups (chapter 2, part 3).






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1.5.1997