Barbara A. Mowat

The Pleasure of the Phenomenological Attitude

Bert O. States, The Pleasure of the Play. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Bert States’s plan was to write an introductory text for a beginning course in drama, a book that would deal with the basic principles of dramatic construction. That plan was gradually abandoned as he became aware, first, that the elementary principles of dramatic structure—e.g., plot, character, action, thought—“demand the most complex consideration,” each being problematic in itself, each throwing off a host of related problems, and that, therefore, the audience for the book should not be beginners. He then, as he says, waked up to a fact that had been “in front of [his] eyes all along”: namely that Aristotle, in the Poetics, had already written “the real introductory text of the drama,” and that what he actually wanted to write was “a book about that book’s value as a tool for poking among these so-called elementary problems.” The resulting work—The Pleasure of the Play—is an engagement with drama that is profound, charming, and useful.

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