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The performance-within, creative authenticity, and practical knowledge: linking theatre, film, and philosophy in the work of Ingmar Bergman

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Title: The performance-within, creative authenticity, and practical knowledge: linking theatre, film, and philosophy in the work of Ingmar Bergman
Author(s): Smith, Lawrence
Director of Research: Stenport, Anna W.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Lee, Esther K.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Stenport, Anna W.; Davis, Peter A.; Schroeder, William R.
Department / Program: Theatre
Discipline: Theatre
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Performance-within creative authenticity Ingmar Bergman theater history cinema studies intermediality intermedial studies auteur cinema existentialism phenomenology performance studies acting collaboration Scandinavian cinema Scandinavian studies
Abstract: This dissertation offers an analysis of the convention of the “performance-within” in the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007). This analysis is practical, aesthetic, and historical. It considers how specific performances-within were devised and presented, the various functions of the performance-within in terms of aesthetic structure and affect, the meanings and implications of the performance-within, and a consideration of the performance-within and its contingent cultural and historical contexts. In the works of Ingmar Bergman, the presence of a performance-within typically occurs in relation with a protagonist’s search for an authentic existence, and is oftentimes related to artistic endeavor. This connection raises the issue of “creative authenticity,” a term coined here in developing an account of the agentic attributes of human aesthetic performance. A “performance-within” is defined here as an aesthetic feature in an enacted drama, one in which a performance in a medium considered self-standing in an everyday context is included and presented in the course of a larger enacted narrative, and therefore stands apart as an artistic event within the diegetic world of that narrative. The performance-within is frequently used to insert traditional forms of performance into a cinematic narrative, and therefore is a locus for intermedial analysis. Intermediality has constituted a new and robust area in Bergman studies over the past decade. This relatively recent emphasis on the intermedial aspects of Bergman’s work has led to a deeper consideration of the interplay between the “theatrical” and the “cinematic” in Bergman’s dramatic practice and conception, and a consideration of the positive relations between cinema and theatre, aesthetically, practically, and historically. My purpose in focusing on the performance-within has four components. First of all, the performances-within in Bergman’s films were frequently developed or generated as part of the production process rather than through the screenwriting process. The origins of these performances-within, their development during the production phase, and the extent to which these performances were shaped by the performers, makes the performance-within an inviting object of study. Second, the performance-within is typically intermedial; it brings into one medium (film) the attributes of another medium (theatre, puppetry, dance, instrumental performance, etc.). In this transaction between media, which is quite common in terms of historical cinematic practice and increasingly common in other performance media, well-established critical categories are complicated and called into question. This is especially the case with the categories of film and theatre. The purpose here is to use the performance-within as a means of questioning and re-evaluating the traditional distinctions drawn between these two historically related media. The result of such questioning generates a new critical and historical discourse about performance and media. Third, these original and intermedial characteristics of the performance-within contribute to its status of relative autonomy as an artistic event “within” a fictitious “world,” and distinct from the other activities of that “world.” Thus, the performance-within is a particular way of making and offering meaning. Because of its widespread use in cinema, a closer examination into the function and character of the performance-within is necessary. The continued use of the performance-within by Bergman and other filmmakers indicates a commonly held value that is accorded to aesthetic performance. The fourth component is linked to the understanding of performance in general as a mode of embodied thinking and discourse. In the case of performances-within in the films of Ingmar Bergman, this entails a consideration of the ideas that these performances-within instantiate, and locating those ideas within each film’s prevailing cultural and historical contexts. This requires looking away from Bergman the auteur toward the cultural field in which his work and the work of his collaborators took place. Of particular interest here are the conditions of the Swedish entertainment industry and arts culture ca. 1950-1970, as well as international trends in theatre and film during this same period. The first chapter centers on Sawdust and Tinsel (1953), and the performances-within are analyzed in comparison with Martin Heidegger’s ideas of anxiety, the they-self, and authenticity in Being and Time (1927) and Konstantin Stanislavski’s theories of creativity in An Actor’s Work (published in Sweden in 1944). The second chapter concerns The Face (1958), and a comparative analysis is made between the construction of the performances-within and Jean-Paul Sartre’s idea of the regard in Being and Nothingness (1943). The third chapter focuses on issues of mimesis and performance as ways of maintaining identity both on- and off-stage in Through a Glass Darkly (1961). The film’s performances-within are compared with Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956) and Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space (1958). The fourth chapter deals with issues of language and meta-theatrical and meta-cinematic commentary in A Passion (1969). The performances-within are a series of extra-diegetic actor interviews included as interludes (mellanspel) dividing the film’s four “acts.” Comparative texts are Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre and Its Double (1938) and other writings by Artaud on theatre and cinema, and Jacques Derrida’s essays on Artaud in Writing and Difference (1967). The conclusion evaluates the persistence and re-working of the performance-within and existentialist themes in Bergman’s work up to the 1970s. By taking this approach, a different and more intricate history for each film becomes available: a history of personnel, of practices, of aesthetics, and of ideas. Without the device of the performance-within, Bergman and many other filmmakers would have lost the expressive range and narrative diversity that characterizes much of mid-20th-century cinema. Looking at these films through the lens of the performance-within enhances Bergman scholarship, and theatre and cinema studies, in general.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34195
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Lawrence D. Smith
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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