Studying Drama


Semester: WS 2003/2004


Abgabetermin: 8. Dezember 2003


Summary of Michael Patterson\'s:


“Studying Drama”


The text „Studying Drama“ written by Michael Patterson deals with the question how drama as a literary genre really works and with its development from its origins in Ancient Greece till nowadays.


At the beginning of the text Patterson exemplifies the general characteristics of a play. In a play environment and setting are not described directly to the reader like in a novel those informations are given via stage directions. A drama is always intended to be performed on a stage and characters communicate in dialogues.


Furthermore Patterson explains that the origins of drama lie in Ancient Greece, where the verb “dran” meant “to do/act/perform” and the Greek noun “theatron” can be translated with “a place of viewing”. The term “play” is normally connected to children who also act out roles recreating their imaginations by situations they have encoutered in real life. Here theatre/drama is seen as a world of “making believe”, where actors wear costumes, perform roles and pretend things which emanate from an author\'s mind. Patterson constitutes childrens\'s play as a natural impulse with a functional value, where they prepair themselves for their adult existence. After that the author discusses the aspect that drama can be understood as an experience of transcendence. People involve themselves with the willingness to play at being someone else, which stands for a great common ground of humanity.


Now Patterson leads to the point in what ways drama differs from poetry and narrative fiction. He explains that poetry and prose offer the feeling of transcendence as well but that these genres are always reported as tough they would lie in the past. By reading a novel for example the reader is mostly confronted with a sense of distance, as if the emotion was already experienced or the action was already complete. Drama in contrast communicates a sense of action in the present. Even if a person knows a play well he is still able to enter the plot, feeling the tension and experiencing events as they really happen. Drama is the genre of present-tense.


As a further aspect Patterson focuses on the objectivity of drama. In contrast to drama, lyric and poetry express individual and subjunctive emotions of the writer, written from the point of view of a character or a fixed narrator, whereas a drama writer can contradict himself in public and is able to put his identity in each character but also to give them an own voice. Therefore establishment of writer\'s own opinion gets difficult.


Afterwards Patterson comes back to the point that a play is usually intended to be enacted, therefore concentration of time is persued. In extreme this could mean that stage time equals real time. The opposite of concentration is time compression; hereby for example events of a whole day are presented as if they happened in a matter of minutes. A novel usually ranges over a longer period of time, changing location is possible. Drama is intended to be performed with a high level of realism and a defined location. Poetry and fiction are conceived to be enjoyed by the reader alone; he decides what he likes to read by his individual choice. Plays can be enjoyed as pure literature as well, but its full potential is first achieved when it is presented on stage. But there are much more difficulties in seeing a play staged than reading a novel at home. For performing a place (building) is needed, performers and audience need to assemble at the same time. Drama is intended to take place in public and therefore drama can be constituted as the most public of all the arts. Moreover drama can have other functions than delighting people. It can get to a threat to oppressive regimes, as happend in the German Democratic Republic, where theatre provided a political forum for democratic debate and as a consequence caused collapse of Communist regime. Patterson clarifies that a play poses greater danger to the status quo than hundreds of isolated individuals reading poems and novles at a non-pubic place.


Furthermore the author informs the reader about Aristotle\'s theory of drama which is the origin of all dramatic theories. Aristotle wanted to jusitifiy drama in terms of its purposefullness. In Ancient Greece watching a drama was