by John Peter
University of Chicago Press, 1987
Cloth: 978-0-226-66265-7
Library of Congress Classification PN1861.P38 1987
Dewey Decimal Classification 809.204

What is modern in modern drama? What defines it, unmistakably, as being of our time? This quality if the subject of John Peter's inquiry.

For Peter, Beckett's Waiting for Godot makes such a radical break with dramatic tradition that it prompts the question: Is this play the single most important event in the theater since Aeschylus? Or is it the fulfillment of forces at work long before Beckett wrote it? Peter shows how Beckett's work represents a change in the very subject matter of drama, a fundamental revision of concepts of character, plot, and meaning, which in turn requires a new way of responding to drama. Where plays have traditionally engaged audiences in critical and moral dialogue, theater like Beckett's, according to Peter, is closed to questioning; it presents a vision of the world which can only be accepted or rejected. As such, it not only signals a new form of drama, but also posits a fundamentally changed audience.

Peter views this change—essentially, a change of mind—in its wider context. The times and the thought that contribute to the modern imagination are represented here by novels, paintings, and music—works by Wagner, Kafka, Proust, Picasso, and Braque—as well as plays. Peter shows how the depiction of the world by these artists echoes—and is echoed by—the work of modern thinkers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Freud.

Vladimir's Carrot will provoke and stimulate readers who find themselves either lost or perfectly at home in "modern" culture.

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