Role Playing and Identity

The Limits of Theatre as Metaphor

by Bruce Wilshire

What do actors accomplish when they play characters on stage? Bruce Wilshire contends that through deliberate mimetic involvement, actors attempt to display how we are already mimetically involved with others offstage-bound up with them and authorized by them through imitation. To illustrate his argument that theatre is life-like , Wilshire provides examples from Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Waiting for Godot, and the work of the avant-garde Polish director Jerzy Grotowski, among others. Wilshire then reverses his focus to show that life is theatre-like. The book's final section includes a thoughtful critique of current theories of social role playing. Wilshire affirms that acting is more than just role playing; it is the process of creating the self. Throughout, he makes use of a phenomenological methodology to establish theatre as the art of imitation that reveals imitation. Role Playing and Identity is an imaginative and broad-ranging reflection on the nature of the human condition that will be admired by social scientists and philosophers as well as by students of the theatre and literary scholars.

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    Indiana University Press
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    Bloomington, Indiana USA
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    Copyright © Trustees of Indiana University
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    Indiana University Press
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