Davis “Story”

Five dimensional plot structure (Freytag’s Pyramid)

1) exposition–all aspects of the short story come into play: setting (time/place/action), characters, background, conflict, theme, situation, problem, mood, tone

2) complication–the problem or conflict of the story is set into motion and begins to deepen and to unfold (marked by lots of suspense and obstacles to action or the “right way” or the assumed order of things; i.e. something is different here and trouble is a-foot)

3) rising action–where the situation becomes ever more desperate

4) climax–point at which the character(s) becomes ever more desperate; the action, conflict, and problems of the story become insupportable; they cannot progress any further, have reached a summit and must conclude

5) falling action/denoument/resolution



plot (event and action-driven plot vs. plot that develops through character/inner conflict/struggle based on Symbolist and mono-drama movements)

rising action

  • description (specific, tangible information derived from sensory detail)
  • dialogue (develop outsider eye) or go deep within the self (Rilke)
  • active verbs, concrete nouns
  • strong character (push beyond charicature and cliche)
  • writing needs passion

Style: not “realistic” but free and direct speech

soliloquy/dramatic monologue, personal and/or autobiographical (seeing into the mind of the speaker–her actions appear “mad” to the logical viewer; asks reader to suspend judgment to see the human dimension/essence; in the style of Russian/French psycho- or mono-drama

tone: naive, brisk (mask of public fiction); the speaker knows an audience is listening, thus the narrative is somewhat veiled or cloaked; What is “she” hiding?; what is the emotional quality?

from New Yorker review: “question of how much a fictional story about a fictional self can shed and still remain a story about a vivid self”

Schwartz “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’

Schwartz, Delmore

Brooklyn/Greenwich villiage poet and story writer (b. 1913 to Romanian immigrants)

called “Orpheus” (poet who descends to the underworld [understood by some as his own drunken fits] to retrieve his love-visions-anima)

“In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” first appeared in the 1937 issue of the Partisan Review (small mag)/ political platform for socialist reform

Title derives from W.B. Yeats’ 1914 book Responsibilites. The text opens with the epitaph “In dreams begins responsibility” which he attributes rather ominously (or anonymously) to “Old Play.” Yeats is 49 years of age at the time and without children except, as he admits, this book. His book of poetry deals with the power of the imagination and of dream. The poet is responsible for his own imagination, thus leading to the task of the poet: his responsibility to both his audience and to the proper use of his faculty of imagination.

Question: what is significant about the title to the events of the story?

genre style: fictional autobiography

themes: The story deals with the narrator’s (or speaker’s) relationship to the father
How do films play on the audience’s emotions?

  • entertainment
  • removal from “reality”
  • Pathos develops through detail and description (emotional state of character, scene builds through detail of objects, nature)
  • Feeling for the characters

Is there a plot to this story?

Is the plot about the character’s coming to an understanding of himself?

(36) climax of plot

What is the “responsibility” that has begun?

  • maturity of the main character
  • to continue in his father’s footsteps or to alter
  • dreams, like movies, are a stay against reality
  • (32) become anonymous

Exercise: Go sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase of 1st paragraph

  1. type of story
  2. setting (time/place)
  3. characters
  4. topic/subject
  5. purpose
  6. conflict
  7. details
  8. narration style

Dreams are a place where one can see more clearly—to develop clarity on a situation; “I see as through a glass darkly” (Corinthians; hard to gain clarity on a situation,  like looking through a darkened mirror-glass)

Borges “The Aleph”

The story was published in 1949 in The Aleph, a book of the same name. Borges is an Argentinian writer (1899-1986).

Alef/Aleph is the first letter of the Semitic alphabet and the #1 in Hebrew. It also stands for sets and the cardinality or size of the sets: Aleph zero is the cardinality of countable infinite sets and Aleph one is the cardinality of certain uncountably infinite sets.Taken from Kabbalah, aleph is the origin of the universe, the primordial one that contains all numbers.

Symbolically, aleph stands for inspiration, the imagination, and the metaphysical impetus for writing (the secret of genius given to humans from the Muses (Greek religion and culture)

The style of the story derives from the Surrealist Movement which began in France and in Southern America becomes known as Magical Realism, or in this case falls under the category of Fabulism. Realism is otherwise known as a literary device that approximates lived, observable “reality” in narrating a story through calculable, observed details of tangible world. This is understood as writing through the five senses and is often marked by free and direct narrative style. Adding a “magical” element brings the “realism” into the fabulous or “surreal,” which appears illogical, though narrated in such a way (as formerly mentioned) that incorporates the magical by means of truth by experience. Thus the “magical” becomes in the story as any other sensible, sensed object, element, or idea.  The magical element recalls such older, mythical story devices as parable and fable.

epigraphs–1: Hamlet says this to R&G to explain that Demark’s a prison; 2: taken from Hobbes Leviathan which explains the impossibility of understanding the infinite.

themes–fragility and faulty nature of memory

mundane setting–grounded in reality, a cellar, a street, a house

plot–lamenting a lost love, avoiding her brother

allusion–Beatrice from Dante’s epic Divine Comedia (duality of nature, +/-, ordered and chaotic, simple and complicated)

symbolism–aleph is an oracle, vortex

the totality of infinity (all points in one) = the untranslatability of experience and its essence (language fails) \; suggestion of description; imagery of history and nature

Notes about Theatre

story has visual, oral, and aural dimensions; space—movement on the stage




  • must hold audience attention for the duration of the play
  • importance of clarity
  • use of repetition, for increasing understanding of the action and important material (what the author wants the audience to remember)
  • not a movie; not a screenplay
  • has limits: stage, representation on stage is limited by the space, dimensions of the place; cost, time, story can be told only through dialogue and action
  • scene making is implied movement

Problems associated with abstract theatre

materiality of the human body

the actor is intrinsically linked to “playing” to imitation

the body is inherently representative

emphasis of Modern theatre on form and presence—the immediate experience of artistic expression underterred by mimetic representation is undermined by the actor’s “imitation”

Types of Theaters

1)      Classical Theatre: Greek and Roman

2)      Proscenium or Renaissance Italian

3)      Elizabethan, Shakespearean, Globe Theatre

4)      Modern Black Box

Bruisov The Wayfarer

Describe the setting/situation of the wayfarer and its conflict

1)      What is the tension in the play?

2)      What does Julia truly desire/want about the situation that allows her to reveal this desire?

3)      What is the role of “symbolism” in the play?

Writing Prompt: Describe the basic elements of this person. What is the tension in this character? List the motivations for her feelings. Write situation that reveals the inner conflict of this character.

Russian writer

define “psychodrama”: false friend, not psychotic; dramatic reenactment of internal struggle of character, conflict is inside, not outside or external, such as in the plot structure; character-driven drama

Set designs:

  • get in groups. Identify similarities and differences in the drawings.
  • What might the set details reveal about differences in interpretation?
  • language of drama: what is seen and what is heard on stage may be different things

Character: appears to be monologue,

  • what does Julia want? what does she hunger for?
  • who is she
  • what are the immediate and distant aspects to her

Setting: what is at stake in this setting for Julia?

  • what is her biggest problem?
  • how does she weigh the situation?

What implies movement in the play?

intro—violent knocking


66—passer-by prince

gesture: kissed hand (class distinction)

Robert: names him to her liking

she reads novels, fairy-stories (sentimental female)

68—countess (class aspirations) desire French



70—“whoever you are”

71—gift of nameless fairy (fairy godmother)

Jarry, Alfred King Ubu

Pataphysical theatre: “the science of imaginary solutions”

1)      abandonment of Realist mode toward a minimal or stylized theatre, borrows from symbolist model

2)      theatre of archetypes and situations, intension against telling a story of psychological conflict; expression of universal, eternal, not historical, localized themes

3)      simplicity: condensation or synthesis of complexity; layering of effect (potential meanings)

4)      abstraction: audience participates imaginatively with the openness of the production

5)      subversive parody: aggressiveness toward audience’s values in critique (like spoken word)

6)      self-reflexiveness: reminder that the play is a play; not to fall into forgetfulness of its “fiction”

7)      liberation from logic’s constraints

8)      childhood spirit (Medieval), magical quality of incoherence

King Ubu


  • “savage comedy”
  • Paris 1896: opening lines containing “Merdre” shocked audiences into a riot
  • play was banned from the stage
  • Irish poet W.B. Yeats was in attendance
  • meant to shock the middle classes by challenging their expectations and social mores
  • Ubu may be fashioned on Jarry’s high school math professor

How might you produce a modern-day Ubu?

(in the spirit of challenging cultural values; Ubu is a fat, greedy imbecile[a Homer

Simpson]) examples: The Broadway Theater Center, Theatre X, Young Ensemble, 2004

“booya” instead of “merdre/shit”; eat McDonald’s food, wear bowling shirts, march off

to war with My Little Ponies; Ubu Rex, Firlefanz Puppets, Steamer 10 Theater, 2010;

large puppets to represent the Ubus, smaller puppets for the supporting characters;

Buggerlass instead of Bougrelas

Paris Theater 1896

  • convention of the theatre was to entertain, not to instruct or criticize
  • trend toward Realism; Ibsen’s plays were being performed; Scribe “relaxation and amusement, not for instruction and correction”
  • unity of time/place
  • small countermovement was a growing trend
  • bourgeoisie: elaborate systems of etiquette, doing things in the “right” or “correct” fashion
  • Lugne-Poe produced the play in 1896, one of Paris’ foremost directors of the time, against Realism, 4th wall, etc.; abstract décor utilized images and evoked symbols; works noted for their intonation, self-conscious performance, radical departure from realism

Jarry’s influence on theatre, art, and life

  • rebels against the mediocrity of the bourgeoisie through excess and absurdity
  • influenced by Mallarme’s 1885 Symbolist Manifesto
  • middle-class life is seen as confining
  • Jarry was conscripted into the army: influenced his writing
  • died at age 33 (1907)

Exercise: What is the “correct” fashion for the times, for middle class society today? What would you critique if you were Jarry today?



flat or stock characters vs. round, full characters


“savage comedy”

  • implied action, implied movement
  • all thought is externalized
  • characters express their opinions
  • past is present
  • represent the impossible through language; spectacle that is impossible to represent on stage gets represented through the characters words, speech; showing, telling, revealing through words “split head”

Father Ubu—characteristics

  • fat, greedy
  • excessive, takes all for himself, aggregation of resources, wealth
  • cannibalistic: feeds off his own people
  • irony of his “title” or name: pater-father-priest-king; paternalistic ruler, patriarchy
  • portrait of a dictator, usurer
  • collects taxes himself??? why does he do this?

places of absurd humor (truth/lie are conflated) 102-104

Why go to war?

He makes light of enemies, made enemies of friends

all to secure the throne

Why does he deny people food/money?

Five-Act play: Freytag’s pyramid of action/plot

I. plot to overthrow Wenceslas
II. action

III. Ubu as King

  • forgets his helpers
  • forgets enemies
  • goes to war

IV. idiocy of Ubu revealed

  • cowardice
  • greed
  • climax of weakness (anti-hero)

V. Ubus reunited and escape

  • confrontation with young Bougrelas

Futurism Marinetti 1909

began in Italy and expanded across Europe

  • celebrated technology, urban life, and industrialization
  • new world that moves so rapidly that the expression of “truth” cannot be contained in static, stationary forms, static time and space
  • builds to experience, immediacy, “being” and flux rather than representation
  • industry/machine is exalted for its dynamism—the conceptualization of movement and speed, for changing space and temporal dynamics
  • must make a clean sweep of all stale and useless forms, taste and harmony are fraudulent (discards aesthetics)

performance theory

  • “emphasis on concrete or alogical presentation (immediate experience rather than representation)
  • use and combination of physical involvement of the spectators (breaks down concept of play as a text or narrative)
  • destruction of fourth wall” (pure presence of the actor, not a symbol or character; person playing on stage—ephemeral)

“Art as Action”

  • artistic/political battle against an audience he regarded as reactionary, passive, lazy and complacent (Gunter Berghaus)
  • destroying coherence, cohesiveness, and logic disrupts expectations; upsets the balance in conventional expectations which are in and of themselves static and complacent; forms a new way of reading and understanding the world, particularly based on movement and dynamism (alteration of space and time dimension)
  • matter is not static—all matter is made up of tiny moving particles, all cells in the human body are replaced by new cells after roughly 7 years (bones take up to 10), all space is not dead space but constant interaction of particles and waves communicating and interacting in a constant feedback loop; words too are not static, they can move and be shaped into different words, just by a simple alteration of phoneme; words are directed from one source to another, communication is never static (LATIN communicare—to share), therefore meaning is experiential, determined by the co-communication of the initiator and the receiver of word information, a type of feedback loop
  • Action is a language, like words, performance is a type of communication, and there are given forms that have developed over thousands of years, certain types of actions for certain situations, certain repeated stories. Desire to alter those is to disrupt the “logic” that keeps communication superficial, on the surface, and unthinking. It is easier not to have to think for oneself and to go along with the way things are, the status quo. It is far more risky to “rock the boat”; therefore revolutionaries get killed, exiled, tortured, etc unless they are on the side of the political “right.” Consider Ezra Pound was tried for treason by the USA and finally committed to an asylum because he was so taken by Italian Fascism; Marinetti died while continuing to praise the Italian advancement in WWII. Like Virgil Marinetti was a state-poet. (Aeneid was epic conceived to narrate the superiority and rise to power of the Roman Empire).
  • Still, Marinetti’s techniques for disrupting logic continue to this day in the poets’ search for truth and meaning, for considering ethics, philosophy, education, shifts toward a new paradigm. Educational system lags behind the poets.