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An anthropological study of play-acting. Acting on the stage is seen as an example of social action in general. The focus is on performing Shakespeare's plays, and on the player's use of and reflections upon time, space, plot, and acting. In her new book, Kirsten Hastrup aims at a renewed understanding of action and motivation within any social setting. By listening to such experts of action as the players of Shakespeare, we achieve a comprehensive reappraisal of current notions of human agency. In the process, we are offered a set of methodological tools and analytical concepts that may enrich future anthropological analyses of individual actions in their social context.
The work is an unprecedented approach to action and acting. For anthropologists and other social or cultural scientists Hastrup offers a fresh perspective on performance, and on the construction of the analytical object. For theatre historians and dramatists, the combination of detailed (ethnographic) analysis of the players' work and self-understanding and anthropological argument offers new insight into the profession of acting.
The recurrent references to Shakespeare's plays add a lively feel of art and poetry and sustain one of the main threads of investigation, namely the relationship between language and action. In addition to the substantial references to players, directors, and theatre scholars, the conversational partners are mainly anthropologists and philosophers, but also art historians and literary critics.
Kirsten Hastrup er professor i antropologi ved Københavns Universitet. Hun er forfatter til talrige bøger om antropologi og menneskerettigheder.
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