Skip to main content

Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Theatre Theory Reader

Prague School Writings

Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

Theatre Theory Reader

Prague School Writings

The Theatre Theory Reader provides the first comprehensive and critical anthology of texts reflecting on the development of the theater theory of the Prague School—or Prague Linguistic Circle—beginning with early twentieth-century composer and aesthetician Otakar Zich. The majority of the thirty-eight texts date from the 1930s and early 1940s, the period when the Prague Linguistic Circle was most active as both a theoretical laboratory and a focal point for scholars, artists, and intellectuals. A substantial afterword places these writings in context, describing the emergence of the Prague School in an effort to promote a deeper understanding of its texts. Organized thematically and structurally rather than chronologically, the Theatre Theory Reader explores issues and themes in the study of the theater as an art form and as artistic practice. Just as the Prague School theorists viewed theory as a toolbox of approaches to theater analysis, this anthology should be considered a toolbox of analytic possibilities.

646 pages | 46 halftones | 7 x 10


“This is precisely the book I have been looking out for ever since working on my book, Das Drama, and discovering from a few specimens the incisive usefulness and importance of the Prague School theatre semiotics. There is everything one could possibly wish for in this monumental Theatre Theory Reader: all the now canonical texts and many others presented for the first time in English, arranged in a systematic order which fully renders the sense of the scope and development of Czech theatre semiotics, and all of them in highly competent translations aware of the terminological complexities at stake and supported by helpful annotations. With such a rich harvest garnered, this anthology of Prague School writings is bound to become nationally as well as internationally a prime work of reference and give them a new lease on life in the twenty-first century.”

Manfred Pfister, author of "The Theory and Analysis of Drama"

“Modern theater theory, no matter what its orientation, can trace its roots back to the structuralist and semiotic explorations of the Prague School in the early twentieth century. This comprehensive and informed overview is therefore most welcome in understanding the course and development of that theoretical tradition. It is not, however, of purely historical interest, important as that is. Whether they use the terminology of the Prague School or evoke the names of its contributors, analysts of theater and performance today still find the strategies and articulations of those pioneers of ongoing relevance. This collection thus provides an important double service, providing contemporary theater scholars with a clearer idea of where they have come from and an inspiration for where they may be going.”

Marvin Carlson, author of "Theatre: A Very Short Introduction"

“I think it is a great idea not to group the articles according to the different authors but rather to use a system that covers as many aspects of theater as possible. This way, it becomes quite clear that the so-called Prague or Czech structuralists and semioticians were able to apply their theories when discussing most diverging questions related to theatre. The choice of texts is excellent. It points out that these theories are not outdated, that they do not only have historical value and are interesting not only with regard to the history of ideas. Rather, it becomes evident that they are highly relevant in the context of discussions led today.”

Erika Fischer-Lichte, author of "The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies"

“The Prague School and Czech structuralism had a considerable impact on the development of semiotic studies and theater studies at large in the 1960s and ’70s. But this has been quickly forgotten and with the rise of poststructuralism and deconstruction in the ’80s and ’90s, they were not only neglected, but also unjustly disregarded. . . . This is why the Theatre Theory Reader is a very welcome book which comes at the right moment, when postmodernism, poststructuralism, and postdramatic theatre seem to have lost their momentum, as if the requirements of today’s quest for a new way of living and of making business had become so strong that we must go back to the basics. Structuralism and a critique of ideology are now back, at least as a sign to not give up thinking and theorizing in a world which has become self-centered and mad. The afterword by Pavel Drábek, Martin Bernátek, Andrea Jochmanová and Eva Šlaisová is a sort of book within the book, as it neatly puts in perspective all the important names and theories of the Prague School. It does this in a very user-friendly manner, where complex theories are summarized in a clear, yet precise, introduction. This makes the reading of the different chapters easier and immediately connected to our contemporary way of thinking.”

Patrice Pavis, author of "Contemporary Mise en Scene: Staging Theatre Today"

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press