A Concept of Dramatic Genre and the Comedy of a New Type
by V. Ulea (Vera Zubarev)
“Dramatic genre deals with the potential of the artistic universe, which can be measured based on the methodology elaborated for indeterministic systems, taking into account the peculiarity of the artistic system when compared to other systems. I distinguish between three types of potential that correspond to three types of dramatic genre—dramedy, drama, and comedy.”
—V. Ulea, from the Preface
Applying systems theory to the comedies of Chekhov, Balzac, Kleist, Moliere, and Shakespeare, "A Concept of Dramatic Genre" approaches dramatic genre from the point of view of the degree of richness and strength of a character’s potential. Its main focus is to establish a methodology for analyzing the potential from multidimensional perspectives, using systems thinking. The whole concept is an alternative to the Aristotelian plot-based approach and is applied to an analysis of western and eastern European authors as well as contemporary American film.
This innovative study consists of three parts: The first part is mostly theoretical, proposing a new definition of the dramatic as a category linked to general systems phenomena and offering a new classification of dramatic genre. In the second part, Ulea offers a textual analysis of some works based on this new classification. She analyzes comedies, tragedies, and dramas on the same or similar topics in order to reveal what makes them belong to opposite types of dramatic genre.
Additionally, she considers the question of fate and chance, with regard to tragedy and comedy, from the point of view of the predispositioning theory. In the third part, Ulea explores an analysis of the comedy of a new type—CNT. Her emphasis is on the integration of the part and the whole in approaching the protagonist’s potential. She introduces the term quasi-strong potential in order to reveal the illusory strength of protagonists of the CNT and to show the technique of CNT’s analysis and synthesis.
Ulea’s research begins with the notion of the comic, traditionally considered synonymous with the laughable, and attempts to approach it as independent from the laughable and laughter. The necessity to do so is dictated by the desire to penetrate the enigmatic nature of Chekhov’s comedy. The result is A Concept of Dramatic Genre and the Comedy of a New Type: Chess, Literature, and Film, a completely new approach to potential and systems thinking—which has never been a focus of dramatic theory before. Such potential is the touchstone of the comic and comedy, their permanent basic characteristic, the heart and axis around which the comedic world spins.
V. Ulea is a literary critic, writer, film director, and lecturer of Russian Language and Literature, Comparative Literature, and Literature and Business in the Department of Slavic Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of 14 books of prose, poetry, and literary criticism.
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V. Ulea attempts here a very ambitious thing, nothing less than a poetics of dramatic character as an alternative to the familiar, Aristotelian plot-based approach. She brings to her task a sophisticated understanding of human systems—organic, intelligent, capable of learning—and of their ability to interact creatively as psychological mechanisms in the best sense of the word: that is, as mechanisms for generating potentials. Chekhov, especially, will never quite sound the same.
Caryl Emerson, Professor of Russian literature and comparative literature in the department of Slavic Languages and Literature, Princeton University
Ulea’s work is not only original and innovative, it is well argued and it is a most valuable contribution to the fields of dramatic and literary theory, especially to theories of the comic and comedy. It is one of the most creative, intellectually invigorating, and useful works of literary theory I have read in a long time.
Steven Totosy , Editor of CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture