THE GENESIS OF THE PLAY Many teachers of English lack the historical, political, and sociological background necessary to appreciate to the full the literature they strive to interpret for the student. And, on the other hand, many teachers of history, political science, or sociology lack the knowledge of literature and the arts which would lend a broader significance to their own branch. This book is written by a sociologist who has tried with success to trace in the recorded activities of primitive peoples the genesis ...
THE GENESIS OF THE PLAY Many teachers of English lack the historical, political, and sociological background necessary to appreciate to the full the literature they strive to interpret for the student. And, on the other hand, many teachers of history, political science, or sociology lack the knowledge of literature and the arts which would lend a broader significance to their own branch. This book is written by a sociologist who has tried with success to trace in the recorded activities of primitive peoples the genesis of a great literary form. It is valuable reading, both for students of literature and for students of sociology. Taking "imitation and action" as the "basic elements of the drama," Mr. Havemeyer endeavors to prove "that the savage drama is the lineal antecedent of all modern forms, and hence that a knowledge of it is needful, in order to fill out the perspective and to afford a lapse of time sufficient to allow a conception of evolution in this social form." His proof consists in the presentation of a host of authenticated examples logically grouped according to nature and purpose. He connects these examples with critical and illustrative comment. He has drawn from a wide field of sociological literature and has not allowed himself to be carried away from a judicious moderation by his enthusiasm. Students of the English drama are so familiar with its origins in the church service that they will feel no surprise at the close connection between the drama of savage peoples and religion. They may be somewhat surprised, however, at the importance of this drama of savage peoples in education. "The use of the drama in education" sounds distinctly modern, but Mr. Havemeyer shows interestingly and conclusively that plays among certain primitive peoples had a most important part, indeed the most important part, in the education of the youth between the ages of twelve and twenty-three. During these years, each man child was initiated into the lore of his tribe by a long series of dramatized lessons in what he could and what he could not do. Absorbing as some of these lessons may have been, their serious purpose destroys one of our childhood illusions concerning our savage brothers' freedom from the restrictions of school. Interesting, too, and unusual were the dramas intended to insure plenty of game and success in the hunt. Here again the serious purpose of the play is supreme. The action of the play and its performance, perfect down to minute particulars, became analogous to religion. We have nothing in our modern life to correspond to such drama as this. So much space and emphasis are given in this book to the drama of serious nature-drama of religious or educational purpose-among primitive peoples, that we are led to question whether drama for pleasure alone received any development. We are so accustomed to the hedonistic intent of our modern stage that the word drama or "play," has come to have a connotation of pleasure.... - From The Yale Review , Volume 7 
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