Canonisation in contemporary theatre criticism : a frequency analysis of 'Flemish Wave' directors in the pages of Etcetera
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Contemporary theatre review. - Amsterdam
, p. 252-261
University of Antwerp
In this article, I examine processes of canonisation in the contemporary discourse of theatre criticism. My case study concerns how the rise of a young generation of Flemish experimental directors (more widely known as the Flemish Wave) was chronicled by the performing arts magazine Etcetera in the period from 1983 to 1998. By charting the frequencies with which certain directors are mentioned, I examine how much attention the critics gave to the upcoming directors, which is then contrasted with the mentions of the directors of the mainstream municipal theatres. In this particular corpus, it is remarkable how little attention is given to the established directors. Directors who can be said to belong to experimental, postdramatic theatre (Hans-Thies Lehmann), on the contrary, such as Jan Fabre, Jan Lauwers or Ivo Van Hove, do receive many more mentions in the magazines pages. In this way, Etcetera has actively contributed to the canonisation of a new generation of directors. In order to explain a number of exceptions to this general tendency, I introduce the hypothesis of a latent avant-garde mentality among the editors and critics of Etcetera. This hypothesis is further supported by looking at how the structures for experimental art in Western Europe have developed in the last decades of the twentieth century. Also, the rise of new academic research centres for theatre studies has actively contributed to this mentality. To conclude, I examine the value of such historical labels as the Flemish Wave through the lens of the frequency analysis.