BASEES Annual Conference 2022

The Theatricality of Reading: Agency and Embodiment in Vladimir Sorokin’s Playscripts

Fri8  Apr04:00pm(20 mins)
Garden Room


Katerina Pavlidi


Although the Russian author Vladimir Sorokin (1955-) collaborated during the 1980s with performance groups of the late-Soviet artistic underground and of Moscow Conceptualism in particular, little has been written about these collaborations’ effect on the themes and formal devices in Sorokin’s literary works. This paper approaches Sorokin's playscripts written during the 1990s as the culmination of concepts and devices from the series of performances Perspektivy rechevogo prostranstva (1985-6) organised by the performance group Collective Actions. The performances' analysis demonstrates that devices such as fragmented speech and excessive repetition emphasise the materiality of speech (i.e., aural qualities such as vocal timbre and intonation) and make the audience aware that their emotional and somatic reaction to the materiality of speech determines how they interpret the performance. Building on the embodiment that the materiality of speech brings about, Sorokin’s playscripts make their own readers aware of the playscript’s material form and the process of reading as if one is a director who transposes the script into a spatial event. This paper argues that the act of reading as if one is a director illuminates the theatricality of the very act of reading and the readers’ agency in interpretation. Through close analysis and comparison this paper reconstructs the significance that readers' agency acquires in late-Soviet and post-Soviet culture.