The recent publication of Richard Schechner’s Performance Studies: An Introduction marks the coming of age of performance studies—with all its interdisciplinary conceits—not just as an acknowledged field of study but as an influential antidiscipline. Replete with photographs, diagrams, and a steady stream of offset excerpts from other primary sources, the book is both visually beautiful and innovatively formatted. Concluding each of its eight chapters with a section on “Things to Think About,” “Things To Do,” and “Suggested Read-ings,” the book is commendable as well for the genuinely serious attention it gives to basic pedagogical concerns. This attention carries over into the body of the text itself, which is not only marked by generally lucid and jargon-free prose but which is also complemented by bionotes (complete with reference to major works) on virtually every author mentioned in the text. To say that Schechner’s book is reader-friendly is a bit of an understatement. It is one of those rare academic publications that is attentive to both the beginning and advanced scholar as well as to both student and teacher.
While all of these elements combine in what amounts to a refreshingly unconventional textbook, that textbook is as much chronicle and documentation as it is introduction. Indeed, one might legitimately characterize Schechner’s text as the scrapbook of an emergent twenty-first-century institutional paradigm that, for lack of extant alternatives, couches itself in a disciplinary rhetoric which it ultimately challenges. This is not a circumlocution for saying that the book is interdisciplinary. The interdisciplinary proclivities in Schechner’s book subtly raise the question: at what stage does the crossing of disciplinary boundaries cease to be a crossing and become their solvent?
This edition also comes with an integrated companion website.