chapter  8
TOWARDS A PRODUCTIVE CRITICAL PRACTICE
Pages 17

The critical quest for expressive realism acts as the ally of classic realism in constructing the reader as consumer. On the other hand ‘the goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text’ (Barthes 1975:4). Barthes owes to Brecht the distinction he makes here between the passive consumer of the readable (lisible) classic realist text and the active producer of meaning who accepts the challenge of the writable (scriptible) text. Brecht distinguishes between the audience of traditional ‘dramatic theatre’, supine, motionless, apparently in a trance, and the alert, thoughtful spectators of his own ‘epic theatre’, actively engaged in the work of criticizing the play of contradictions on the stage (Brecht 1964:187). Despite the recognition Brecht has received, and despite his undoubted influence on the forms of European theatre, the spectator or reader as consumer remains the norm in our society. Dramatic theatre (now mediated by television) and the classic realist novel are still the dominant popular modes. The cinema, too, is still dominated by narrative illusionism in spite of the efforts of an active avant-garde.