Representation and Reception

Brechtian 'Pedagogics of Theatre' and Critical Thinking

by Shehla Burney (Author)
©2018 Textbook XXVIII, 94 Pages


Representation and Reception: Brechtian ‘Pedagogics of Theatre’ and Critical Thinking deploys German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s theory of drama and performance, what he calls "the pedagogics of theatre", to create modes of critical thinking in the classroom. Extrapolating on Brecht’s estranged forms of representation—narrative, story, montage, Verfremdüngseffeckt or alienation, tableaux, ostension (showing), gestus, masks and music—Burney constructs an original "3-R Pedagogy" or "spiral of semiosis"—"Rethinking/Replaying/Re-cognition"—that is designed to create critical thinking and "complex seeing". Her dramatic production of Brecht’s Lehrstück, or learning-play, The Exception and the Rule, for a non-literate, working-class audience in Hyderabad, India, critically analyses how audiences make meaning through image, word and ideology, gesture, memory, collective experience and personal

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Poetics and Politics of Representation and Reception
  • The Learning Play
  • Pleasure/Instruction
  • Past/Present
  • Sign, Myth, and Meaning
  • Orientalism: Representation of the Other
  • Representing Africa
  • Aura and Authenticity
  • Brecht and Derrida
  • Burney’s 3-R Pedagogy
  • New Media Technologies and Representation
  • Chapters
  • References
  • Chapter One: Bertolt Brecht’s “Pedagogics of Theatre”: Image, Ideology, and Meaning
  • Ideology
  • Mimesis and Semiosis
  • Seeing and Doing
  • Everyday Theatre
  • Theatre as Event
  • Selective Inattention
  • Theatre and Sports
  • “Epic Theatre Is the Modern Theatre”
  • Brecht and Piscator
  • Brecht’s Grand Design
  • Verfremdüngseffeckt
  • Montage
  • References
  • Chapter Two: A Theatre with Footnotes: Diacritics and Referentiality/Witnessing and Learning
  • Underlining Pedagogy
  • Punctuating Theatre
  • Acting in Quotation Marks
  • Witnessing and Learning
  • Witnessing as Knowing
  • The Learning-play: Witnessing and Voting
  • References
  • Chapter Three: “The Pregnant Moment”: Ideality, Gestus, and Tableau as Learning
  • Brecht and Eisenstein
  • Gestus as the Pedagogic Moment
  • Ostension as Inference of Meaning
  • Gesture as Intentionality
  • Subjectivity
  • Instant Re-play
  • The Conception and the Reality
  • The Berliner Ensemble’s Performances
  • Brecht as Classical Avant-gardism?
  • Deconstructing the East/West Dichotomy
  • The Intervention of the “Art of Living”
  • References
  • Chapter Four: Theatre as Metaphor of the Street: Brecht in the Basthi Across the Seas
  • Non-literate Working-class Audience
  • The Exception and the Rule
  • The Discourse of Theatre
  • The Production
  • Song, Music, and Dance
  • The Reception
  • Ethnography of Audiences and Reception
  • Complex Seeing
  • Banjara Hills
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Rethinking/Replaying/Re-Cognition: My 3-R Pedagogy for Critical Thinking
  • What Is Critical Thinking?
  • Critical Thinking and Education
  • My 3-R Pedagogy
  • Rethinking
  • Replaying
  • Re-cognition
  • References
  • Afterword: The Possibility of Critical Thinking: Bringing the World to the Classroom
  • References
  • About the Author
  • Index

| ix →


I remember the long, interesting conversations with the late Professor Richard Courtney, popularly considered to be the initiator of drama in education, always dressed in a dark green tunic and huge jade medallion, talking about all things theatre and drama, and of course, Bertolt Brecht. Richard had purchased the rights to The Exception and the Rule from Brecht in the 1930s, but could not produce the play as he moved to Canada from England. I am grateful that he loved my performance of the play for a non-literate working class audience in Hyderabad, India, and my description of it that was initially published in the International Brecht Society Communications.

I am indebted to Richard Schechner, former Professor of Performance Studies and Drama at New York University and renowned theatre director, for complimenting me on my award-winning thesis, on which this book is based. This new writing, however, moves away from the original script toward an education slant, applying Brecht’s “pedagogics of theatre” to critical thinking. Extrapolating from Brecht’s drama theory, I have created a spiral of Rethinking/Replaying/Re-cognition, which can be applied to create critical thinking in the classroom.

The late Professor Roger Simon admired the intertextuality of my work (and my references to Sartre) and was extremely helpful. I am very grateful to him for all his guidance. I cannot thank Dr. Johan Aitken enough for commenting that she would not delete a single word from my dissertation. Professor Helfried Seliger ← ix | x → introduced me to the German intricacies of Brechtian scholarship, which I do not claim to know at all as I am not a Brecht expert. This book is simply about Brecht’s performance theory, his pedagogics, his modes of representation and the semiotics of reception, translated into meaning by a “differenced” audience across the seas.

I am very thankful to my uncle, Vishwamitter Adil, artistic director of the progressive politically left-wing Indian Peoples’ Theatre Association (IPTA), which was putting on Brecht’s plays in the ‘Fifties in Bombay in translation in Hindi/Urdu. As a child, I loved his stories from Brecht’s plays, narrated animatedly to some famous producer or director. They left a huge impact on me – the irony of the water-seller selling water in the rain and the dead man coming alive! I still remember being moved by his production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and the famous line – “the land to the tillers of the soil”. Lastly, I wish to thank my family for all their support and love.

| xi →


The Poetics and Politics of Representation and Reception

Every image embodies a way of seeing.


Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.



ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XXVIII, 94 pp. 1 ill.

Biographical notes

Shehla Burney (Author)

Shehla Burney is Professor of Cultural Studies and Education at Queen’s University, one of Canada’s leading universities. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto, with an international award for her doctoral dissertation from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education at New York, 1989. She is also the recipient of three gold medals for her academic degrees. Her previous book, Pedagogy of the Other: Edward Said, Postcolonial Theory and Strategies for Critique (Peter Lang 2012) was well-received internationally. Dr. Burney’s research interests lie in contemporary critical and cultural theory, poststructuralist critique, postcolonialism, and critical pedagogy, which she innovatively applies to the study of media, representation, drama in education, and the semiotics of theatre reception.


Title: Representation and Reception
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124 pages