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A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer

Refereeing the Muses

Bob Abelman and Cheryl Kushner

A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer: Refereeing the Muses examines the skill set associated with being a critic and arts journalist. It explores the history, evolution, and future of the profession in the United States, and carefully and purposefully dissects the preparation, observation, and writing process associated with generating thoughtful and interesting arts criticism.
Using theatrical productions as the best and most vivid example of a storytelling enterprise that employs creativity, imagination, collaboration, aesthetics, and artisanship to effectively engage an audience, this book is intended to generate the critical thinking and critical writing skills necessary to effectively engage in all forms of arts journalism.
It is designed to be used as a college-level textbook on theater criticism and arts journalism courses, for those looking to become more thoughtful, critical consumers, for casual critics thinking about starting a blog or working for their university newspaper, and for working critics hoping to improve their craft.
The text is written in an accessible style and includes quotes from renowned critics and arts practitioners throughout as well as frequent sidebars that offer timely, insightful, and entertaining examples of the points being made in the text.


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“I would especially like to recourt the Muse of poetry, who ran off with the mailman four years ago, and drops me only a scribbled postcard from time to time.” ~John Updike, author1 The sub-title chosen for this book is Refereeing the Muses. It seemed a fitting description for what it is that professional arts critics do and what, after com- pleting your reading of this book, you are likely to be doing as well. In ancient Greece, where many of the arts were conceived or refined, poets validated their work by claiming it was inspired by the muses—the goddesses who presided over all of the arts and all the sciences. Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.), one of the founders of Western philosophy, reasoned that poetry is created when the gods remove from the poet of choice all human senses and replace them with divine inspiration. Indeed, the word “inspiration” is akin to “respiration” and means to be divinely filled with breath. interior_abelman.ind 9 6/13/13 11:41 AM x | A Theater Criticism/Arts Journalism Primer: Refereeing the Muses The muses2 were daughters of Zeus, the ruler of the Olympian gods, and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. They include: Calliope (muse of epic poetry); Clio (muse of history); Erato (muse of love poetry); Euterpe (muse of music); Melpomene (muse of tragedy); Polymnia (muse of sacred poetry); Terpsichore (muse of dance); Thalia (muse of comedy); and Urania (muse of astronomy). It is the faces of Thalia and Melpomene that are believed to...

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