I enjoyed David's talk about wrestling in relation to ancient theater and Dell'Arte. The parallels are convincing; the performative structures and melodramatic mode are very similar. I was especially interested to hear about the audience participation in ancient theater, as well as the strategies of actors for comminucating between eachother and the audience. The Bret Hart/ British Bulldog match we saw demonstrated wrestling's versions of these tactics.
I had some lingering question as I left class yesterday, that has now blown up in my head into a more broad inquiry...
What does a really successful comparison of pro wrestling to ancient theater give us? (I don't mean for that to sound as skeptical as it does; it's an earnest question...). Does it prove that there are some universal values or theatrical structure in pro wrestling because it relates to a performance history? Does it validate wrestling/ give it credibility? Or are wrestling and Commedia Dell'Arte being compared in order to describe/ understand the other? If the relational study of wrestling offers us a new lens through which to read it, what is the new vision (besides the lens itself)?
I mentioned to Sam at some point that I thought it was interesting that almost every text we read had an obligatory section validating the study of pro wrestling. In Sam's Foley article, for example: "Pro wrestling shows are then particularly rewarding texts in which to study the ways in which its character and narratives reflect values and conflicts in American culture, as this case study of Foley has demonstrated." I guess for me it boils down to a question about whether we're studying culture through wrestling, wrestling through culture, or some interactive version of the two.
Forgive me, there's a whole lot I don't know about CMS. I took this class as a 'poacher' more than anything, importing inspiration and theoretical grapplings from the material into my art practice and thesis development. I have done some of the 'comparative' part, mostly in relating what we see to what I know in order to make sense of it. But in writing the paper, I suppose I have some confusion about what hat I'm wearing. Am I an artist thinking about wrestling? Or a student of wrestling adding some thooughts from other discourses? Or an MIT grad student with an obligation to try to grasp what this CMS animal is and work within its rules/ discourse?
I'm glad we've been encouraged to bring our own expertise to the class/ to the blog posts. CMS does strike me as a field based on transgressing boundaries of study, which is why I was suprised at the disdain about the non-cms posts at a certain point. This really got me confused: "CMS classes constantly have this problem - a bunch of kids think 'ooh, a class on tv/wrestling/movies! no way!' and move in, so self impressed that they're managing to get college credit for their weekend amusement that they fail to realize that CMS is actually a disciplined study, which here in CMS we take just as seriously as you take CS, or chemistry, or mathematics. And so class discussion goes to pot, we spend classes re-explaining readings, and those of us who are capable of trying to integrate the theory, practical, and intense body of literature relevant to this field are left to walk each other places after class, bemoaning the difficulties of learning at MIT." Does this mean that CMS is about a comparative study practice only from the starting point of CMS itself?
Does it devalue the work and thoughts of the class that, for me, the endpoint is not in fact a scholarly attempt at reading a pop culture phenomenon within a larger cultural framework or historic trajectory, but to take those ideas and chew them around and spit them back out into my own practice, which is not in CMS, but more closely related to the wrestling content itself (in that it's performance-based)?
Sorry about the ramble; I'm just trying to resolve some discomforts with my position in this... and it helps to look at what other people's goals are in studying this topic (like David and his comparison to ancient theater).