The making of theatrical groupings: A cognitive perspective

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The prototype theory of genres (e.g., Sinding 2002) posits that a genre can be regarded as a cognitive category, conforming to principles of human categorization. In the present article we extend this cognitive view of genres by addressing a relatively under-researched issue: the initial process of genre formation, or in other words, the birth of a genre. In particular, we examine two "formative texts" - the studies by Martin Esslin and Aleks Sierz. In both studies the authors constructed a theatrical genre, introducing the "Theatre of the Absurd" and "In-Yer-Face Theatre," respectively. Our major question is: to what extent did cognitive principles of categorization play a role in the formation of the genres in question, as manifested in these formative texts? We focus on the cognitive principles underlying the major critical strategies employed in each of these two studies in the establishment of the category; and contend that these critical strategies adhere to the three fundamental categorization principles - the basic level, the prototype structure, and "category as a theory."

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-284
Number of pages20
Issue number190
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Cognitive categorization
  • Genre formation
  • Genre theory
  • In-Yer-Face Theatre
  • Prototype theory
  • Theatre of the Absurd


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