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Critical Perspectives A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen.

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1 Critical Perspectives A Doll’s House Henrik Ibsen

2 READINGCRITICALLY No view of the text is dominant Coupling close reading with an informed understanding of key ideas, related texts and background information

3 EARLY CRITICS Early responses focused on the play’s ending Representation of the ending as: Unrealistic [M. W Burn] A dramatic flaw [F. Petersen]

4 EARLY CRITICS Germany – Ibsen pressured into writing a happy ending “Loving the repulsive” “Illogical and immoral” “Our own life, our own everyday life, has here been placed on stage and condemned!”

5 VICTORIANENGLAND “IBSEN IN BRIXTON” CARTOON PUNCH 1891

6 VICTORIANENGLAND “How Torvald Helmer could by any possiblity have treated his restless, illogical, fractious, and babyish little wife otherwise than he did; why Nora should ever adore with such abandonment and passion wthis conceited prig… are points that… require a considerable amount of argument… to convince the common- sense playgoer.” (C. Scott, Daily Telegraph, 8 June 1889) “beware of confounding the feelings of men who look to them for nothing better than pleasant sensations and mental distractions, with the feelings of men who look to them to raise their ideal of mental and moral grace and beauty.” (Spectator, 1989).

7 VICTORIANENGLAND The Quintessence of Ibsenism (G. Bernard, 1891) … “sharpshooting at the audience…we are not flattered spectators killing the idle hour with an ingenious and amusing entertainment: we are ‘guilty creatures sitting at a play’”…

8 LATER CRITICS Naturalism – Ibsen came to be known for it Ibsen’s naturalism had been necessary at the time in order to show the psychological and political limitation of bourgeois domestic life, it was a stage the theatre needed to outgrow.

9 LATER CRITICS Ibsen is not naturalistic enough The relationship of Ibsen’s plays – and A Doll’s House in particular – to notions of theatricality and performance is precisely what makes them interesting Ibsen as a pioneer of modernism…an “invitiation to reflect on the nature of theatre”

10 LATER CRITICS The interpreters of Nora – an essential dimension to understanding of how different generations have understood Ibsen.

11 SIGNS &SEMIOTICS Semiotics is the study of signs. Sign Systems Convey meaning between people Gestures Clothing Codes of manners

12 SIGNS &SEMIOTICS Names are most obviously arbitrary labels of all Helmer – Nora prefers his first name Helmer considers use of his first name to be on a friendship level, hence his anger towards Krogstad’s informality

13 SIGNS &SEMIOTICS The Christmas Tree Christian ideals Festivity and fun Nora’s state of being Clothing Tension Door Slam

14 MARXISTCRITICISM For Brecht, a play that allowed the audience to become absorbed in the action as if they were watching real life was in danger of lulling them into accepting the society shown in the play instead of wanting to change it.

15 MARXISTCRITICISM The current preoccupation of Marxist criticism is with what a text does not say – because the text itself has been produced on a set of assumptions about the world seen as ‘natural’ by author and audience alike. Whose story does this tell? Is it told at the expense of lower economic groups?

16 MARXISTCRITICISM Nora and Mrs Linde as commodities Nora as a reward Nora as a pet / possession Mrs Linde as an object of exchange

17 MARXISTCRITICISM Nora challenges her world She is no longer an object Who is right?

18 GENDEREDCRITICISM A Doll’s House remains one of the most powerful refutations ever written of the theory of separate spheres which underpinned nineteenth-century society – the idea that men and women belonged in the workplace and the home respectively.

19 GENDEREDCRITICISM Gender is performative Gender is not something we are Gender is something we do Gender roles are apparent even within costumes

20 GENDEREDCRITICISM Nora and Helmer - Gender stereotypes Nora Submissive Flattering of her husband Seeing work as beyond her due to intellect Helmer Is attracted to her helplessness Acts as protector

21 Critical Perspectives Early Critics Victorian England Later Critics Contemporary Approaches Signs and Semiotics Marxist Criticism Gendered Criticism Sourced from York Notes Advanced – A Doll’s House, by Frances Gray, York Press, London 2008

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