Polemical Force of Chekhovian Comedy

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This groundbreaking study insists that critical tradition has conspired to emasculate the polemical force Chekhovian comedy out of misplaced respect for his renowned objectivity and his loathing of overt moralizing. A rhetorical framework of analysis is predicated upon the assumption that all writings are implicated in ‘interestedness’ – the critic’s task is to uncover the rhetorical parameters and nature of that ‘interestedness.’ Through analyses of each of Chekhov’s plays in its original context, the author identifies the rhetorical potential that remains neglected in contemporary readings and productions. All of the readings in this study are addressed to actors and directors – inviting them to reassess and reclaim the force of these plays for our time.


“Dr. John Reid’s rigorous and thought-provoking study and discussion of dramatic meaning, purpose and dramaturgical strategy in Chekhov’s plays joins a long, often distinguished and continuing debate about the work ... His extensive and well-documented analyses of the hidden polemical contexts that shaped Chekhov’s plays will make a most welcome addition to the continuing debate and impetus to free the interpretation and production of Chekhov from a deadly, pale, photocopy of misappropriation of both Stanislavskian psychological naturalism and sepia-colored sentimentality.” – Dr. Peter Billingham, Reader in Drama and Performance, University of Portsmouth

“What particularly distinguishes these analyses, I think, is that Dr. Reid approaches Chekhov with a keen sense of his profound theatricality. This might seem paradoxical, but there are relatively few recent books that actually consider the complex ways in which Chekhov’s plays function in performance ... Broad in scope and sophisticated in its range of critical references, this is certainly a very welcome addition to Chekhov studies.” – Dr. Graham Saunders, Department of Film, Theatre and Television, University of Reading

“Dr. Reid’s own experience as a director of Chekhov’s plays, of course, contributes an unusually rewarding perspective to his exciting articulation of the complex of rhetorical energies that need to be attended to in reading this body of work. This study, the culmination of many years of reflection and reading is exciting and compelling, but also wise and scholarly and will certainly make its mark opening up a new direction in Chekhov studies.” – Dr. William Greenslade, Principal Lecturer in English, School of English and Drama, University of West of England

Table of Contents

Preface by Dr. Peter Billingham
1 Ivanov: The Perils of Typicality
2 Matter and Spirit in The Seagull
3 Ga-Ga-Ga Gander Music: Polemical Cackling in Uncle Vanya
Part 1: Where is the Drama?
Part 2: The Plague of Theoretism
4 Three Sisters: Black Vesper’s Opera Naturalistica
Part 1: Musica per Dramma
Part 2: The Personal is the Polemical
5 Polemic as Parting Advice: The Argument of The Cherry Orchard

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