Closet Screenplay - Critical Interest

Critical Interest

Brian Norman, an assistant professor at Idaho State University, refers to James Baldwin's One Day When I Was Lost as a "closet screenplay." The screenplay was written for a project to produce a movie, but the project suffered a setback. After that, the script was published as a literary work.

Lee Jamieson's article, "The Lost Prophet of Cinema: The Film Theory of Antonin Artaud" discusses Artaud's three Lesescenarios (listed below) in the context of his "revolutionary film theory." And in French Film Theory and Criticism: 1907-1939, Richard Abel lists the following critical treatments of several of the Surrealist "published scenario texts" (36) listed in the example section below:

  • J.H. Matthews, Surrealism and Film (U of Michigan P, 1971), 51-76.
  • Steven Kovács, From Enchantment to Rage: The Story of Surrealist Cinema (Associated UP, 1980), 59-61, 157-76.
  • Linda Williams, Figures of Desire: A Theory and Analysis of Surrealist Film (U of Illinois P, 1981), 25-33.
  • Richard Abel, "Exploring the Discursive Field of the Surrealist Film Scenario Text," Dada/Surrealism 15 (1986): 58-71.

Finally, in his article "Production's 'dubious advantage': Lesescenarios, closet drama, and the (screen)writer's riposte," Quimby Melton outlines the history of the Lesescenario form, situates the genre in a historical literary context by drawing parallels between it and Western "closet drama," and argues we might consider certain instances of closet drama proto-screenplays. The article also argues that writing these sorts of "readerly" performance texts is essentially an act of subversion whereby (screen)writers work in a performance mode only to intentionally bypass production and, thereby, (re)assert narrative representation's textual primacy and (re)claim a direct (re)connection with their audience.

The comments section of Melton's article also has an on-going discussion of the Lesescenario canon. The list of examples below is based on "Production's 'dubious advantage,'" that discussion, and Melton's "Lesecenario Bibliography" at Google Docs. The bibliography contains additional critical works concerned with individual Lesescenarios and/or the canon at-large.

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