Acting and Answerability

  • Marla Carlson


In this chapter I want to complicate the picture of Method acting that has accompanied attacks on psychological realism since the mid-1980s. With the help of Bakhtinian concepts, I propose a reexamination of the Methods foundations in Stanislavsky as well as Sanford Meisner’s American derivative. I argue that although Method acting can serve to perpetuate the status quo, it also holds the potential to produce change: of emotion, as transformed by memory and by the circumstances of performance; of verbal and nonverbal behaviors, as they are assimilated from others and transformed by reiteration; and finally, of actors and the given dramatic circumstances, as they engage in mutual transformation.


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  1. 1.
    Timothy J. Wiles, The Theater Event: Modern Theories of Performance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Philip Auslander, “Just Be Yourself: Logocentrism and Difference in Performance Theory,” in Acting (Re)considered: Theories and Practice, Phillip Zarrilli, ed. (London: Routledge, 1995), 60.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On the production of the books and the role of Elizabeth Hapgood, see Benedetti, SB, 289–90, 297–300. On the translation issue, see Sharon Carnicke, “An Actor Prepares/Rabota aktera nadsoboi, Chast’I: A Comparison of the English with the Russian Stanislavsky,” Theatre Journal 36.4 (1984): 481–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 7.
    M. M. Bakhtin, “Response to a Question from the Novy Mir Editorial Staff,” Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, Vern W. McGee, tr. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), 7.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    M. M. Bakhtin, “Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity,” Art and Answerability, Vadim Liapunov, tr. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), 23Google Scholar
  6. Caryl Emerson, The First Hundred Years of Mikhail Bakhtin (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997)Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    A thorough argument for the proposition that thought is inner speech is outside the scope of my discussion here. See, for example, Lev Semenovic Vigotsky, Thought and Language, Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar, eds. and trs. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© David Krasner 2000

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  • Marla Carlson

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