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Canevas, chanvre & cannabis BOURASSA ANDRE G



Permettez-moi une intervention bilingue car j'aimerais inclure les membres
de QUEATRE dans un debat qui a commence avec un groupe anglophone.//
Allow me to give a bilingual point of view because I would like the 320
people of QUEATRE, a Fench speaking discussion group on theatre, to be
aware of that debate and try with us a clarification of that question,
since we are dealing with the origin of the expression "canvas".

"Canvas" is eather a metaphor or a metonymie, or both.
Avec le mot "canevas", nous sommes en presence soit d'une metaphore, soit
d'une metonymie, ou les deux.

Metaphor: the word means a loosely webbed tissue made of rough hemp
(in French "chanvre", from latin "cannabis") used as a base for carpets
and tapestry. Some kind of burlap. Moliere"s family was quite familiar
with that. So a sketch of Commedia dell'arte would be a loosely webbed
play compared to a regular text, but out of which one could make a piece
of articraft ("arte"). According to _Robert_, "canevas" appears in French
in 1281 under the form "canevach" and is used later on in Picardie as
"canevas" and as "chanvre" elsewhere.// 
Comme metaphore, "canevas" rappellerait cette toile de chanvre ecru qui
sert de base aux tapis et tapisseries cheres a la famille de Moliere. Le
mot est une forme picarde de "chanvre", les deux derivant du latin
"cannabis". Un canevas serait donc un tissu un peu grossier et relache a
patir duquel on fait oeuvre d'artisanat ("arte").

Metonymy: the word could mean a sized cloth used for rolls or for those 
posters on which were written the words that the mimes were not allowed to
say (like the ones we can see on some old printings).//
Comme metonymie, le mot peut designer ces toiles traitees sur lesquelles
on dessinait des cartes, ecrivait des affiches et pouvait transcrire des
roles susceptibles de resister a l'usure et aux intemperies des voyages.
Des gravures nous font voir les repliques de certains mimes transcrites
sur des affiches qui etaient epinglees sur les treteaux.

_Robert_ favors the metaphor as the origin of the meaning of "canevas". I
would not reject the metonymy, although. But do we have clear information
about the use of cloth rather than paper for rolls or posters? We do have
some about linen maps.//
_Robert_ favorise l'explication metaphorique, mais je ne rejetterais pas
l'expression metonymique. 

Question a QUEATRE: existe-t-il des preuves qu'on a utilise la toile pour
les roles et les panneaux affiches sur les treteaux? L'utilisation de la
toile pour les cartes, elle, est bien connue.

Andre G. Bourassa.
P.S. I don't think canvas (although made of cannabis) was smoked.//
Je ne crois pas que le canevas ait servi a la petite fumee.

On Tue, 22 Oct 1996, Barry Russell wrote:

> WS Brooks wrote:
> 
> > No, no! Go private if you insist on trading abuse [actually, I don't think
> > it's real abuse, just over-excitement], but please keep the scholarly
> > discussion on the list. It's fascinating.
> 
> OK, let's try again.
> 
> The thread began when Tom Pallen responded to a question about the
> meaning of "canovaccio" from another list member. I answered his
> response because I felt that it was unnecessary of him to invoke the
> idea of embroidery as part of the origin of the term in its theatrical
> usage. I did not think that idea should pass unquestioned in a forum
> such as this.
> 
> What I wanted to question was the idea that the term "canovaccio" had
> a metaphorical origin derived from embroidery when a literal origin
> seemed sufficient. I thought it important to raise the question
> because the force of such a metaphor (actors "embroidering" on a
> plot) might be to place too much emphasis on the improvisational
> element in commedia dell'arte and undervalue the importance of
> preparation, study and the development over time of set pieces of
> business.
> 
> Tom Pallen has said he has evidence to support the metaphorical
> origin of the term in letters from commedia actors. I would be
> interested to know which letters he means, and I will be happy to
> accept his interpretation if the evidence is strong enough.
> 
> Tom Heck objected on two grounds to my suggestion that the origin of
> the term was associated with the literal meaning of "canovaccio"
> (canvas). First, he could not imagine one could write legibly on
> canvas (a point disposed of by Meredith McMinn). Second, he thought it
> "wishful etymological thinking" to suppose that actors might have had
> a running order, on canvas or on paper, hung up backstage. I quoted
> Gherardi (1700) to suggest it was more than wishful thinking.
> 
> Tom Heck now challenges me to produce a piece of canvas containing a
> sample of a running order. He knows that I cannot, since, as he
> points out, everything that has survived is on paper. But it is a
> good point, and deserves a serious response.
> 
> The image he rejects envisages actors having  plot summaries written
> on canvas, like old linen maps, which they would roll or fold and
> store away till the next time they were needed. I think he's probably
> right to reject such an image. It's not what I intended to imply.
> 
> Here's what I think probably happened, based mostly on  my studies
> of the Italian company that worked in Paris in the late 17thC:
> 
> (1) One member of a commedia dell'arte company was charged with
> responsibility for maintaining a permanent collection, on paper, of
> all the company's scenarii. This collection belonged to the company
> as a whole, and was considered a part of its stock-in-trade. A
> scenario in this sense was a plot outline devoid of dialogue. They
> usually began with a list of characters, sometimes included a list of
> the properties needed, sometimes they had a brief plot summary, and
> then they listed, act by act, the essential plot components in
> running order. Flaminio Scala's collection, though probably enhanced
> for publication, is an example. Publication was not usual. In the
> 17thC it was believed that publishing commedia dell'arte scenarii
> would stop people wanting to see the plays in live performance.
> 
> (2) Each member of the company might also maintain his or her own
> notes of their character's contributions to those scenarii. These
> were personal. Domenico Biancolelli's notebook is a good example.
> 
> (3) What did the actors do when a play had been chosen? I would
> guess they got out the company book or folder to remind themselves of
> what was involved, discussed any changes that had to be made, looked
> up their own notes, and then, before the performance took place,
> somebody - perhaps the person responsible responsible for maintaining
> the scenarii or the stage manager - would copy the running order in
> outline from the written record onto something more accessible, like
> a series of sheets of sized canvas, maybe one for each act. These
> would have been what Gherardi refers to when he talks about
> consulting "le sujet" before stepping on stage.
> 
> A few examples of (1) and (2) have survived, which is not
> surprising, since they were probably looked after with care, for
> they had long-term value to the company. Examples of (3), assuming
> of course they existed, would have been as ephemeral as yesterday's
> blackboard.
> 
> Did they exist? If they didn't, something very similar would have been
> needed.
> 
> Barry Russell
> 
> Homepage:
> http://www.brookes.ac.uk/~p0030818/index.htm
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