UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Poetic play communities : bpNichol’s Fraggle Rock screenplays McEwan, Andrew


This thesis analyzes the screenplays written by Canadian experimental poet bpNichol for the Jim Henson produced children’s television program Fraggle Rock between 1982 and 1986. Nichol’s Fraggle Rock writing represents a moment in his multi-genre oeuvre at which to observe his poetics and creative philosophies on display in a popular cultural setting. The ludic poetics exhibited in both the form and narratives of the screenplays display the ways in which playful engagement with language may create interactive communities of play. Through shared attitudes towards language, language games, nonsense, and absurdity, play and play communities emerge as a preoccupation of Nichol’s work within the Fraggle Rock narrative constraints, and links them with his poetry and poetics. To explore Nichol’s specific figuring of play, this thesis surveys theories of play from diverse theoretical backgrounds to develop a ludic model based in player-to-player relationships and communication. It also analyzes canonical treatments of play to mark off the concerns of the current study, and address the ambiguities of the term. Nichol’s Fraggle Rock screenplays employ song, language, and poetry as forms of community experience and engagement that foster play relationships, and allow individuals to collectively manipulate the forms of their communication. These language games and language play constitute the Fraggle world of Nichol’s episodes and highlight the play community as a paracosm based in shared manipulation of communicative conventions. Further, this thesis analyzes the ”pataphysical elements of the Fraggle Rock play community in Nichol’s episodes, and how these provide a playfully creative and critical angle with which to view the normative “human” world.

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