Closet screenplay

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Related to closet drama, a closet screenplay is a screenplay intended not to be produced/performed but instead to be read by a solitary reader or, sometimes, out loud in a small group.

While any published, or simply read, screenplay might reasonably be considered a "closet screenplay," 20th- and 21st-century Japanese and Western writers have created a handful of film scripts expressly intended to be read rather than produced/performed. This class of prose fiction written in screenplay form is perhaps the most precise example of the closet screenplay.

This genre is sometimes referred to using a romanized Japanese neologism: "Lesescenario (レーゼシナリオ)" or, following Hepburn’s romanization of Japanese, sometimes “Rezeshinario.” A portmanteau of the German word Lesedrama ("read drama") and the English word scenario, this term simply means "closet scenario," or, by extension, "closet screenplay."[1]

Critical interest[edit]

Brian Norman, an assistant professor at Idaho State University, refers to James Baldwin's One Day When I Was Lost as a "closet screenplay."[2] 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"[3] discusses Artaud's three Lesescenarios (listed below) in the context of his "revolutionary film theory." And in French Film Theory and Criticism: 1907–1939,[4] 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,"[5] 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 ongoing discussion of the Lesescenario canon.[8] The list of examples below is based on "Production's 'dubious advantage,'" that discussion, and Melton's "Lesecenario Bibliography" at Google Docs.[6] The bibliography contains additional critical works concerned with individual Lesescenarios and/or the canon at large.


Alphabetical by author last name. For a full list, please see Melton's aforementioned Google Docs bibliography.






  • "Eyes Wide Open" ("Paupières mûres"), "Horizontal Bar," and "Mtasipoj" (by Benjamin Fondane)












  • Whispering Moon, (by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki) [16]
  • The Unconquerable People, The Doctor and the Devils, Rebecca's Daughters, The Beach of Falesá, Twenty Years A-Growing, Suffer Little Children, The Shadowless Man, and Me and My Bike (by Dylan Thomas)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sanseido's Concise Dictionary of Katakana Words. Tokyo, Sanseido, 1994
  2. ^ Norman, Brian. “Reading a ‘Closet Screenplay’: Hollywood, James Baldwin’s Malcolms, and the Threat of Historical Irrelevance." African American Review 39.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2005): 10-18.[1]
  3. ^ Jamieson, Lee. “The Lost Prophet of Cinema: The Film Theory of Antonin Artaud" Senses of Cinema 44 (27 August 2007).[2]
  4. ^ Abel, Richard. French Film Theory and Criticism: 1907–1939 (Princeton UP, 1993)
  5. ^ Melton, Quimby. January 2010. "Production's 'dubious advantage': Lesescenarios, closet drama, and the (screen)writer's riposte." 1.1. (accessed November 21, 2009) [3]
  6. ^ Melton, Quimby. 6 February 2011. "Lesescenario Bibliography." Google Docs. (accessed February 06, 2011) [4]
  7. ^ In a postscript of Akutagawa's “A day in the year-end ,Asakusa Park, and other 17 stories ” published by Iwanami Shoten[5], a literary researcher named Toru Ishiwari called this work “so-called Lese-scenario”.
  8. ^ There is a term “Lese-scenario”(レーゼ・シナリオ) in the context about “Asakusa Park ” “ Temptation ” of a master's thesis on Akutagawa submitted to Tokyo University :Michiko Doi ( 土井美智子 ) 's thesis (March 2001)[6] ,which was titled 'Treatise upon Ryunosuke Akutagawa:Shifts of forms and the artistic views' and listed under the annual report of research and education volume-6 published by Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology at Tokyo University [7] Archived 2016-09-22 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ In 2005, Shinichiro Sawai called this work Lese-scenario at Kishu Izuchi's site titled “Spiritualmovies” Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ The following process of starting this work is introduced in postscript of it: An editor from a publishing firm named “Ohta Publishing” asked Arai to write this work with saying that ,versus Kazuo Kasahara who wrote some screenplays about wars from people's viewpoints, Arai should write one about same theme from intellectuals' viewpoints.Arai accepted the request before reading the Onishi's novel with thinking that ,in the editor's intention, filmmaking was no more than an addition to publishing.
  11. ^ An erotic closet screenplay (Cinematic Wet Dreams Book 1)
  12. ^ Kashiyafuda in Aozora Bunko
  13. ^ "Charms Of Scenarios(Shinario No Miryoku)" published by Shakai-Shiso-Kenkyukai-Shuppambu,(1953),page155-290
  14. ^ Hidekatsu Nojima, a Japanese translator who translated this work, wrote the following in the postscript of Kuro-Misa ("Black Mass", 1977, Shueisha): "Trial of the warlock" is never a so-called screenplay.It's an absolute novel.I think that ,by taking advantage of the present tense in screenplay's style, Mailer discovered a new style of novel, which matched his existential sense about time,namely 'The Time of Our Time' or 'in the present, in that enormous present'.
  15. ^ information about a book of Oe's essays titled "The Last Novel" including the work in Kodansha book club
  16. ^ a b "A Thought on Junichiro Tanizaki's Whispering Moon - from aspects of writing/reading a film -" by Mioko SatoDoshisha National Literature Vol.83 )

External links[edit]

  • Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Asakusa Park (Trans. Seiji M. Lippit., February 2004. [10 May 2009]).
  • Antonin Artaud, Les Dix-huits seconds (Google Books, n.d. [1 January 2011]).
  • Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Secrets dans l'îsle (Trans. Mark Spitzer. Cipher Journal, n.d. [10 May 2009]).
  • Seiji M. Lippit, “The Disintegrating Machinery of the Modern: Akutagawa Ryunosuke's Late Writings” (Journal of Asian Studies[9] 58:1 [February 1999]: 27-50).
  • Peace, David (2007-09-08). "Last words". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  • Hiroo Yamagata ([Lesescenario] Translator, Negrophobia and The Last Words of Dutch Schultz), Interview ( 1.2. [June 2010]. [01 January 2011]).
  • Lom Long as a Lese-scenario:A professor of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies,Seiji Udo’s paper on Chart Korbjitti's Lesescenario