Theatre director’s philosophical entanglements: aesthetics and politics of the modernist theatre
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This thesis presents a conceptual examination of the modernist director read through Gillian Rose’s speculative lenses of the ‘broken middle’. Highlighting the significance of speculative philosophy, I explore the meaning of the director as a mediating subjectivity. I demonstrate how a speculative reading of the director can act as a corrective to the received totalitarian, despotic image of the director. I urge for the rehabilitation of the director as a history and as a practice and I propose the emergence of this figure as being the outcome of a complex theatrical articulation entangled with the discipline of philosophy. Combining close readings of philosophical texts by Rose, Plato, Castoriadis, Badiou, Rancière, Laclau and Mouffe, among several other intellectual references in this study, I explore the director as a mode or trope of embodied philosophy. My argument also proposes the director as an Event, in Badiou’s definition, and I trace this configuration as already taking place with the ‘tragic’ paradigm of the Athenian theatre. This Event of the director, I then argue, gets fully inaugurated in modernism as the Event of thought in theatre. I explore how the director acting as a mediator transforms theatre to what Puchner calls ‘a theatre of ideas’ while simultaneously philosophy becomes itself transformed to a theatre of thought. Chapter 1 outlines the key strands of Rose’s thought and sets out the theoretical parameters of my examination. The chapter argues for a speculative reading of the director cross-examined with current positions within theatre historiography. The chapter paves a new understanding of the director, not historically, but conceptually, as a mode of embodied thought. Chapter 2 explores the relationship between the primacy and centrality of the aesthetic paradigm of theatre in philosophy and the role and practice of the poet – or ‘chorodidaskalos’ – who I consider as an early philosophical figuration of the modern director. I highlight speculative ‘aporia’ which in Rose indicates a path ‘without a path’ as the primary modality of thinking philosophically, already at work in tragedy, that renders the modernist director as a theatrical thinker. Chapter 3 puts forward the case of the director’s mediating subjectivity by arguing for the Event of the director. I analyse Badiou’s philosophy of the Event, making connections to speculative philosophy and illuminating the Evental dimension of this figure. Chapter 4 moves the examination to the Event of the director that I locate in Richard Wagner. My reading explores the philosophical dimension of Wagner as an artist and a thinker by which I rehabilitate his overtly negative image. I do this by reading Left Hegelianism, and anarchist philosophy more broadly, in Wagner’s operatic works, writings, and political activism. Chapter 5 examines the ‘speculative director’ in the aesthetic project of Naturalism and Realism. The chapter includes a published section by which I explore the political mode of the director indirectly, by examining the articulatory discourse in Laclau and Mouffe’s definition and the practice of affirmation. Chapter 6 looks at the avant-garde manifesto as a form of meta-language that seeks to actively re-shape theatre and the world as embodied, declaimed philosophy. The chapter repositions the avant-garde’s aesthetic preoccupation with failure as a profoundly transformative project rather than as being incomplete. The included published article examines more closely the affinity between the Spartacus Manifesto by Rose Luxemburg (philosophy) and the more politicized forms of the Dada Berlin manifesto art (theatre). Chapter 7 is the concluding chapter by which I argue the case of the director finally having entered the theatre as a philosopher; that is, through Bertolt Brecht.
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