The relationship between philosophy and theatre is a central theme in the writings of Plato and Aristotle and of dramatists from Aristophanes to Stoppard. Where Plato argued that playwrights and actors should be banished from the ideal city for their suspect imitations of reality, Aristotle argued that theatre, particularly tragedy, was vital for stimulating our emotions and helping us to understanding ourselves.
Despite this rich history the study of philosophy and theatre has been largely overlooked in contemporary philosophy. This is the first book to introduce philosophy and theatre. It covers key topics and debates, presenting the contributions of major figures in the history of philosophy, including:
- what is theatre? How does theatre compare with other arts?
- theatre as imitation, including Plato on mimesis
- truth and illusion in the theatre, including Nietzsche on tragedy
- theatre as history
- theatre and morality, including Rousseau’s criticisms of theatre
- audience and emotion, including Aristotle on catharsis
- theatre and politics, including Brecht’s Epic Theatre.
Including annotated further reading and summaries at the end of each chapter, Philosophy and Theatre is an ideal starting point for those studying philosophy, theatre studies and related subjects in the arts and humanities.
Table of Contents
Preface 1. What is Theatre? Part 1: From the World to the Stage 2. Mimesis: Imitation and Imagination 3. Truth and Illusion 4. History in the Making Part 2: From the Stage to the World 5. A School of Morals? 6. Emotions 7. Collective Action: Theatre and Politics. Index
Tom Stern is a Lecturer in Philosophy and the Academic Director of European Social and Political Studies at University College London, UK.
"Stern's writing is clear and his arguments are easy to follow. Copious endnotes demonstrate his careful scholarship. The further readings at the end of each chapter are particularly helpful. Altogether, this is a fine book for those wishing to become acquainted with the philosophical significance of theater. It would also serve as a wonderful supplementary text for a course on philosophy and theater. Summing Up: Recommended." - F. A. Grabowski, Rogers State University, in CHOICE
"With exemplary clarity, Tom Stern reconstructs central philosophical concepts that have bearing on theater. In doing so, he opens a conversation between theater and philosophy that is all too rare. His book should be required reading for students of theater interested in philosophy and philosophers who want to discover the theatrical dimension of their discipline." - Martin Puchner, Harvard University, USA
"Theatre is full of philosophical content, and this beautifully lucid and historically informed introduction sets out the fundamental issues in an engagingly thought-provoking way. The nature and role of mimesis, the interestingly intricate matter of theatrical truth, the relations between imaginative theatre and actual history, the ethical content presented in and perhaps inculcated by theatre, the human emotions represented in and perhaps awakened by enacted events, and the political power of dramatic writing are all covered here. With tightly focused discussions of the major historical and contemporary positions on these topics, along with well-chosen examples to illustrate them, this ideal introduction shines much philosophical light on the theatrical stage." - Garry L. Hagberg, Bard College, USA
"A clever, highly readable and philosophically illuminating exploration of the many dimensions of theatre. This accessible and informative volume tackles all the important issues, with well-chosen examples and a broad historical reach, and should rapidly become canonical in the field." - Peter Lamarque, University of York, UK
"The dialogue between philosophy and theater is developing in a very fruitful and diverse way, and this book makes a real contribution to that development. Tom Stern provides a comprehensive overview of what philosophers have thought about theater, as well as to the social impact of theater that its practitioners intended it to have. A terrific resource for students and scholars." - James R. Hamilton, Kansas State University, USA
"If I had a theatre or philosophy student peering over into the other's territory, this is the first book I would recommend. The content is accessible, jargon free, historically astute, and remarkably concise on notoriously thorny problems. I don’t hesitate to call it a near perfect introduction to the intersection of philosophy and theatre." - Nathan Hedman, Northwestern University, USA