The Performative Ground of Religion and Theatre  book cover
1st Edition

The Performative Ground of Religion and Theatre

ISBN 9780367584863
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
194 Pages

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Book Description

Religious practitioners and theatregoers have much in common. So much, in fact, that we can say that religion is often a theatrical phenomenon, and that theatre can be a religious experience. By examining the phenomenology of religion, we can in turn develop a better understanding of the phenomenology of theatre. That is to say, religion can show us the ways in which theatre is not fake.

This study explores the overlap of religion and theatre, especially in the crucial area of experience and personal identity. Reconsidering ideas from ancient Greece, premodern India, modern Europe, and the recent century, it argues that religious adherents and theatre audiences are largely, themselves, the mechanisms of their experiences. By examining the development of the philosophy of theatre alongside theories of religious action, this book shows how we need to adjust our views of both.

Featuring attention to influential notions from Plato and Aristotle, from the Natyashastra, from Schleiermacher to Sartre, Bourdieu, and Butler, and considering contemporary theories of performance and ritual, this is vital reading for any scholar in religious studies, theatre and performance studies, theology, or philosophy.

Table of Contents

Introduction;  1 The Problem  2 The Big Nothing  3 The Present Body  4 (Un)Doing the Self  5 Playing  6 Playing Audiences  Conclusion

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David Mason is Editor-in-Chief for Ecumenica: Performance and Religion, the South Asia area editor for Asian Theatre Journal, and has been a board member of the Association for Asian Performance. His scholarship on religion and the arts appears in multiple books and journals.


"The Performative Ground of Religion and Theatre engages with a number of debates of interest to devotees of religion and theatre. While it feels like an introductory course, the book is not basic. This slim and sophisticated volume presumes at least a passing familiarity with many of its references, but provides enough orientation to encourage the excited reader to go and learn more [...] Mason neither risks a philosophical theologian’s conclusions nor identifies the performative ground of religion and theatre as a symbol of “that which we call god.” But, as for the theatre critic, the feeling of being left wanting more is both a desire to restage the play and a compliment."

- Charles A. Gillespie, University of Virginia, Reading Religion