1st Edition

The Problems of Viewing Performance Epistemology and Other Minds

By Michael Y. Bennett Copyright 2021
    150 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    150 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Problems of Viewing Performance challenges long-held assumptions by considering the ways in which knowledge is received by more than a single audience member, and breaks new ground by, counterintuitively, claiming that viewing performance is not a shared experience.

    Given that viewers come to each performance with differing amounts and types of knowledge, they each make different assumptions as to how the performance will unfold. Often modified by other viewers and often after the performance event, knowledge of performance is made more accurate by superimposing the experiences and justified beliefs of multiple viewers. These differences in the viewing experience make knowledge surrounding a performance intersubjective. Ultimately, this book explains the how and the why audience members have different viewing experiences.

    The Problems of Viewing Performance is important reading for theatre and performance students, scholars and practitioners, as it unpacks the dynamics of spectatorship and explores how audiences work.

    Foreword by David Krasner; Introduction Viewing and Understanding Performance: In Light of Other Minds; PART I; Chapter 1 A Public Experience: But is it Shared?; Chapter 2 Knowledge, (Dis)Agreement, and Other Minds; Chapter 3 A Public Reality of One’s Own; PART II; Chapter 4 Epistemic ProblemsHamlet and Horatio’s "Hamlet"… in Light of Other Minds; Chapter 5 Temporal-Spatial Problems—Border Progressions and Locating the Self: Mobility and Immobility in Le Jeu de Saint Nicolas and The Castle of Perseverance; Chapter 6 Contextual Problems—Witting-and-Unwitting Contexts: Translating Public and Private Experience in Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul; Chapter 7 Lingual Problems—(Private and Public) Performances of the Self: The Performance of Language and the Self in Susan Jahoda’s Flight Patterns; (POST/TRANS)SCRIPT "What do you Feel?"… Now By Chris Hosea and Lillian Tong; Chapter 8 Emotional Problems—Breathing in Maria Irene Fornes’ "sharper air" in her "PAJ Plays"; Conclusion "Viewing… Or, Turning Away: Upending the ‘Gaze,’ Upending the Subject"


    Michael Y. Bennett is an Associate Professor of English and Affiliated Faculty in Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He is the author or editor of a dozen books in the fields of theatre and performance studies and the philosophy of theatre.

    "The book demonstrates an important intersection between questions of ontology and questions of value in performance. Bennet makes an assumption that there is an ontological relationship between performances, which supports his shift away from thinking of performance events to seeing knowledge of a play emerging through a process of performance and viewing, responding and reflecting on those performances. It is clear that his work makes an important contribution to performance studies by acknowledging the imperfect nature of viewing performances and the real-world problems of audiences made up of individuals with their own unique vantage point on the stage and their own unique sets of feelings and beliefs that they bring into the theatre space."

    Karen Simecek, University of Warwick, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, UK


    "Michael Y. Bennett occupies a near-solitary place in what he rightly calls the ‘philosophical turn in theatre and performance studies in the new millennium’.. For now, he remains the primary torch-carrier for analytic philosophy’s place in drama and theatre studies, and one can hope that the epistemological challenges raised by The Problems of Viewing Performance receive further development in future monographs and articles." 

    Brice Ezell, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, USA