8
Kierkegaard’s Posse

THEATER ANDtheory share a common etymology and, as we have seen, a vexed history. At issue is the interpretation of thea, looking, of its site, theatron, of the onlooker or spectator, theoros, and, finally, of the spectacle itself. Ever since Plato and Aristotle, philosophy has sought to reduce the importance of the scenic, medial dimension by comprehending it primarily as tragedy.1 The year 1843, in which Kierkegaard’s essay Repetition was published, marks a decisive turning point in this history. It is as though a certain blockage of “traditional” philosophical paradigms—which Kierkegaard above all identified with the thought of Hegel—necessitated a rethinking of the relationship of theater not just to theory, but to a notion of movement that the hallowed philosophical opposition of theory and practice could no longer adequately articulate. The first paragraph of Gjentagelsen2 sets the scene:

When the Eleatics denied motion, Diogenes, as everyone
knows, stepped up [optraadte] as an opponent. He really stepped
up, because he didn’t say a word but merely paced back and
forth a few times, thereby assuming that he had sufficiently re-
futed them. When I was occupied for some time … with the
question of repetition—whether or not it is possible, what im-
portance it has, whether something gains or loses in being re-
peated—I suddenly had the thought: You can, after all, take a
trip to Berlin; you have been there once before, and now you
can prove to yourself whether a repetition is possible and what
importance it has. At home I had been practically immobilized
by this question. Say what you will, this question will play a very
important role in modern philosophy, for repetition is a crucial
expression for what “recollection” was to the Greeks. Just as

-200-

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