The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

By Martin Puchner | Go to book overview

Preface

When I went through some old papers recently, I came across a theater review I had written for the college newspaper in 1991. The show in question had been conceived by two assistant professors of philosophy and revolved around various philosophical characters. My review applauds the attempt to combine philosophy and theater, and ends with a somewhat snarky complaint about the conspicuous absence in the audience of the “ladies and gentlemen philosophy professors,” and more generally the lack of contact between philosophy and theater. At the time I was majoring in philosophy, but I also spent a lot of time doing theater. Our black box theater happened to be located directly below one of the largest lecture halls on campus, in the space left by the ascending auditorium, an arrangement that echoed Plato’s parable of the cave with its shadow theater below and philosophy above. Attending philosophy lectures upstairs by day and doing theater in the black box downstairs by night seemed unrelated activities—except that for me they weren’t. Ever since then, I have been trying to figure out what the relation between those two activities, between those two spaces, might be.

In my previous books, this question has played an important but ultimately secondary role. In Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-Theatricality, and Drama and other publications connected to it, I articulated why the dramatic experiments of modernism could not be described in Aristotelian terms and instead turned to Plato’s notion of diegesis to capture modernism’s conflicted relation to the stage. In Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Gardes, I touched on the relation between theater and philosophy in another way, by trying to explain the move from theory to action as it occurs in the genre of the manifesto. But it is only now that I have come to realize that the relation between theater and philosophy is what I have been trying to write about all along—that I have been driven by the sense, first articulated in my theater review, that theater and philosophy are intimately, if contentiously, related. I do not know whether this book will

-vii-

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The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • 1 - The Poetics of the Platonic Dialogue 3
  • 2 - A Brief History of the Socrates Play 37
  • 3 - The Drama of Ideas 73
  • 4 - Dramatic Philosophy 121
  • 5 - The New Platonists 173
  • Epilogue - Dramatic Platonism 193
  • Appendix 1 - Socrates Titles 199
  • Appendix 2 - Charting the Socrates Play 209
  • Notes 211
  • Bibliography 237
  • Index 245
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