The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy

by Martin Puchner
     
 

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Most philosophy has rejected the theater, denouncing it as a place of illusion or moral decay; the theater in turn has rejected philosophy, insisting that drama deals in actions, not ideas. Challenging both views, The Drama of Ideas shows that theater and philosophy have been crucially intertwined from the start.

Plato is the presiding genius of this alternative

Overview

Most philosophy has rejected the theater, denouncing it as a place of illusion or moral decay; the theater in turn has rejected philosophy, insisting that drama deals in actions, not ideas. Challenging both views, The Drama of Ideas shows that theater and philosophy have been crucially intertwined from the start.

Plato is the presiding genius of this alternative history. The Drama of Ideas presents Plato not only as a theorist of drama, but also as a dramatist himself, one who developed a dialogue-based dramaturgy that differs markedly from the standard, Aristotelian view of theater. Puchner discovers scores of dramatic adaptations of Platonic dialogues, the most immediate proof of Plato's hitherto unrecognized influence on theater history. Drawing on these adaptations, Puchner shows that Plato was central to modern drama as well, with figures such as Wilde, Shaw, Pirandello, Brecht, and Stoppard using Plato to create a new drama of ideas. Puchner then considers complementary developments in philosophy, offering a theatrical history of philosophy that includes Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Burke, Sartre, Camus, and Deleuze. These philosophers proceed with constant reference to theater, using theatrical terms, concepts, and even dramatic techniques in their writings.

The Drama of Ideas mobilizes this double history of philosophical theater and theatrical philosophy to subject current habits of thought to critical scrutiny. In dialogue with contemporary thinkers such as Martha Nussbaum, Iris Murdoch, and Alain Badiou, Puchner formulates the contours of a "dramatic Platonism." This new Platonism does not seek to return to an idealist theory of forms, but it does point beyond the reigning philosophies of the body, of materialism and of cultural relativism.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Drama of Ideas contains a tightly woven and persuasive argument for rescuing a Platonic tradition of interactions between two disciplines: theatre and philosophy. When this unique form of writing is examined within a theatrical context, as drama, a highly innovative form of writing emerges where abstract ideas, on the one hand, and the concreteness of character and scene, on the other, are viewed in a constantly emerging, dynamic and creative interaction with each other. Puchner has produced an ambitious and innovative project."-Freddie Rokem, author of Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance

"Martin Puchner productively challenges a core assumption of Western theatre scholarship: that the theatrical and literary theatre tradition derives in large part from Aristotle; and also its corollary: that from Aristotle's rival, Plato, comes a continuing tradition of anti-theatrical prejudice. The Drama of Ideas offers important new insights into the theory and practice of not only modern drama, but modern philosophy as well."-Marvin Carlson, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

"The Drama of Ideas argues for a radical re-imagining of modern drama, through a revised understanding of Plato's influence in the modern world. This is a wide-ranging, provocative, smart and well-written book, which will be of great interest to modern drama scholars, philosophers and classicists alike."-Emily Wilson, University of Pennsylvania

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199351961
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/01/2014
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
268
Sales rank:
1,268,894
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Martin Puchner is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He is the author of Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos and the Avant-Gardes and Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-Theatricality, and Drama.

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