Derrida, Habermas, and Rancière were the concluding triumvirate in “Theatre and Democracy Today.” “Theatre and Philosophy” ended with the dyad of Wittgenstein and Stoppard, specifically the Philosophical Investigations paired with Dogg’s Hamlet. At last analytic philosophy made a true appearance in class (Jumpers being just a kind of preview), though perhaps the divide between the analytic and continental traditions is more artificial than we might think. (Social constructionism, anyone? Or perhaps just institutional entrenchment?) What to make of Stoppard’s play-within-a-play and language-within-a-language? It is, in some sense, the logical extremis of the idea of the philosophical example—an examination of language use in the most literal, embodied sense (though some detected a creeping Augustinian view of language within this ostensibly Wittgenstenian work). Perhaps we might view Stoppard’s play as a kind of philosophical laboratory for Wittgenstein’s ideas, an echo of Aristotle’s idea (so vividly in our minds from David Greenspan’s performance) that theatre sits between history and philosophy, more universal than the former and more particular than the latter. Though “language-game” is the term most famously associated with Wittgenstein’s later thought, the original German phrase is “spachspiel,” which might equally mean “language-play.” There is perhaps an inherently theatrical aspect to Wittgenstein’s concept. But even the idea of game might carry some of this theatrical resonance. As we have been reminded this summer, theatre is the game (perhaps not unlike language itself) where you can change the rules.
So ended our foray into the nexus of theatre and philosophy (and art and history and film and opera and so many other topics along the way…). Below you can find a picture of the “Theatre and Philosophy” seminar participants taken yesterday after our discussion on Beckett. (Jon Sherman is mediated through a computer image, placed inside a recycling bin cover reminiscent, we thought, of Nagg and Nell in Endgame.) Here we are at last:
Following lunch, our Mellon School experience ended with concluding remarks from all the faculty members (Andrew Sofer brought down the house with a series of heroic couplets on our two week odyssey) followed by an open discussion. The faculty remarks (yes, including the instantly-famous Melloniad) will be posted separately on this blog as they become available. As for the open discussion, words and phrases like “pity,” “fear,” and “intellectual love” all came into play. And there was even a true moment of catharsis (perhaps more than one). For my part, I’ll simply restate what I said in my spoken remarks—that it has been an absolute pleasure to blog about these days together: to see the ways in which so many voices coalesced and formed such powerful readings and arguments constructed together, to recognize the echoes between discussions across days or even weeks, to reflect on and recast such wonderful ideas and characters and stories. Thank you to my fellow Mellon Schoolers for this experience, and may we all meet again soon.