Today’s dispatch comes to you (at last!) from the “Theatre and Democracy” seminar, as “Theatre and Philosophy” is on hiatus. The full seminar lineup is smiling below:
Coriolanus returned for a second day of discussion, this time in light of Antonio Negri’s Insurgencies. The multitude was the main concern of the day, giving rise to a multitude of questions. What are the means by which the multitude is constructed, and what are the possibilities for a specifically democratic project of the multitude? What are the means of building a one out of the many (shades of Henry Turner’s talk…)? And what of Negri’s “love of time” (the “soul of constituent power”) and the degree to which the multitude constitutes time itself? A discussion of political theory could take up the entire seminar, but what about practice—specifically theatrical practice? Enter Coriolanus (and Coriolanus). The king himself is a concept and a persona, a part who stands for the whole, a multitude unto himself. But it is an idea of the multitude built upon a sacrificial logic: Coriolanus must become the abstraction of kingship. The play revolves around a negotiation of the one and the many, the man and the sovereign… might we even say the individual and the corporation?
After lunch, we returned full force to the idea of the corporation in Henry Turner’s discussion group. Paul Kottman’s Politics of the Scene and David Runciman’s “Concept of the State” were our main texts, with Hobbes’ Leviathan always hovering in the background. Does political discourse from Plato to Hobbes borrow a theatrical language that it disassociates from the theatre? Can the state, following Runciman, even be said to exist? Conversation was animated, and quickly turned away from political theory (or theatrical-political theory) as such and towards the idea of the corporation itself—both as a theatrical entity and as an entity of theatre. Can we truly consider the corporation as an originary ontological concept of modern social and political life? (Yes, for we should beware of reducing a corporation to economics alone. It might also be a moral body, an ethical body—think of the church or the world of non-profits.) And what of the gender of that body? (A continued concern: perhaps post-human, perhaps a non-gendered body with traces of its former constituent genders, perhaps a monstrous body of individuals combined—with a citation on this last point to a post-discussion proposal by two Mellon schoolers.) What about processes of incorporation and the history of the corporation as a category? (But the concept of the corporation can be treated apart from its status as a legal entity.) What about the place of the corporation within Shakespeare’s theatre—the amateur company of A Midsummer Night’s Dream versus the “gate-crashing” players in Hamlet? (Material to be covered further, though arguably more alike than they might seem.) What about the idea of ideas as corporations? (Now there’s a corporate message we scholars can buy into.)
Perhaps apropos of our discussion of corporations, we have another instance of photographic evidence, this time of the Thompson Room’s John Harvard bust—old J.H. being, of course, the namesake of the corporation that oversees us all. (Thanks again to Ilaria, second from the left in the photo above, for the pictures of seminar and statue.) Here from his perch above the fireplace, John Harvard himself oversees us as we discuss:
And so concludes Week One of the Mellon School! Here are most of the members of the Graduate Writing Workshop in celebration at Grafton Street (minus our faithful cameraman Joe Cermatori and plus one blogger, third from the right):