Conjunctures of Performance and Philosophy

World-renowned performance theorists Professors Hans-Thies Lehmann and Freddie Rokem visit UC Berkeley on March 9th to examine the often- fraught relationship between performance and philosophy as it plays out both on stage and in scholarship. With its emphasis on practice, embodiment, and presence, performance has often been the object of consternation for philosophers. Similarly, performance practitioners remain wary of the theoretical interpretations and the philosophical implications of their work. Yet, despite these seeming tensions, performance and philosophy remain entwined in a mutually reinforcing capacity.

Professors Hans-Thies Lehmann (Goethe-University, Germany) and Freddie Rokem (Tel Aviv University, Israel) each present a public talk with introductory remarks from UC Berkeley Professor Shannon Jackson (TDPS and Rhetoric).

Professor Lehmann will address the often neglected category of Anagnorisis (recognition) in the Poetics of Aristotle. He will propose a dialectical reading of this notion and then project this dialectical version of Anagnorisis unto contemporary theory and practice of theater and performance. The lecture will discuss some aspects of the problem of how theory and theater relate in general and argue for the necessity of an art of not-understanding.

“Emergency/Urgency: The Form and Pressure of the Time”
Professor Rokem will elaborate on Aristotle’s dictum that “poetry is more akin to philosophy and /…/ one to be taken more seriously than history.” This dictum will serve as the point of departure for reflecting on the possibilities of theater/performance to respond to the ‘state of emergency’ (W. Benjamin’s Ausnahmezustand), arguing that the notion of urgency is the creative modality responding subjectively to the state of emergency in the public sphere (Habermas). Shakespeare’s Hamlet will serve as Rokem’s main example for exploring the dialectics between emergency and urgency.

Hans-Thies Lehmann is Professor of Theater Studies at Goethe-University in Frankfurt, Germany and author of the seminal study on contemporary performance, Post-Dramatic Theater, which has been translated into ten languages. Professor Lehmann also authored Contributions to the Materialist Theory of Literature and Theater and Myth, as well as essays on authors such as Bertolt Brecht, Heiner Müller, Georg Büchner, and Georges Bataille.

Freddie Rokem is Professor of Theater Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as an accomplished translator, dramaturg, and award-winning author of Performing History, Strindberg’s Secret Codes, and most recently, Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance.