Staging philosophy: the relationship between philosophy and drama




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Where does philosophy belong? In lecture halls, libraries, and campus offices? In town squares? In public life? One answer to this question, exceedingly popular from the Enlightenment onward, has been that philosophy belongs on stage—not in the sense that this is the only place we should find it, but that the relationship between philosophy and drama is particularly productive and promising. Diderot, Voltaire, and Lessing refused to draw an absolute distinction between philosophy and drama—and excelled in both. Drama featured centrally in the works of nineteenth-century luminaries such as Hegel and Nietzsche. It should not surprise that modern dramaturges and directors drew on philosophy to formulate their views about the arts of drama and theater. It was in this intellectual climate that the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen positioned himself in the 1850s and 1860s.In Copenhagen, where Ibsen spent time during his apprentice years, the theater was dominated by the powerful Johan Ludvig Heiberg. Heiberg was a student of Hegel and the author of a number of Hegelian writings. Hegelianism prospered among the Scandinavian expats in Italy, where Ibsen spent a formative period. Hermann Hettner’s Hegelian treatise is described by Ibsen as “a manifesto and program for reform in the modern theater.” Later on, Nietzsche’s reflection on tragedy, history, and morality gained traction. We see Ibsen’s mentor Georg Brandes transition from a romantic to a Hegelian and, finally, a Nietzschean position. Lou Salomé, the author of the path-breaking Eroticism as well as an early monograph on Nietzsche, wrote an early study of Ibsen’s heroines. When trying out ideas for a commission for the University of Oslo, the painter Edvard Munch sketched Ibsen with Nietzsche and Socrates. In Ibsen’s work, we encounter Sophists and Platonists. In Peer Gynt, the eccentric protagonist encounters a Hegelian director of a madhouse. Peer himself grandly converses about world history and logic. Works. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy





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