Being in Crisis: Scenes of Blindness and Insight in Tragedy

Kate Katafiasz


Tragedy was considered ‘highly serious, political (in some sense)—and religious’, at its origin in Athens in 427 BCE (Winnington-Ingram, 1989: 5). In spite of its centuries-old existence the trope still troubles theatre and performance philosophy scholars. As Simon Critchley (2017) recently put it: ‘What kind of hedonism is the pleasure we take in tragedy, which depicts not just suffering and death, but the ghostly porosity of the frontier separating the living from the dead?’ (37). This paper makes use of, and critiques Critchley’s scholarship. It explores his notion of tragedy’s porous frontier in relation to the skene, the boundary that bisected the ancient stage and restricted audience vision at critical moments in the drama. The paper links the skene functionally to other such pivotal boundaries or ‘scenes’, to generate an interdisciplinary range of approaches to the precarious experience of having sight and hearing momentarily dislocated from each other. In the process the paper contests Critchley’s Platonic concerns about tragedy’s deceptive and sadistic inflections, to offer an entirely new take on the ancient art form; one which may shed fresh light on Performance Philosophy’s foundational debates concerning the use, or demolition, of boundaries.


Drama, Psychoanalysis, Lacanian Desire, Pleasure,

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