Theatrical Immanence: The Deus ex Machina after the Death of God


  • Freddie Rokem Tel Aviv University


performativity and theatricality, Immanence, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin, metaphysical materialism, Dispositive of the theatre, Threepenny Opera


The appearance of supernatural creatures on the theatrical stage, like the deus ex machina, directly intervening in the flow of the events has not ceased with the “Death of God”. It can be viewed from two perspectives, first as a meta-theatrical device through which the theatrical medium self-reflexively, sometimes even playfully, examines its own conditions and limits, as an integral aspect of the theatrical apparatus, or its dispositive; and secondly from a philosophical or theological perspective, raising the question why it has continued to serve as a powerful metaphor not only for an open-ended futurity through which Utopian notions are critically reflected and refigured, but also for ideological, social and personal conflicts, frequently even involving strong components of excess, violence and cruelty. The article discusses these theoretical issues and exemplifies with The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann.

Author Biography

Freddie Rokem, Tel Aviv University

Freddie Rokem is Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Theatre at Tel Aviv University, where he was the Dean of the Faculty of the Arts (2002-2006) and is currently the Wiegeland Visiting Professor of Theater & Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. His more recent books are Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance (2010); Jews and the Making of Modern German Theatre (2010, co-edited with Jeanette Malkin); Strindberg’s Secret Codes (2004) and the prize-winning book Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre (2000). He has been a visiting professor at many universities in the United States, Germany, Finland and Sweden, and is also a practicing dramaturg.


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How to Cite

“Theatrical Immanence: The Deus Ex Machina After the Death of God”. 2017. Performance Philosophy 3 (3): 781-93.



The Concept of Immanence in Contemporary Philosophy and the Arts

How to Cite

“Theatrical Immanence: The Deus Ex Machina After the Death of God”. 2017. Performance Philosophy 3 (3): 781-93.