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

Authors

  • Freddie Rokem Tel Aviv University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.33142

Keywords:

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

Abstract

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.

References

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Benjamin, Walter. 2007. “Critique of Violence.” In Reflections, edited by Peter Demetz, translated by Edmund Jephcott, 277–300. New York: Schocken Books.

Brecht, Berthold. 1959. “Die Beule: Ein Dreigroschenfilm.” In Versuche 1–12, Heft 1–4. Berlin/Frankfurt am Main: Aufbau Verlag.

Brecht, Berthold. 1982. The Threepenny Opera. Translated by John Willet. London: Methuen.

Brecht, Berthold. 1982. “Notes and Variants.” In The Threepenny Opera, translated by John Willet, 83–97. London: Methuen.

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Burchell, Graham. 2008. Translator’s Note to Psychiatric Power: Lectures at the Collège de France 1973–1974, by Michel Foucault, edited by Jacques Lagrange, translated by Graham Burchell, xxiii–xxiv. New York: Picador.

Bussolini, Jeffrey. 2010. “What is a Dispositive?”, Foucault Studies 10: 85–107. https://doi.org/10.22439/fs.v0i10.3120

Foucault, Michel. 1980. “The Confession of the Flesh.” In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, edited by Colin Gordon, 194–228. New York: Pantheon Books.

Habermas, Jürgen. 1969/1970. “Ernst Bloch. A Marxist Romantic.” Salmagundi 10–11: 311–325.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1974. The Gay Science. With a prelude in rhymes and an appendix of songs. Translated, with Commentary by Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books.

Pabst, G.W. (director). [1931]. Die 3 Groschen-Oper (The Threepenny Opera). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUgkrlL8GkE, accessed 8 November 2017.

Wilson, Robert (director). 2012. Die Dreigroschenoper, performed by Berliner Ensemble, Theater Am Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv2SiBcE9dM, accessed 8 November 2017.

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Published

21-12-2017

How to Cite

Rokem, F. (2017). Theatrical Immanence: The <i>Deus ex Machina</i> after the Death of God. Performance Philosophy, 3(3), 781–793. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2017.33142

Issue

Section

The Concept of Immanence in Contemporary Philosophy and the Arts