From Semiotics to Philosophy: Daring to Ask the Obvious
From the late 1960s through the 1980s a steadily-expanding group of international scholars joined forces to develop a comprehensive and unified semiotic theory of theatre. The semiotic wave had largely subsided by the early 1990s, leaving in its wake a profound, and largely justified, scepticism about universal, essentialist, and ahistorical theoretical models. It is possible, however, to ask basic philosophical questions about the ‘nature’ of theatre and performance without falling into the trap of universalizing or essentializing what are, in fact, historically and/or culturally specific practices and biases. In this essay, I advocate an open-ended and dialogic process that characterizes the work of many contemporary philosophers, in both the analytic and continental traditions, and in particular those who have been inspired by the late-Wittgensteinian notion of philosophy as a kind of conceptual therapy.
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