Every Text is a Performance: A Pre-History of Performance Philosophy


  • David Kornhaber University of Texas at Austin




This article traces a genealogy of performance philosophy along two separate lines within the history of the twentieth-century academy.  On the one hand, it locates within the long history of philosophically-informed studies of dramatic literature a partial model for the work of performance philosophy, one that applied philosophical scrutiny to dramatic texts without ever extending the same consideration to theatrical performance—in spite of the practical theatrical work of many of this movement’s leading academic proponents.  On the other hand, it identifies in the poststructualist rethinking of textual authority an opening for the reconsideration of philosophical communication that returns performance to a place of philosophical potential that it has not securely held since before Plato’s dialogues.  It is argued that the intersection of these two trend lines in academic thought should be regarded as constituting an important intellectual genesis point for the emergence of performance philosophy and a useful means of approaching the purposes and boundary points of the field.

Author Biography

David Kornhaber, University of Texas at Austin

[email protected]

David Kornhaber is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of The Birth of Theatre from the Spirit of Philosophy: Friedrich Nietzsche and the Development of the Modern Drama (Northwestern University Press, 2016). His work has appeared in PMLA, Modern Drama, Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, and Philosophy and Literature, among other journals. He has served as guest editor of Modern Drama for a special issue on drama and philosophy, as assistant editor for Theatre Survey, as an Affiliated Writer with American Theatre, and as a contributor to the theatre sections of The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New York Sun.


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How to Cite

Kornhaber, D. (2015). Every Text is a Performance: A Pre-History of Performance Philosophy. Performance Philosophy, 1(1), 24–35. https://doi.org/10.21476/PP.2015.1125



Performance Philosophy - Pasts, Presents, Futures