Book Details
Mandatory Fields
Arpad Szakolczai;
Comedy and the Public Sphere: The Re-birth of Theatre as Comedy and the Genealogy of the Modern Public Arena
London & New York
Optional Fields

This book studies the constitutive links between comedy and the public sphere. Its central thesis is that the public ‘sphere’ is not simply an open space for rational discussion, rather has theatrical qualities, and dominance in this arena can be achieved by ridicule and mocking. Such a study requires a genealogical approach, focusing on the re-birth of theatre in late Renaissance Europe. The book has four parts, each having three chapters. The first, theoretical part starts with a critique of Habermas, then discusses the ‘performative turn’ and ideas by Nietzsche, Plato, Baudelaire, Bergson, Elias, and Pizzorno, among others. The second part reconstructs the re-emergence of theatre as comedy, focusing on the most important source of this re-birth, the Byzantine world. The third part turns to the effect mechanism of comedy, arguing that the new theatre transformed the tissue of European society as schismogenic counterpart to the disciplinary mechanisms of the rising absolutist states and the Puritan sects and movements. The last part shows how after the French Revolution popular theatre transmuted into political and artistic avant-grade, discussing the fascination of French Romantics for mime play, Richard Wagner, the Ballets Russes of Diaghilev, and Meyerhold’s ‘biomechanical’ acting. 

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