John, one of the things I’ve been thinking about is the temporal inversion that happens in theater — how plays seem to make their way forward, paradoxically, to the past. This uncanny retrograde temporality is clearest in post-war modernist tragedies like Endgame or Pinter’s The Homecoming, (or Albee’s Three Tall Women, or Churchill’s Far Away etc) which I think were really about that odd feature of our situatedness in time, but I think it’s interesting also to look back at the history of tragic drama through that lens. In Strindberg, Ibsen and Chekhov this temporal inversion seems very strong – whatever is happening via the forward motion of the plot, the affective structures of the play reach increasingly back in time, as if the play is constructing its own past even as that past is revealed to be creating the future. This oddly autopoeitical bootstrapping of an emergent present is a feature of dreams, of course. We’re always having that uncanny experience in dreams of suddenly realizing a whole back-story that structures the immediate future in positive or negative ways, and then suddenly shifts again. I know from my own work that a sign that I’m getting close to the completion of a play is when the tenses of the story – what’s past and what’s still to come – suddenly crystallize and it’s always an exciting moment.
Assuming this is a fruitful way to look at (tragic) drama, it’s interesting to look at Shakespeare through this lens. This kind of temporal inversion is clearest in The Tempest, I think, but if you dig around in the great tragedies – Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, etc – I think something similar is at work. Jan Kott accented this kind of temporal circuitry in his analysis of how Shakespeare pertained to Eastern-bloc totalitarianism, and I think his analysis of “the wheel of history” holds true generally for Shakespeare. But the point is that this temporal inversion becomes more and more the explicit subject of theater as the modern era unfolds, and the reason for this has to do with the growing “spatialization” of time (to use Deleuze’s phrase), where the subtle interplay of memory and presence is reduced to a strictly linear flow of mechanical time. The way this temporal alienation might relate to Benjamin’s critique of mechanical reproduction is one topic to explore, allowing us to shed some light maybe on the repetitive structures of theater. I’ll leave this here for now, and see what you shake loose.
I think this touches on several things, all of them not discussed nearly enough. I think the relationship between space and time as it exists in theatre, is right at the center of this question. What you describe seems to me to be related to the way our narratives of self (as it were), in their Oedipal dimension, are chasing the forgotten, the missed encounter. The trauma of childhood. There are has always seemed something of a magical children’s vision to theatre….to all of it. From Shakespeare to Beckett. From Sophocles to Bernhard. This connects somehow to the very need for a theatre. But if I’m correct at all about this sense of criminality – how we are pulled to the truth of that in narrative – and I fear I’ve already been misunderstood on this, so I had better be clearer (more on that later)– if I’m right, then this connects to this sense of the past chasing us.
For that is what it’s doing. Fractals of this are present in daily life, in our daily stories to ourselves, but in theatre it’s formalized somehow. The missed encounter, the forgotten, the sense of the uncanny….. all of it connects to this sense of return. In narrative, probably in all narrative, this sense of return is linked to an amnesia. Hence the uncanny. What did I forget? Well, whatever it is, it’s chasing you. Its really like that old Satchel Page comment, “ don’t’ look back, something might be gaining on you”. Well, exactly. So our own traumatic real, our own sense of alienation connects to this sense of a return…for theatre creates a space for return, but a return to a place we’ve never been. So I guess that I think this temporal inversion is connected to this ritual space. And I don’t much like the word “ritual”… but its all I have right now. The inversion is that the most present experience we have…which is in this ritualized space, our mimetic narrative bringing us to this ‘point of no return in our own horizon event’….this is the return of what we somehow lost, or forgot. The theatrical experience IS this sense of the uncanny — familiar, because it’s our own story, but its illegible, and it is at that moment in a play, the moment when we realize, intuit, that this inversion has happened…..the past is gaining on us (the dream is dreaming us). Western culture is so marinated in a Newtonian notion of causality. Its linked to the Enlightenment notion of progress. The west wants to know, all the time, where its going. We have to have a destination. I was thinking the other day how the new reliance on GPS is the final expression of this. We cannot be lost. Well, what this suggests of course is that we are lost.
If we connect this to the Oedipal again, we see that we constantly repeat this attempt to find lost object of desire (to be Lacanian yet again). This missed encounter…and also to this post modern dissolution of the sign…of representation as we knew it. It’s a culture of pastiche…as I think Jameson put it. In any event, narrative has been eroded in ways that link to consumer culture, where the marketing (Bernays again) has as one of its goals, the need to erase the past. Erase the past and the present. We are encouraged to think only of a future (interesting to note that Orphic or prophetic speech is about the revealing of a true present, not about the future). A goal, a destination. The reality is that narrative, primal narrative, is an introduction to being lost. I suspect that this temporal inversion you describe is a structural description of how history catches up with us, and our own personal history catches up with us. I think Beckett is always describing this moment. For what are we waiting? There is no answer, but it asks us to examine the idea of “waiting”. Krapp’s Last Tape approaches this another way. Now, Pinter sort of explodes this idea…and Sarah Kane pathologizes this. Our present is empty. Our terror catches up with us.
You know, we should speak a bit about tragedy. I’ve always distrusted the traditional academic definitions of Tragedy. But I will hold off on that for a moment. I will, though, introduce Benjamin here. For his thoughts on writing, his sense of what cannot be articulated, and the dialectical oppositions of loss and recovery…despair and recovery. For him history contained allegory…another rather large topic.
“Allegories are in the realm of thought, what ruins are in the realm of things”.
The traces of man left in the ruins of the world. There is a link to theatrical space I think. And to this temporal inversion of which you speak. Theatre provides the ‘place’ for this inversion. It’s a psychic Hadron Collider…..theatre when its not overcome by kitsch, but the selling of an illusion, is exactly a space for the deathly face of history to emerge (to paraphrase Benjamin again). The death drive is always linked to the traumatic real, the lost object. To our desire. So on stage, a prop becomes a part of these historical ruins. We wander, on stage, amid an allegorical landscape. I leave it there for the moment.
I totally agree, John, that the classic definitions of tragedy are pretty much suspect, from Aristotle on down. Augusto Boal tables a famously strong indictment linking Aristotle’s Poetics to the ideologies of authoritarian hierarchies, and I think he’s correct in spirit, but overly simplistic in formal terms. Wole Soyinka is much closer to the mark in his very Nietzschian view. Here tragic drama is an expression of – and a way of relating to – certain incommensurable aspects of experience and of our nature as affective beings. Soyinka is great on the temporal relationships we’re talking about too – how past and future are both conspicuously entangled in the present of the stage.
It’s interesting to look for this quality in a the work of a realist like Mamet – how in Edmund, for example, the drama actualizes the very real imprisonment that is the no-place of Edmund’s past – the play works its way forward to this past. Likewise, Hamlet is already a spirit when his play begins – which is why he is able to see and hear the ghost. The play involves his awakening to – his actualizing – of this a state of being that is already his virtual reality. In Aristotle this process would perhaps be depicted as ananke, or necessity or fate, and one wouldn’t want to argue the point because to do so is to miss the way in which the play Shakespeare’s play is a public dream full of alarm about the rise of instrumental reason and its new, linear temporal structures. Like any transformative play Hamlet is neither a masterful representation of a character in motion through a world that mimics our own, nor a poetic expression of a complex feeling-thought by a world-class dreamer…but both at once.
It’s impossible to avoid abstract language when talking about this, but I think the tragic stage has always been the only place to encounter this oddly entangled quality of our experience of time. Political authority and economic ownership claims depended crucially on spatialized time, and this is part of why the stage is such a contested space politically – that groundless temporality of the stage space has to be tightly regulated by hegemonic powers. At the risk of being accused of cultural paranoia, one way this happens in the West is via banalization – which is the essence of your kitsch argument, I believe. The sacred space is buried under a mountain of dismal, prefab melodrama and formulaic issue plays – hidden in plain sight, as it were.
Again, what draws us to participate in theatrical art (rather than theatrical entertainment) is, at least in part, the desire to engage with this temporal complexity or entanglement. It’s not incidental that we know going in that what we are going to see is a repetition, but a repetition that will always be different. It’s important to us that the Hamlet or the Edmund that we see is “the same” as what everyone saw last night, because this allows it to be truly new as well. The repetitive aspect tells me that what I am witnessing (via the “magic” of the stage) is the past, but over the course of the play that past becomes the present, and when that “present” ends the future has been revised. Ritual is always a way of framing the new in this way. What’s new is not the thing itself, but the experience of the thing, which is a re-presentation, or a new occasioning (to use a term out of Whitehead). And unlike a hamburger at McDonalds or whatever mechanical reproduction, the experiencing of the object (the actors on stage) is also a crucial part of the equation, and always different and relational – entangled, in other words – with ours.
Hoping we can bring this back around to Benjamin and allegory, which is certainly pertinent to these issues of temporality on stage and off. It’s rich terrain and I’m getting thick with it so I must hurl it back toward you…
Right, the academic definitions of Tragedy are ones that take a very simplified notion of both Greek thought, and of what theatre was in 4th century Athens, not to mention later.
Benjamin had interesting thoughts on Tragedy. He said that what was to be found in Tragedy was found in the presentation itself. That the presentation ‘gave’ something to be experienced. It exposed something. For Benjamin, Greek Tragedy took place at a specific moment, when the new world of Greek social order was confronting or expressing an opposition to, the old daimonic order. The old superstitions and myths. It was an enactment and realization of this confrontation, not a knowledge of it. In other words, Tragedy wasn’t documenting anything. It was actualizing something. This sort of suggests that all theatre, all that isn’t kitsch, is tragic.
He also made a point of emphasizing that this moment as epochal. The start of a new epoch, which for Benjamin meant almost the origin of truth in thought. I won’t get into that too much, for firstly, I’m not qualified, and secondly, it takes us off message – per Don Rumsfeld. In Benjamin’s account (mostly in Origin of German Tragic Drama, but also in his essay on Elective Affinities) he says that tragedy uses the materials of legend to form this new oppositional moment. This oppositional actualizing is, for WB, the possibility of authenticity.
Remember too, that in philosophy, this was expressed via Socrates. The destruction of the illusions of myth.
Now Nietszche saw the death of tragedy in Euripides (and further in Roman drama and comedy). But Nietszche blamed Socrates for this, interestingly. I think that Adorno and Horkheimer saw this moment as the seeding of instrumental reason. It was the driving out of Dionysian energy. For Socrates was attempting to erase the paradoxes of Dionysis with a new rational science. A new transparency – or a new illumination of those dark corners of the soul. Benjamin saw Socrates’ death as a parody of tragedy.
For our purposes, for the modern theatre, I think what is relevant here is to think about what that Dionysian energy was, what was its form.
It was a domesticating and secularizing of the daimonic. This, in effect, was an assault on the paradoxes and mysteries of the Tragic sensibility. Benjamin said the death of tragedy was a death or exhaustion of possibilities. But here is the fascinating point in all this; both Nietszche and Benjamin saw tragedy as intimately connected to sacrifice. There was a double meaning to sacrifice though. It was both atonement to the Gods (of myth) and as an act that gathers together the community – (which is where Rene Girard enters the conversation).
I have always felt that the best theatre is that which somehow exhausts the excuses for conventional senses of identity and value, or, to put it another way, for bourgeois demarcations of self and society. Whether Beckett or Pinter or Bernhard – or Kane for that matter – the play is a deed, an active performative act of destruction. I know that when I write, there is always a moment where I can feel the encroaching of order and resolution, or systematizing starting to happen. I once said (and I don’t think I quite knew what I meant) that at the start of any play something has just left the stage. And that the rest of the play is in (and about) the pursuit of what has just left. And that the climax is necessarily melancholy because the climax is the moment when the ‘play’ knows it cannot catch it. I think that what has left has several properties. One is that it’s the sacrificial deed, or act, the crime, the transgressive energy of this. The other is that it is the spirit of order and resolution. Of equilibrium. How does the Benjamin theory relate to the Lacanian (Freudian) one? This is what is frightening in a sense. For our own mimetic narration is always about desire somehow. Our own history has its own boundary lines – our Oedipal drama unfolds in our personal history. We are tragic.
Benjamin would say sacrifice is the deed that marks the transformation from the register of the Gods to that of man, or the community.
The laws of the Gods, or the obligations become the laws of man. Guilt and the super ego. Prohibitions. Now….Benjamin also said, the “hero”, when he dies, dies as neither a member of the new community or nor of the old order. His death is personal and intimate. It is a self sacrifice, and this echoes Lacan’s notion of the self suicide of the child at the mirror phase. Its fascinating stuff. In Polish, the word for hero is the same as the word for protagonist. I always found this created confusion when I was lecturing at the film school. Anyway….this self raises a whole host of issues having to do with identity and autonomy and agency. And with this comes a question having to do with freedom and fate.
In modern theatre, that sense of the fatal is crucial. I think if it’s not present somehow, your play fails. But I often wonder if it doesn’t require great effort to avoid. In other words, you have to work hard to create kitsch. You have to submit fully to the untruth of instrumental reason, and of social domination. But fate doesn’t exist without our facing death. I said in my theatre notes, that theatre is about death, not life. I think this is true. Theatre, if it’s authentic at all, must open and unfold toward death. It’s the horizon point. Death’s gigantic face hovers above the horizon. Now, I suspect that (and I said this in those same notes) that silence is what all theatre instinctively moves toward. A primordial silence that is a refusal to speak. Looked at this way, dialogue becomes very charged. Language, speech, utterance, is –on stage – always prophetic somehow. It is always oracular. Of course its not in practice, but that is part of the impossibility of theatre. It is also part of the violence of all art. In order to keep silent, says Benjamin, you must have something to say. The real silence is the empty chatter of modern existence.
A character on stage, an actor, is witness to something. Here we start to get close to Kafka I think. He is a witness at a trial. Adorno said Beckett put meaning on trial. I think then that the witness cannot speak when the judge asks him to. How does the Dionysian intersect with this? For it is the language of the ‘outside’. It is not the answer or the question. Is it a forgetting of language as well? Nietszche thought so. All of these paradoxes though suggest that tragedy is linked to language in some originary way. And that speech on stage is always an echo of these origins. This is, in a sense, what separates theatre from film.
I think if we ponder the reasons for theatre’s decline in terms of its relevance in modern society, this is some of the explanation. The destruction of community, and (via) the destruction of history, and the lack of belief in the law, the corrupted institutions of law, takes to us questions of audience. In the US I wonder often at what people think it means to be a member of this gigantic apparatus that so little reflects their own interests.
Today, there is always a question of why the tragic feels impossible. I think it’s because there is no community. There is only one side to the opposition. The ecstatic word, the Dionysian speech, cannot balance so easily between the daimonic and the social or civic. It is a more nihilistic utterance – and the play then cannot ever conclude. There is something in this, in modern theatre, that relates to fortune tellers and clairoyvants. The reading of tea leaves and crystal balls. It would be useful to talk of Spinoza here, and of Herbraic mysticism. The dynamic between our mimetic narratives, of guilt and desire, and that of the play’s narrative is the dynamic of tragic potential. Benjamin, in an early essay, said that in tragedy man recognizes himself as superior to the Gods. Tragedy exploded the old order of cultic belief and the realm of Dionysian energy. This border, this historic boundary, is the birth of rationality – but also of modern identity. Society gave itself over to the measuring and weighing of ‘things’. The start of science. Theatre is, in some sense, a denouncing of this identity. The new realm of myth is, in one sense anyway, the realm of research. Of data compilation. Language is co-conspirator in this, or the language of the Enlightenment.
Heidegger said that in Sophocles, the speech shelters the abode or home – and without getting lost in Heideggerian metaphysics here, his obsession with dwelling, the return to a ‘place’ is very pertinent to theatre I think. The stage space is a temple space, it is there to allow for a return to where we have never been.
He quotes Heraclitus: “the abode of the ordinary is for human beings the site that is open for the presencing of the god (or extra-ordinary).”
We cannot avoid the spatializing of these ideas. Or its very hard anyway. The thrust here though is not really spatial, it is about being “before” (which is spatial, too, of course). It is the language of prophecy. It is presence. In Hindu thought, darshan is the being in the presence of the holy, or of seeing with divine sight. All of this relates to theatre’s very existence I think. There is so much here, and I think it’s not an accident that the Tragedy of Oedipus looms so large. That Freud used it, that Nietszche wrote of it so extensively. That Oedipus as exile was so important to Adorno. The immigrant, the hunted, these are tropes of great resonance. And all of them apply directly to theatre.
Now there is another topic related to this, and we may well touch on it at some point in this dialogue, and that is the reason for the total collapse of the tragic sensibility. The poverty of today’s theatre, by and large, is obviously connected to the forces of mass culture, the culture industry and capital and the effects of that alienation.
But for now I find the question of tragedy very important in looking at how theatre exists. Why do we even have it? How does our own mimetic drama find itself on stage. I will leave off here though……
Well, one way to view our situation is that we are choosing to live our own tragedy rather than honor its disarticulatory energies through ritual. Bruno Latour is pointing this out in a very trenchant fashion when he says “we were having a future.” We were, but now we are not, in other words. Manuel DeLanda is very clear about the distinction between “properties” and “capacities” and how the latter embody both a non-linear open-endedness and also a relational quality. So, to use his example, the knife in your kitchen drawer has an endless array of capacities that don’t ever need to be actualized in order to be real, and can never be exhaustively catalogued before the fact. And in order to become actual those capacities need to be expressed via material that can be affected – for the knife’s capacity to cut to become real it must engage with something that can be cut (all of this is explicitly Deleuzian). To me, tragic drama is the actualization of the capacity human beings have for a certain kind of temporal freedom with respect to past and future. Another (and more familiar) way to say this is that tragedy is all about presence – the capacity to be present. And one of the implications is that presence is relational – that an audience is required for the full experience of presence to become actual rather than virtual. The contemplative traditions, we might speculate, involve (via meditative practices) an experience of presence in a virtual register. Somewhere in this sequence of thoughts is an endorsement of senor Heraclitus’ observations about “the presencing of the god” (and one assumes it’s Dionysus he’s talking about.)
I’m not sure what this explanation implies, but I find it oddly bracing. All the features of the contemporary world that one finds challenging – for example the technologically enhanced capacity to ignore the problems we are creating for ourselves at every level all the time – can be viewed as a very circuitous and painful way of working toward some new, emergent mode of relating to experience. This is the thing about temporality and history, for example – that what happens tomorrow revises the meaning of everything that came before. This becomes very real when you’re working or writing as a historian – in subtle and not-so-subtle ways your constructs are always being impacted by current events and you become haunted by the fact that the inert corpse you are dissecting is not really dead at all. This calls for a certain restraint in one’s pronouncements about the future – a respect for its plasticity and its freedom from pre-determination. The tendency toward teleology of any kind (positive or negative) is fatal to thinking, perhaps.
In Freud one of the problems is how this tendency toward the teleological – meaning the belief that events are developing toward some purposeful end – is expressed in a subtle background assumption of psychic unity. The point of the “cure” is to help the individual mint a unified self that may still be unhappy but not neurotically so, and Freud is haunted – especially in the later texts – by the sense that this unified self is A) a chimera and B) itself deeply neurotic, riddled with self-repression and death-in-life. The idealization of the unified self is also, obviously, the narrative in which the psyche is shackled to the temporal reductionism and futuricity I’ve been trying to point toward. In the Freudian picture, the psyche is always on-the-road toward an idealized future state, while the actual past is viewed as the site of traumas and degradations of various kinds. The way in which this construct opens us to entrancement by those adept at manipulating the yawning abyss of lack it opens in the core of our psyches is sobering to contemplate. And, of course, you just have to watch ten seconds of network television to see how automatized this dynamic has become. Human beings have allowed themselves to be transformed into little repetitive equations of lack that loop around endlessly, and all enmity is deployed to destroy anything that reflects this sad truth. Benjamin’s Angel of History – the famous bedraggled figure out of Paul Klee who turns and looks over her shoulder with dread and terror – now resides at the core of the modern psyche, experienced only in the wee hours when the medications have failed, and there’s nothing but reruns on the teevee.
But oddly enough to succumb to despair about this picture is to subscribe to the same teleological construct I described above – change can arrive without some infinitely challenging and painful trek back in time to find where one’s path divurged from the “true way.” Tibetan imagery is useful here – the way they view the enlightened or awakened state as our ground condition and the various self-based forms of ignorance and suffering are like veils thrown over this underlying awakened state. Someone in the Deleuzian arena (may have been Bergson) said brilliantly that every child is a metaphysician (a dirty word, I know), and I think this is literally true. Children are dazzled and entranced by the real issues and mysteries confronting the individual consciousness, and the process of maturation (in the modern world at least) involves an endless series of betrayals in which adults ridicule and demean and retard these deep and urgent desires to know. I think of Latour here again and his remarkable book We Have Never Been Modern, where he chronicles the ways in which we are waking up from the long dream of the “Enlightenment” to discover ourselves again in something like a 16th century configuration in which “matters of fact” and “politics” commingle. This false enlightenment never became actual, would be one way to look at this. But if Latour is correct, Shakespeare now looms up ahead of us, very much down-the-road. So perhaps it’s time to, you know, buckle up.
See, I think there is something in this moment…and I’m going to try to focus on a theatrical context here… in what you’ve just described that brings us face to face with the commodity form. Children do not really understand the commodity because they don’t buy anything. Adults today are encouraged and conditioned to approach all experience in terms that sustain this alienation. What you called little repetitive equations of lack. I have been meaning to write a piece about addiction, and in reading Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, one sees the way ‘lack’ operates as a generating form for addictive behaviors. So, the knife metaphor is very reminiscent of Heidegger in one sense, but it’s useful for thinking about the role of culture as well.
When I write a play, and when I think about the reasons for writing it, I always somehow end up with questions of audience. This leads to questions of commodity form again, of finance, and even broader implications. It is those implications that have to be discussed if any traction is going to be achieved in how to think about theatre (and art overall). This idea of Latour’s about a return – or the dying of the Enlightenment dream, are certainly relevant to the practice of writing. To poetics. To follow Benjamin on tragedy; the play actualizes the present – it gives the possibility of …what? Well, of something. There is a trap in all this, having to do with language and metaphor. It’s obvious. Still, putting that aside for the moment, I think one needs to examine what is going on up on stage. The relationship between actors and audience and text. The question of ending continues to haunt me. What happens when a play ends? The narrative stops. Does this mean the relationships have stopped? The audience gets up and leaves. What is left? The narrative continues in how we tell ourselves about the experience. It is in this mimetic function that a good part of the entire process takes place. So, the mode of thought that is theatre, is manifested in this duration between lights coming up and going down. It seems to me that part of the project then , for the theatre artist, is how to negotiate the ending. One way is “the butler did it”. Ah, so the mystery is solved. There are obviously other clichéd tropes of redemption and reunification that are trotted out all the time. What happens at the end of King Lear? I did a multi-lingual Lear in Poland – with two Lears. One spoke Polish and one English. The sisters were speaking Norwegian, and Gloucester Polish. The Fool was English speaking, and Edmund Polish. And so on. I had cut up the text to some degree, but both Lears were on stage almost the entire play. At the very end, the English Lear, in the final scene, says “ Who are you?… my eyes are not the best…”. He is in the original speaking to Kent. In our production he says them to the ‘other’ Lear, the Polish Lear. It was a startling moment. It was a surprise to me, actually. The emergent properties, as it were, had surfaced in a new way, and in a way connected to a text very well known. The truth of that moment felt undeniable. Now it changed the entire balance of the ending of the play as we performed it. My suspicion is that what had emerged was something that related to the 21st century not to the 17th, or late 16th. And I might argue that this relates to this sense of ending that the Enlightenment model you’ve introduced, has for us. For progress is embedded in this illusion of Enlightenment values….and certainly the Enlightenment wasn’t an accident. It was a corrective reaction to Church dogma and stagnation…culturally speaking. That idea of progress, implies a direction forward, a future of Hegelian fulfillment. This revisionist Lear had, at least for a moment, torn away this veil – and 21st century Capitalist schizophrenia – as well as the inherent doubling of theatre – had replaced it.
Was there something in this disequilibrium that altered the ‘idea’ of the ending? I think it’s crucial to think about this. And it’s why I feel it’s so important to think of form – serial work, for one strategy is simply to never end. I say this in all seriousness. It was one of the ideas behind forming Gunfighter Nation – both to make it educational on a community based level, and also to work at least some preliminary tactics to move away from the play as commodity. This also relates to your comments on temporality, and mine on space. The metaphysics of theatre. The tragic presencing….that it is prophetic. Theatre as prophet – but prophet as realizer of a previously hidden present. I think this is why the ideas of concealment and simulacra are so resonant. For however one wants to track this….via Lacan or Deleuze or the Tibetan traditions or the Vedantic, that present is hidden. I could easily bring this around to addictions at this point, too. The internet or TV or iPhones or texting or driving cars or shopping. Society does them at an ever increasing speed. There is a sense out there that the speed has reached maximum velocity now. We have reached the point where we are going so fast we are starting to go backward. I think there are themes in popular culture which reflect a longing for this ‘never was’ 16th century. Whether vampires or virus or alien attacks, there is the recognition – surfacing in spite of the intentions of its makers usually – that these narratives are describing a very historically specific desire. Somewhere our personal drama is inscribed in these tropes, and these tropes describe an historical narrative simultaneously.
So I leave the last word to you, but I conclude with a quote of Nietszche, for his shadow looms over all this, still….
“He masters the uncontrolled knowledge drive, though not by means of a new metaphysics. He establishes no new faith. He considers it ‘tragic’ that the ground of metaphysics has been withdrawn, and he will never permit himself to be satisfied with the motley whirling game of the sciences…one must even ‘will’ illusion…that is what is tragic.”
John, far be it for me to attempt to steal the last word from Zarathustra or his illusionist, Herr Nietzsche. Somewhere in here we are circling around another rich subject, which has to do with the ways in which aesthetics and cultural pathology are directly linked to each other…and in that discussion we might look at Derrida and the presence/absence dualism that pertains so directly to theater…and to the issue of sovereignty…but for now let’s tether this zeppelin and stretch our legs a bit…so to speak…