Sustainable Canons: Gadamer's Hermeneutics and Theatre
Keywords:Hans-Georg Gadamer, canon, play, theatre, interpretation, performance, history
This essay investigates Gadamer's hermeneutic theory and its application to theatre. Attention to Gadamer's views of theatre and performative interpretation provides a foundation to theorize a more sustainable canon. Classics that constitute a sustainable canon operate within a tradition through a community of interpretation that continually returns to interpret them anew. This structure also describes the theatrical repertoire. Several of Gadamer's central themes find easy analogues on stage: play, the history of effect (Wirkungsgeschichte), the participation of an audience in the fusion of horizons, and art's making present continuity the past. Gadamer provides a framework for understanding the work of interpretation of a dramatic text as a shared participatory event. In particular, Gadamer's hermeneutic theory can make sense of the how performance history makes discoveries that "sticks" to a script, particularly as when and how it enters and influences the canon. Gadamer's hermeneutics help to interpret how innovative performance choices and stage spectacle are part of a play's meaning; these interpretive interventions in drama's reception history are significant and not simply ornamentation to some "truth of the play" accessed only via the reenactment of the original compositional context. Occasional reparative interpretations of the canon, in turn, help to sustain the community.
Artaud, Antonin. 1958. The Theater and Its Double. Translated by Mary Caroline Richards. New York: Grove.
Auslander, Philip. 2008. Liveness: Performance in a mediatized culture. New York: Routledge.
Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 1988. Theo-Drama I: Prolegomena. Translated by Graham Harrison. San Francisco: Ignatius.
Bennett, Benjamin. 1990. Theater as Problem: Modern Drama and its Place in Literature. Cornell: Cornell University Press.
Boal, Augusto. 1985. Theatre of the Oppressed. New York: Theatre Communications Group.
Bouchard, Larry D. and Charles A. Gillespie. 2021. "Religion and Theatrical Drama, an Introduction." Religions 12, no. 4: 257.
Brecht, Bertolt. 1992. "A Short Organum for the Theatre." In Brecht on Theatre: the Development of an Aesthetic. Edited and translated by John Willett. New York: Hill and Wang.
Brown, David Sterling, and Sandra Young. 2021. "(Un)Just Acts: Shakespeare and Social Justice in Contemporary Performance." Shakespeare Bulletin 39, no. 4 (2021): 529-535.
Carlson, Marvin. 2003. The Haunted Stage: The Theatre as Memory Machine. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Dox, Donalee. 2016. Reckoning with the Spirit in the Paradigm of Performance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Driver, Tom F. 1970. Romantic Quest and Modern Query: History of the Modern Theater. New York: Delacorte.
Driver, Tom F. 2012. The Sense of History in Greek and Shakespearean Drama. Literary Licensing.
Forsyth, Alison. 2002. Gadamer, history, and the classics: Fugard, Marowitz, Berkoff and Harrison rewrite the theatre. New York: Peter Lang.
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1989. Truth and Method. Translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. New York: Continuum.
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1986. "The festive character of theater." In The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays. Edited by Robert Bernasconi. Translated by Nicholas Walker. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 57-65.
Huizinga, Johan.1955. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon.
Kant, Immanuel. 1987. Critique of Judgment. Translated by Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett.
Knight, Mark. 2010. "Wirkungsgeschichte, Reception History, Reception Theory." Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 33(2), 137-146.
Mason, David V. 2019. The Performative Ground of Religion and Theatre. New York: Routledge.
Morrison, Toni. "Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature." The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at the University of Michigan, October 7, 1988: 132.
Orr, David W. Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Philippon, Daniel J. 2012. "Sustainability and the Humanities: An Extensive Pleasure." American Literary History 24, no. 1: 163–79.
Ricouer, Paul. 1976. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press,
Schneider, Rebecca. 2014. Theater & History. London: Red Globe Press.
Wenger, Tisa. 2009. We Have a Religion: the 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2022 Labyrinth
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
After acceptation of the paper, the author has to sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement granting to Labyrinth and Axia Academic Publishers the exclusive copyrights for the online and printed editions, and to deal with reprint requests from third parties. On special occasions, articles and studies published in Labyrinth may be republished in textbooks or collective works of Axia Academic Publishers as well as translated and published in other languages. By submitting a paper to Labyrinth, you implicitely agree with these conditions.