Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 33

ARTS & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS and too much distance can end up in complete alienation (otherness). And these tropes have generated aesthetic forms of reception, forms of reception that also come with a political dimension. We as readers are transformed into spectators, watching a tragedy enacted, indeed one whose themes would also be addressed in an actual tragedy performed in Athens in the same year as the catastrophe of Melos, Euripides’ Trojan Women. Our experience of reading is transformed into a performative event. So the parallels that Brecht examines between lessons in acting and lessons in political economy are not coincidental. In a sense, the most democratic politician would occupy the gestus of the Brechtian actor or the Athenian hupocrites, where being and demonstrating are not conflated and the performance of politics is always aware of its own performativity (and accordingly the least democratic actor/politician like Brecht’s Arturo Ui would be one who is trying to convince us that they are sincere, “real”). Brecht wrote the play in dark times, when there was much at stake in the political ramifications of theatricality. In our own times, when the term performativity is sometimes used ahistorically and apolitically, it is perhaps equally important to stress that it comes with a long and distinguished genealogy of both form and content. 5 And to repeat a much quoted aphorism from that play, these matters have an added urgency today, as “the bitch that bore him is in heat again.” Olga Taxidou is Professor of Drama and Performance Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the interactions between modernism and classicism, especially in the theatre arts. She is the Series Editor of The Edinburgh Critical Studies in Modernism, Drama, and Performance, and her books include: The Mask: a Periodical Performance by Edward Gordon Craig (1998); Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning (2004); Modernism and Performance: Jarry to Brecht (2007). She is co-editor (with V. Kolocotroni) of Modernism: an Anthology of Sources and Documents (2000) and its sister volume, The Edinburgh Dictionary of Modernism (2018). She also works on adaptations of classical Greek Tragedies, the most recent of which, Medea, was produced in New York (March 2018) by Mabou Mines Theatre Company, directed by Lee Breuer. References Artaud, Antonin. (1976) Selected Writings, ed. and intro. Susan Sontag, trans. Helen Weaver. Berkeley: University of California Press. 5 For a broader discussion, see Butler and Athanasiou (2013). Interestingly, this book is presented in the form of a dialogue between the two authors. 32