PERFORMING RECOGNITION: Anagnorisis and Action
It is surprising for modern readers of Aristotle’s Poetics to realize that recognition (anagnorisis: one of three constitutive parts of the dramatic plot) has to be conceived of as an action in the world rather than an internal operation of the mind. How can recognition consist in performance rather than cognition? In this course we will investigate texts and plays to explore this fundamental concept of theatrical practice and theory. Our syllabus looks into three different scenes of recognition: Homecoming; Epistemology; and the Mirror. Together, these three scenes comprise the knowledge of self, other, and the relation between the two. We will begin our journey where Odysseus finished his: with his arrival on Ithaca. After examining the performance of Homer’s epic, we’ll turn to several stage versions of the Odyssey from Calderon to Botho Strauss. Next, the performative production of knowledge will provide a stage to investigate the difference between comic and tragic recognition (Shakespeare, Goethe). Finally, we’ll turn to self recognition by reflecting on the trope of the mirror in Plato, Shakespeare, and Büchner. As Aristotle’s concepts of anagnorisis and praxis provide a theoretical impetus from the beginning of our investigation, Hannah Arendt’s inflection of action will give us an opportunity in the final sessions to consider recognition again in its performative, ethical, and political dimensions. Readings in English and German; discussions in English.