Performativity in Theatre or How to Play with a Burned Match : A Study on a Concept, a Theory and a Theatre Production

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Title: Performativity in Theatre or How to Play with a Burned Match : A Study on a Concept, a Theory and a Theatre Production
Author: Lahtinen, Outi
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Doctoral Programme in Philosophy, Arts and Society
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020-12-12
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: This dissertation considers the concept of performativity as it originates from philosopher of language J. L. Austin (1911–1960) and examines how the concept functions with respect to a theatre production. The focus of the study is two-fold. First the trajectory of the concept is examined and an appropriate interpretation to suit the purposes of performance analysis is formulated. Second, an analysis of a production is carried out. The discussion about the concepts of the performative, performativity and a speech act is multifaceted and ramified. It includes debates and contradictory interpretations. This study presents an introduction to Austin’s original theorization about exploring speech as action. The main source for this discussion is How to Do Things with Words (1962), a book that was posthumously composed and edited based on Austin’s lecture notes. The continuation of the discussion on performativity is presented selectively. A debate between Jacques Derrida and John R. Searle is discussed thoroughly because of its further influence, particularly in the fields of theatre and performance studies, which is the home ground of this study. Philosophers Stanley Cavell, who sustained the orientation of Ordinary Language Philosophy – the original context for Austin’s philosophy – and Judith Butler, who has expanded the range of performativity from speech to, for instance, the fields of gender theory and political activism, feature as the most important participants in the discussion. Literary scholar Shoshana Felman, who made an original reading of Austin both in terms of thought as well as speech (as action), is also included among the interlocutors of the study. Furthermore, adaptations of the concepts of the performative and performativity in the field of theatre studies are mapped in broad outline. The case study for which the majority of this dissertation is dedicated is called Tulitikkuja lainaamassa eli elämän ihmeellisyys (Gone to Borrow Matches or The Strangeness of Life) (adapt. Veijo Meri – Kalle Holmberg, dir. Kalle Holmberg) and it was performed at Tampere Workers’ Theatre as the 100th anniversary production of the theatre in 2001. The production was a multilayered and palimpsestuous composition that combined an adaptation of a popular classic, Tulitikkuja lainaamassa (Gone to Borrow Matches) by Maiju Lassila, with a selection of related texts both from literary and biographical sources. The analysis of the aesthetic features of the production, the conventions to which it relates, its contexts and intertexts as well as its relation to the assumed audience exposes fractures in the conception of theatre and the identification assumed to its spectators. My study shows how an analysis that explores a theatre production from the viewpoint of performativity offers a possibility for a nuanced understanding of a theatre production as a communicative act whose success is dependent on several aspects in the entirety of the deed.
Subject: teatteritiede
Rights: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.

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