The relationship between poetry and philosophy is one that has been discussed since time immemorial, from Aristotle and Plato to present-day thinkers like Jean-Luc Nancy. Bertolt Brecht's status as both a poet and a thinker has not been spared this discussion, with some, like Theodor W. Adorno, considering him a poet of inadvertent truths with little philosophical insight—a Vulgärmarxist—and others, like Hans-Thies Lehmann, seeing in Brecht's poetry, his theater, the point at which the difference between poetry and philosophy, theater, and theory dissolves. The relationship between thinking and doing, between theory and practice, and the question of art's transformative and interventionist potential have been at the heart of Brecht scholarship since its inception and show no signs of going away soon, to which this new volume, Philosophizing Brecht, also testifies.
The title of this book seems to place the volume at the center of precisely this discussion. Philosophizing Brecht comprises an interesting mix of contributions, some excellent, that examine a number of different aspects of Brecht's relationship to and potential for various philosophical and theoretical discourses, both historically and today. The book brings together an introduction, seven contributions, and an “(In)Conclusion”—although it must be noted to begin with that, although not unusual by any means for Brecht scholarship, it is disappointing that a collected volume of this nature, published in the year 2018, does not feature any contributions by female scholars. The contributions examine various discourses, including acting theory (Peter Zazzali), film studies (Jeremy Spencer), and philosophy (various contributors), as well as Brecht's views on the “Tuis” (Philip Glahn), his derogatory term for intellectuals, during his exile. The volume thus gives the reader real food for thought regarding a range of heterogenous topics, which overall provide some interesting new approaches towards thinking about Brecht and his legacy.
The introduction is written by Anthony Squiers, who also contributes an article later on in the volume on the “virtue of courage” in Plato/ Socrates and Brecht. Unfortunately, the introduction does not really tell the reader where the volume is heading.