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The Theatrical Public Sphere


  • Date Published: February 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316638873

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About the Authors
  • The concept of the public sphere, as first outlined by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, refers to the right of all citizens to engage in debate on public issues on equal terms. In this book, Christopher B. Balme explores theatre's role in this crucial political and social function. He traces its origins and argues that the theatrical public sphere invariably focuses attention on theatre as an institution between the shifting borders of the private and public, reasoned debate and agonistic intervention. Chapters explore this concept in a variety of contexts, including the debates that led to the closure of British theatres in 1642, theatre's use of media, controversies surrounding race, religion and blasphemy, and theatre's place in a new age of globalised aesthetics. Balme concludes by addressing the relationship of theatre today with the public sphere and whether theatre's transformation into an art form has made it increasingly irrelevant for contemporary society.

    • Provides an in-depth discussion of the public sphere on the basis of historical and contemporary case studies
    • Examples are drawn from a wide cultural range, including theatre productions in Europe, the USA and Asia
    • Contributes to contemporary debates on theatre's changing relevance to the globalised world
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Balme presents us with a fascinating tour de force … he is not only able to unravel a persuasive argument and extend Habermas' theory to performance, but by doing so he also questions the very fabric of the theatre and the way it operates.' Anselm Heinrich, Scottish Journal of Performance

    'The Theatrical Public Sphere is a masterful and vital contribution … It will prove essential to researchers seeking rigorous theorizations of the public sphere in many contexts, and its implications for theatre studies demands serious consideration.' Hillary Miller, Theatre Survey

    '[An] instructive and even salutary book.' Nicholas Ridout, The Times Literary Supplement

    '[A] deeply thoughtful and copiously researched book.' David Krasner, Theatre Journal

    'This book … should prompt ongoing lively exchange in and on the public sphere.' Loren Kruger, TDR: The Drama Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316638873
    • length: 232 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Locating the theatrical public sphere
    2. Reciprocal articulations: from playbills to blogs
    3. Openings and closures: puritans and the pilloried stage
    4. The prophet on stage: theatre, religion and the transnational public sphere
    5. Thresholds of tolerance and the publicity of scandal
    6. Distributed aesthetics and the global public sphere.

  • Author

    Christopher B. Balme, Universität Munchen
    Christopher B. Balme holds the chair in theatre studies at Universität Munchen. He was born and educated in New Zealand where he graduated from the University of Otago. He has lived and worked in Germany since 1985 with positions at the universities of Würzburg, Munich and Mainz. From 2004 to 2006 he held the chair in theatre studies at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. He has published widely on German theatre, intercultural theatre, and theatre and other media, and is currently president of the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research). He is also a former Senior Editor of Theatre Research International. Recent publications include Decolonizing the Stage (1999), Pacific Performances (2007) and The Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Studies (2008). He directs the research project 'Global Theatre Histories' at Universität Munchen.

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