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Thinking Through Tragedy and Comedy A Symposium on Performance Philosophy and the Future of Genre

Mischa Twitchin


Besides its particular poetics, tragedy has given rise to a concept of the tragic that (as Szondi notes) distinguishes itself from – even in its “renewal” of – ancient theories. The question of seeing – of “the right to look” (Mirzoeff) – is fundamental to the meta-theatre of tragedy, where a dramaturgy of insight and of a “sight to behold” interweaves in appeal to the political. “In Patagonia?” echoes Beckett’s Catastrophe, whose very title names part of a tragic plot. Its double play stages questions of ethical response to violence (in both acts seen and the act of seeing), where relations between word and image or sight resonate with the tragic model. But what is particular in Beckett’s work for thinking through tragedy? Why is it embarrassing when critics profess to see a prototype of images from Abu Ghraib in the play? What happens to questions of the “forensic” (rather than catharsis) when opsis and muthos engage with apate (illusion)? Following Eyal Weizman’s expanded sense of forensics, how does the theatrical act of seeing evoke a “court of appeal” through the actor? And how is a critical practice of public truth sustained in that “failure” which is, for Beckett, its aesthetic specificity?

Mischa Twitchin is a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Drama Dept., Queen Mary, University of London. His book, The Theatre of Death: the Uncanny in Mimesis, will be published in the Performance Philosophy series by Palgrave Macmillan (2015); and examples of his own performance making can be found on Vimeo:; and on his website: