The figure of the theatrum mundi has never been a mere ornamental device, employed solely for literary illustration or rhetorical effect. On the contrary, to proclaim that “all the world’s a stage” is to affirm that dramaturgical concerns motivate and guide our communal, political, and ethical lives. As Richard Sennett (2002: 49) argued in 1977, the societal problem of dealing with strangers is perfectly analogous to the problem an audience faces in confronting characters represented onstage, since both endeavors have to do with “arousing belief among those who do not know you.” In both cases, the task hinges on public recognition, on the acknowledgment that someone’s alien or unfamiliar mode of existence can in fact be deemed acceptable. According to Aristotle, anagnorisis is likewise as pivotal for subjective interactions in the world as for theatrical tragedy. What recognition entails precisely, how it functions in literary and social contexts,...
Odysseys of Recognition: Performing Intersubjectivity in Homer, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Goethe, and Kleist
John T. Hamilton is William R. Kenan Professor of German and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. His publications include Soliciting Darkness: Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition (2004); Music, Madness, and the Unworking of Language (2008); Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care (2013); and Philology of the Flesh (2018).
John T. Hamilton; Odysseys of Recognition: Performing Intersubjectivity in Homer, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Goethe, and Kleist. Modern Language Quarterly 1 June 2020; 81 (2): 243–245. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-8151598
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