The Theatrical Public Sphere

The Theatrical Public Sphere

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The concept of the public sphere, as first outlined by German philosopher Jurgen 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.
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Table of contents

Introduction; 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.
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Review quote

'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
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About Christopher B. Balme

Christopher Balme holds the chair in theatre studies at the University of Munich. 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 Wurzburg, Munich and Mainz. From 2004 to 2006 he held the chair in theatre studies at the University of 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 the University of Munich.
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