Drama Is Dead | Long Live the Drama

Drama Is Dead | Long Live the Drama

The Fukuyaman thesis knowns by many today as “the end of history” is usually referred to as a Hegelian concept. However there is another end in Hegel. The end of art. History has come to an end, if not for history itself - at least for art as such.

Art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. --Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Arts

If art is a thing of the past, this means that drama also is a thing of the past. Following Hans urs von Balthasar, let’s assume Hegel is right on this point. Because drama used to fill another function in society, a societal function where the audience participated in a cosmic drama and the function of the play was deeply cathartic. Placing the individual lives in a larger story, chivalric tales and mystery plays bridged the gap between man and society, ideal and real, history and present. However enlightenment puts an end to this, instead leaving the subject without a larger horizon outside itself. Even if Hegels own philosophy attempts to bring back the drama into the world by the “secular”, “history of the spirit” the secularisation started by Hegel gets amplified by later generations. When the horizon of destiny, God and absolute spirit, no more accounts to valid categories of thought, the western world is left in a new ideological-dramatical space. The nihilism that starts to take shape in the 19th century and the psychoanalysis of the 20th century is (very broadly speaking) attempts to navigate this space, to find new interior horizon for man to work with.

This post-hegelian world without transcendent horizon is a vast space, and in essence a deserted place. Something has been left behind - how to build something new? Surrounded by a gaping void - screaming to be re-filled - ideological topographies are being formed. Different modes of existence emerges in this new climate. Among these formations, the freudian continent.

The center is in fact occupied by Freud this modern substitute for the ancients world daimon, since now the irrational dimensions of “destiny”, which once burst upon the world from the intangible sphere of the divine [..], breaks through from below and from within, from the vast, dark chambers of the unconscious, the “blood”, and the instincts. --Theo Drama vol 1 - Hans urs von Balthasar

But since the absolute framework is already destroyed. Modern dramatical narratives always risks to become mere images and romantic reminiscences of ancient drama. Destiny which once was a category of the drama (fate) becomes internalised into the unconscious. The ancient drama becomes “substituted” with an ancient image made modern: the oedipal complex. The freudian unconscious reformulates ancient drama, and the new actors (mommy-daddy-me) is fighting a constant battle where freedom only can be won by victoriously fighting against the enemy of internal repression. When this tidal-wave of symbolic certitude slowly sinks back into where it came from. The landscape has changed. Leaving bare the subjects depth dimension open for public inspection. With no way back to a lost mythical world.

The message of Deleuze’s and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia is unsettling: we have arrived at a historical point where we no longer have religious or moral protection against the madness that is inherent to the human mind. The two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, which are necessarily extravagant and delirious, are attempts to map out this new space, in order to learn to navigate and control it for a higher purpose. --Deleuze and the Unconscious

When there are no longer any horizon for the mind, there is no protection against madness. Earlier topographical maps, be it scholasticism, communism or whatnot has been abandoned. The space the “modern” consciousness inhabits is therefore a deserted place.  A topology of imagination is thus called for, a geography of social consciousness. Because somehow this new non-moral, non-religious space needs to be navigated. The proposed navigational directions (lines of flight) given by Deleuze is pointing outwards, to the border-areas, not to mainland but out into the ocean - onto the islands. The blacksmith’s search for hidden veins in the rock in fact forces him into these border-areas. In between society and nature, in between idealism and naturalism. But to what purpose? What’s there that can’t be found elsewhere?

The drama played out in this space is not something entirely foreign to western thought. In fact it’s an integral part of western thought - albeit as undercurrent and rarely in the main. The quest is for the concept of the new-birth. The re-birth of the consciousness, “a second birth”. And this might sound strange but is something very near us, because is not life itself - that which brings new life forward?

It is not that there is a second birth because there has been a catastrophe, but the reverse, there is a catastrophe after the origin because there must be, from the beginning, a second birth. Within ourselves we can locate the source of such a theme: it is not the production of life that we look for when we judge it to be life, but its reproduction --Desert islands

Only out there - in the wilderness, on the deserted island - is the beginning anew possible.. The transformation takes place there. A possibility to “experience the world anew”. An awakening of sorts. A transformation of the senses. A new mode to experience time. The island: “It is like an egg, an egg of the sea”, this cryptical recurring theme of eggs in Deleuze points to the concept of fertility and the possibility of new life. A new life emerging from within. A new world inside the old world. A new life inside the old life

The idea of a second origin gives the deserted island its whole meaning, the survival of a sacred place in a world that is slow to re-begin. In the ideal of beginning anew there is something that precedes the beginning itself, that takes it up to deepen it and delay it in the passage of time. The desert island is the material of this something immemorial, this something most profound. --Desert Islands

This drama is still valid in the deserted place called “modernity” and even more to the point, maybe the deserting of the old has made the rebirth as a dramatical category even more urgent.

Written by Simon Carlfjord

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