Brecht - Surveillance - Visibility
(session of the International Brecht Society at the Modern Language Association convention in Austin, TX, 7-10 January 2016)
In his essay “What is Epic Theatre?,” Walter Benjamin offers a narrative about a family scene interrupted by the arrival of an uninvited stranger. The stranger is witness to an altercation between a mother and daughter, and Benjamin suggests that he is like the audiences of Brechtian theater: confronted with “a startling situation” that focuses his attention not on “the development of actions” but rather on the “conditions” that they exemplify. While Benjamin’s narrative may not be the most obvious illustration of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, the notion of an uninvited stranger suddenly appearing in the privacy of one’s home contains an eerie premonition of the socio-political conditions that the advent of advanced surveillance technologies have made reality.  His narrative thus presents an opportunity to consider Brechtian aesthetics in light of the political conditions of the new surveillance society. How valuable are those aesthetics in this charged era of politicized technologies?  Has Brecht's goal of making visible both a real act and the structure that causes it - the double move of Verfremdung - lost its power as a model for performance in a surveillance society?  Send abstracts (250 words) for 20-minute presentations on aspects of new technologies and Brechtian theater by 15 March 2015 to: Marc Silberman ([log in to unmask]) and James Harding ([log in to unmask]).
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