The Epic Theatre as “Dialectic (at-Play)”: Badiou, Brecht and the Dubious Mask of the Storyteller

Brian Desmond



This essay draws from Alain Badiou’s perspectives on revolutionary dialectics,and his discussion of Bertolt Brecht’s epic dramaturgy as a strategicappropriation of the mask, to discuss the deployment of narrativedevices of folk storytelling in Brecht’s work. Brecht’s epic dramaturgywas initially informed by oral narrative traditions such as German folktales and songs, and also by experimentations with the formal strategiesof traditional storytelling theatres such as Greek tragedy and JapaneseNoh Theatre. Badiou’s perspectives on dialectical division and the theatrical“dialectic (at-play)” are used to inform an understanding of howGestus as a theatrical language is influenced by the narrative devicesof folk storytelling, encouraging critical thought over lazy consensus,and insisting on division over conformity.

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