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”We are not offering a helpful theory of art." Towards a possible integration of systems theory and theatre studies

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The systems theory of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann studies all possible forms of sociability. Therefore, it is not only an all-encompassing theory, it is also considered to be difficultly employable as a fully-fledged heuristic and epistemological research tool. Within theatre studies, it could not yet find full acceptance, possibly due to its explicit non-human character. With this article we would like to investigate the possible usability of Luhmann's theory within theatre studies, focusing on the usability of a number of Luhmann's key-notions, such as contingence, autopoiesis, reference and differentiation. The notion of contingency, which should be considered as the core element of his thoughts, will function as the basic assumption for this exercise, which is both of a methodological and of a theoretical nature. Theatre history will be approached as a recursive series of communicative actions in which a crucial role is taken up by the mechanism of subsequent expectations. Referring to the 18th-century theatrical reinterpretation of the French 17th-century classical corpus, we will try to illustrate that theatre history should be written in terms of the development of an operationally closed system which, however, can only exist in permanent friction with its own environment.
Journal: Phrasis: Studies in Language and Literature
ISSN: 2030-5265
Issue: 1
Volume: 50
Pages: 21-41
Number of pages: 21
Publication year:2009
Keywords:theatre studies, Luhmann