© 2018

Theatricality and Performativity

Writings on Texture from Plato’s Cave to Urban Activism


  • Deploys philosophical theories and concepts to interrogate 'theatricality'

  • Explores the notions of theatricality, performativity and cognitive ecology across a wide range of examples and case studies

  • Offers a diverse collection of essays engaging with a variety of disciplines and historical contexts


Part of the Performance Philosophy book series (PPH)

Table of contents

About this book


This book reinterprets theatricality and performativity through a dramaturgy of texture and weaving. As cultural metaphors, theatricality and performativity evoke practices of seeing and doing, but also conflicting values of novelty and normativity. With anthropologist Tim Ingold and philosopher Stephen C. Pepper, this study explores a series of intertwining threads, from the theatrical to the performative: Antitheatrical (Plato, the Baroque, Michael Fried); Pro-theatrical (directors Wagner, Fuchs, Meyerhold, Brecht, and Brook); Dramatic (weaving memory in Shaffer’s Amadeus and Beckett’s Footfalls); Efficient (from modernist “machines for living in” to the “smart home”); Activist (knit graffiti, clown patrols, and the Anthropo(s)cene). An approach is developed in which ‘performativity’ names the way we tacitly weave worlds and identities, variously concealed or clarified by the step-aside tactics of ‘theatricality'.


Performance Philosophy Theatricality Aesthetics Metaphor Cognitive ecology

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of TampereTampereFinland

About the authors

Teemu Paavolainen is Research Fellow in Theatre and Performance at the University of Tampere, Finland. His Theatre/Ecology/Cognition: Theorizing Performer-Object Interaction in Grotowski, Kantor, and Meyerhold was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012. His articles have appeared in Performance Philosophy, Theatre Symposium, Nordic Theatre Studies, and The Cognitive Humanities (2016).

Bibliographic information


“Paavolainen suggestively traces the cultural dialectic between theatricality and performativity across a wide swath of modern culture. Reading theoretical texts from Plato to Michael Fried, the work of stage directors, the dramatic designs of Peter Shaffer and Samuel Beckett, machines for living from Le Corbusier to smart homes, and the work of a range of activist performance, Paavolainen searchingly unweaves the textures interanimating these two decisive terms of analysis, exploring the cognitive, philosophical, and social consequences enacted in the critical tension between seeing and doing, novelty and normativity. It's a striking, original book, certain to alter the ongoing encounter between theatre and performance studies.” (W. B. Worthen, Barnard College, Columbia University, USA)

“This a ‘knotty’ volume; but the ‘yarn’ it spins is new and refreshing. For a discipline that so often provides metaphors for everyday life, it offers exciting and provocative ways of envisaging the complex warp and weft of theatricality and performativity. It is an invaluable addition to an emerging literature that summons and employs sources beyond the familiars of continental theory, and reveals the very labour of creative work and its apprehension. From multiple threads of various deniers and hues, through the swift actions of an acute critical shuttle in highly original and increasingly complex Jacquard templates, Paavolainen weaves a vivid tapestry of dramaturgy.”  (Mike Pearson, Aberystwyth University, UK)