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The Antique Disposition: An existential conception of the theatre artist and a Heideggerian analysis of the nature of Greek Tragedy

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posted on 2023-08-09, 02:49 authored by Silvan Rus

In his essay The Origin of the Work of Art, Martin Heidegger claimed that the “the artist remains something inconsequential in comparison with the work – almost like a passageway which, in the creative process, destroys itself for the sake of the coming forth of the work.” That is, contrary to conventional ways of making things, the artist sacrifices herself for a work to come into being. This thesis shall ask, how exactly does the artist work in existential terms, if it is the case that the artist is ‘inconsequential’ to the artwork? Our investigation will answer the question with regards to the nature of the work of theatrical art, particularly with Greek tragedies. The thesis will begin by outlining the ontological complexity of the nature of art which thus necessitates an ‘inconsequential’ mode of making art. Then we shall show that while Greek tragedy is constituted by this complexity, since the artwork still requires a human ‘intervention’ with the earth, the claim regarding the inconsequentiality of the artist is incomplete. As such, the thesis will aim to posit in existential terms how the theatre artist would create a piece of Greek tragedy. We shall contend that there is a fourfold criterion for how the artist works. The first is that the artist works anti-teleologically; second, that they work in a mode that is existentially self-sacrificial; third, that they ‘choreograph’ the earth; and fourth, that the work is ontologically distinct from the artist.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Background -- 3. Basic statements on the nature of art according to Martin Heidegger -- 4. Who is the theatre artist? -- 5. An existential criterion for the artist -- 6. How the playwright works -- 7. An existential account of the actor -- 8. The world and earth of tragedy -- 9. Conclusion -- Bibliography

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Robert Sinnerbrink


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56 pages

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