An Examination of the Performative Nature of Rituals in the Theatrum Mundi

  • Stephen Whitehead

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis shall aim to contribute to the wider philosophical conversation a perspective on understanding the nature of rituals, many of which are rituals in an unspoken manner, which are carried out in a regular and commonplace context.

    In the first division of this thesis, I begin by examining the various concepts and terminologies that will be used throughout. After beginning with an examination of the basic concepts of performance, play, and ritual, I then move on to the concept of the theatrum mundi, and what performances look like within such a context. I place the theatrum mundi within my own model of the co-opticon, within which everyone is simultaneously observer of and observed by everyone, Having done so, I next examine the elements of such a performance: space, action, and utterance, and their interaction. Attention is given here to the role of the performative utterance as they key factor of efficacy within rituals occurring in the theatrum mundi.

    In the second division, I examine various examples of rituals which highlight the nature of performative rituals. These examples begin with studies of re-enactment broadly understood, beginning with historical re-enactment with focus on the American Civil War, followed by the nature of re-enactment within the US political system in the form of the Presidential debates. In the focus on the debates as re-enactments of the original Nixon vs Kennedy televised debate, I give special attention to the recent debates of the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with focus on the Her Opponent recreation of sections of the debates with the genders of the participants reversed, performed on stage shortly after Trump’s electoral victory. Re-enactment is closed off with a discussion of the role of re-enactment within academia. Following this I examine the concept of performance as first philosophy, in which I suggest that the manner in which philosophy, and arguments in general, is presented has an effect on the manner in which the argument is received and consequently factors on whether it is accepted or rejected independently of any actual truth value. In the final chapter I turn to the stage, discussing a proposed performance of two related plays and the didactic nature of such a performance.
    Date of Award2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDominic Smith (Supervisor) & Mark Robson (Supervisor)

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