“Happiness, Dead and Alive: Object Theatre as Philosophy of the Encounter,” in the forthcoming book Second Nature: Comic Performance and Philosophy

Shapiro, Carolyn ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2987-8111 (2019) “Happiness, Dead and Alive: Object Theatre as Philosophy of the Encounter,” in the forthcoming book Second Nature: Comic Performance and Philosophy. In: Second Nature: Comic Performance and Philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield, London, UK. ISBN N/A (In Press)

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Abstract / Summary

Exemplified in the plays Happy Endings by Label Brut and Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, object theatre stages happiness as encounter or “happening.” In that it considers cause and effect, repetition, movement, and automation, my enquiry is both a philosophical and a psychoanalytical one. The etymology shared between “happen” and “happiness” of the Middle English hap, meaning chance or fortune, is telling. “Happy” has come to mean both “having good fortune” and “feeling content,” but as the plays Happy Endings and Happy Days illustrate, to be happy simply means that something, anything, will have happened. This notion of happiness, which I want to argue is key to object theatre and clowning, contends that fortune is not necessarily good fortune; it is the encounter (Tuché) with an event, good or bad, that may, or may not, take place. A philosophy of the Encounter has as its patron the Greek goddess Tyche, who capriciously dispenses good or ill fortune. In line with this notion of fortune, Aristotle locates happiness outside not only the individual’s feelings of pleasure but even outside an individual’s life: we cannot deem someone “happy” until after they have died. J.L. Austin emphasises this temporally divided happiness in his reading of Aristotle, and this divided happiness is performed in Happy Endings and Happy Days. The characters Harry, Winnie and Willie do not experience happiness as a present moment but as a point lived from the future. In this sense, these personages await happiness on “credit,” to use the word applied by Alenka Zupančič to the blind trust of the comic character’s trust in trust. This future-perfect construct of objectified trust in the Encounter is configured through the Lacanian topology of the Möbius strip, whereby “happiness” (encounter) and “haplessness” (automaton) move along different sides of one surface as joint articulations, overlapping one another.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Arts > Illustration
Philosophy & Psychology
Performance > Theatre
Courses by Department: The Falmouth School of Art > Illustration
Depositing User: Carolyn Shapiro
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2020 16:21
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2022 16:22
URI: https://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/4089


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