Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Texas Book Festival
Sunday, November 2
Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.016
3:00 – 3:45 p.m.
Paul Woodruff, UT professor of ethics, discusses his newly published book-length essay, The Necessity of Theatre. Moderator: Steve Tomlinson
From review by Leah Hager Cohen in NYT, June 1, 2008:
Theater’s tendency to promote empathy serves as the leitmotif of Paul Woodruff’s book “The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched.” It also lies near the heart of the rather brave claim with which he opens the book: “People need theater.” He acknowledges that the assertion might meet with skepticism but insists he means it literally.
Theater is necessary, he says, for no less than “to secure our bare, naked cultural survival.” For Woodruff, a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, theater is essential to the development not only of healthy individuals but of healthy societies. It is not empathy alone he extols, but the way it fosters ethicality. This deep link, then, between theater and ethics forms the philosophical underpinning of his ambitious, somewhat plodding, occasionally transcendent book.
Woodruff has modeled his text, loosely but explicitly, on Aristotle’s “Poetics.” We know as much because he tells us in his preface: “I have written a kind of poetics of my own.” (You’ve got to hand it to him — when it comes to making brave claims, the man’s no slouch.) . . .
If this book succeeds in any measure as a defense of theater, it will also have succeeded at something much larger. Nowhere is Woodruff more eloquent than in this beautifully stripped-down plea: “We must all listen to each other because we are human, because we see only what we can see from where we stand, because there is more to be seen than any one of us can appreciate alone.” (Click for full text of review)
THE NECESSITY OF THEATER The Art of Watching and Being Watched. By Paul Woodruff. 257 pp. Oxford University Press. $27.95. Pub. Date: April 2008 ISBN-13: 9780195332001