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Performance Arts – Pandemic – Public Sphere


Admission requirements

There are no admission requirements for this elective course.


Performance Arts ― Pandemic ― Public Sphere (feb-jun 2021)
political philosophy of modernist music-theatre

Performing arts make delimitation of times and spaces, of visible and invisible, speech and noise: … they involve an Aesthetics which simultaneously determines the place and stakes of Politics: … Politics revolves around what is seen, what can be said about it, who has ability to see and talent to speak.

Our current global situation reveals a crisis beyond human scale and imagination. On the threshold of the Anthropocene we catch glimpses of politics in future life-worlds, with consequences that urges us to question once again how public spheres can now be affected by performing arts. By provoking aesthetic reflection on vital political causes? Or by actively including people in creating imaginary communities? Or through contextual interventions, wake-up calls that disclose new horizons?

This course aims at sketching a ‘political philosophy’ of the performing arts. Think of it as an establishment for an aesthetic staging of public spheres.

We focus on ‘music-theatre’ that started as modernist alternative between elitist opera and popular musical. Its events and dramaturgical strategies succeeded to ignite many artistic innovations in literature, in painting, visual arts and architecture. Two streams are traced. That of Avant-gardist experiments, resulting in art-of-sound installations, minimalist music and post-dramatic theatricality, offering aesthetic anticipation of a future of liberated sensibility. And the other stream of the revolutionary late-Romanticism with gatherings on stage, reform-programs for national grand operas, communal mythical dreams of revitalizing culture in Gesamtkunst, offering new perspectives for historical orientation.

The aesthetics we follow will conceive artistic events as a political distribution of the sensible. In an aesthetic framework art is involved in a delimitation of times and spaces, by using dynamic sublime assemblages of extremely different musical and theatrical components (voices and visuals, sounds and images, songs and texts, dialogues and drama). Paying tribute to insights from Wagner to Brecht and Stockhausen we will reflect that their insights to restore dignity of public arts also resulted in pretty parties, their interventions suffocated in entertainment for decadents.

This political philosophy course invites you to look beyond innovative techniques and spectacles. We will recognize in the newest again the oldest of theatre forms. By healing wounds, criticizing ruling order, giving symbolic representation of capacities for change, or by finding resilience in cultural resources or projecting utopias.

Course objectives

At the end of the course the student will:

  • have learned to think through music-theatre about aesthetics in the public sphere and its effects in contemporary political ideas, discourses and performances

  • be able reflect with some historical background and to situate his/her activities as a teacher and professional musician/pedagogue within a diversity of sectors of contemporary culture;

  • have received mental energy from video-fragments recording ground-breaking events by Stravinsky, Brecht or Artaud; from Stockhausen and Berio, but also from Peter Brook, Arianne Mnouchkine, and Peter Sellars ― and gained inspirational thoughts from Wagner, Nietzsche, Sartre, Benjamin, Adorno, Habermas, Lyotard, Ranciere and Badiou.

  • be able to comprehend some crucial texts of philosophers, writers, composers, theatre makers and performers

  • have developed a historical sensibility for interdisciplinary and intermediary in contemporary art.


Academic year 2020-2021, second semester

Dates and times

Thursdays from 19.00 to 21.00 hrs.

Lecture dates:

Lesson 1 (18-2-2021) FIRST MEETING - HOME/ONLINE
Lesson 2 (4-3-2021) - HOME/ONLINE or Lipsius room123, please refer to Brightspace information!
Lesson 3 (11-3-2021) - HOME/ONLINE or Lipsius room123, please refer to Brightspace information!
Lesson 4 (18-3-2021) - HOME/ONLINE or Lipsius room123, please refer to Brightspace information!
Lesson 5 (1-4-2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 6 (8-4-2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 7 (15-4-2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 8 (22-4-2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 9 (29-4-2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 10 (6-5-2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 11 (20 May 2021) - Lipsius room123
Lesson 12 (27 May 2021) FINAL MEETING


The lectures/workgroups take place at Lipsius building, Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden, room123.

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Assessment method

This course is worth 5 EC, which means the total course load equals 140 hours. Course Level is 300.

  • Seminar: 12 seminars of 2,5 hours = 30 hours

  • Literature reading & practical work: 55 hours

  • Self study – MOOC: 5 hours

  • Assignments & final essay: 50 hours

  • 40% weekly seminar assignments

  • 50% final essay

  • 10% active participation in class

Reading list

Here is a small list of (non-compulsory) literature, as reading suggestions for those students who want to prepare themselves on the main topics of the course.

  • Aesthetics and Politics Debates between Theodor Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht, Walter Benjamin, Gyorgy Lukacs. London: NLB, 1977

  • Adorno, Theodor. In search of Wagner.

  • Benjamin, Walter. Über Brecht

  • Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

  • Rancière, Jacques. Politics of Aesthetics

  • Badiou, Alain. Handbook of Inaesthetics, Rhapsody for the Theatre

Some additional articles will be distributed during the course: they will include works and theories on genre’s, artistic techniques and cultural perspectives of composers (Wagner, Weill, Stockhausen …..) excerpts from novels of writers (Baudelaire, Hesse, Mann, Eliot ….), interviews with theatre makers (Brook, Mnouchkine, Sellars) and from a selection of text-fragments by philosophers (Nietzsche on Wagner; Gramsci on Verdi) and modern thinkers as Adorno, Benjamin, Habermas, Ranciere, Badiou, Zizek, Scruton


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Brightspace will be used for:

  • reading materials etc.


Drs. T. Dommisse Dhr. ir. R.T.W.L. Schneemann


For other courses in the domains of music and fine arts, please visit: