Tragedy without guilt? A genre based approach to analysing performance affect in The Hospital

Tragedy without guilt? A genre based approach to analysing performance affect in The Hospital

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Foto: Emilia Therese
  • Josefine Brink Siem

Affect theory, Genre, Performance analysis, Christian Lollike, Eric Bentley, Tragedy


The 2018 performance The Hospital uses a combination of a tragic narrative structure and grotesque slapstick and splatter to portray a nightmarish version of budget cuts and managerial reforms in the Danish public healthcare system. In this article, I focus on the affective dimensions of its bifurcal dramaturgy, and asks how it relates to the diagnosis of the efficiency dispositive in public management. I argue for an analytical approach that observes the entire performance as a ‘being of sensation’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1994) with its own affective logic, thereby switching analytical orientation from affective spectatorship to affective dramaturgy. I use genre analysis as a way to account for the performance’s way of becoming a body in terms of two interrelated affective dynamics: blocs of sensation and modes of relation. By employing Eric Bentley’s genre criticism as a semantic for describing the Hospital’s blocs and modes, I identify a double affective dramaturgy of tragic guilt and farcical aggression and schadenfreude, where open-ended aggression ultimately becomes the dominant bloc of sensation. Through a comparative gesture to the performance Living Dead, which unifies its narrative and affective elements in a horror aesthetic performing blocs of fear, I show how an affect-sensitive concept of genre can observe the relation between signifying and non-signifying elements as determined by a performance’s specific dramaturgy rather than by any a priori analytical distinctions.

Josefine Brink Siem

Josefine Brink Siem is PhD-fellow at the department of Dramaturgy and Musicology at Aarhus University, Denmark. Her PhD-project is focused on developing and qualifying concepts for analysing the affective dramaturgies of artworks in theatre, on television and on social media.


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