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Editorial: Post-Truth?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-24, 19:05 authored by Matt JonesMatt Jones

The notion of post-truth has multiple genealogies, some of which come from philosophical inquiries and others from political opportunism. In today's supposedly post-truth climate, in which "alternative facts" are carted out to defend untenable positions and accusations of "fake news" are levelled against political opponents, the relationship between fact and fiction has catapulted to the foreground of public discourse. However intense its reappearance, the deliberate conflation of truth and lies to nefarious ends is hardly new, as witnessed by a set of coinages appearing over the last century to describe it, such as "terminological inexactitude" (Winston Churchill), "doublethink" (George Orwell), "strategic misrepresentation" (Harvard Business School), or "alternative facts" (Kellyanne Conway). But the first problem with the notion of post-truth is its suggestion that there is—or was—ever an unproblematic 'truth' to be departed from. A century of critical thinking across the disciplines of psychoanalysis, phenomenology, poststructuralism, and deconstruction has put pressure on the notion that truth is accessible in the first place.

We place our 'post-factual' issue of Canadian Theatre Review at the convergence of two discourses. The first concerns the debate over the aesthetics of the 'real' in theatre and performance studies, which has arisen in response to a set of trends in contemporary practice, including documentary and verbatim theatre, post dramatic theatre, and immersive or participatory performance. The second discourse is that arising in the public sphere over the last two years about truth/post-truth, facts/alternative facts, news/fake news, objectivity/bias, or reportage and opinion. CTR Editor-in-Chief Jenn Stephenson, in a blog post titled "Theatre of the Real in the Age of Post-Reality," outlines the conflict at the intersection of these two discourses. Finding herself writing a book about the former while the latter caught fire, Stephenson posed the difficult question of whether there was something about theatre's unsettling of certainty, of fixed identity positions, of knowledge itself, that had helped create a public sphere in which a distrust of truth could manifest as a complete denial of reality.

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Barry Freeman

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