Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Res videns: The subject and vision in the plays of Samuel Beckett, Sam Shepard, and Harold Pinter
by Kim, Jungsoo, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2008, 252; 3331263
Abstract (Summary)

In the plays of Samuel Beckett, Sam Shepard, and Harold Pinter, vision takes a central place in defining the human subject. In their works, the significance of vision in the process of subject formation is visually expressed through creative uses of light, sets, and the actor’s body. In analyzing Beckett, I approach the problem of the relation between the subject and vision and the subject-object relationship by using the cogito (from cogito, ergo sum, I think, therefore, I am) as an anchor, which posits man as essentially a thinking thing (res cogitans), setting mind over body. Beckett turns René Descartes's notion of man as a thinking thing into man as a seeing thing— res videns, one who looks and is looked at. The man-in-a-room situation often found in Beckett's works reflects both the traditional and changed understanding of the human condition. The camera obscura, both as an optical device and a philosophical metaphor, becomes a model for understanding the significance of vision in the definition of the human being. Shepard and Pinter also approach the understanding of subject formation in heavily visual ways. Shepard considers the formation of the subject as a socio-cultural product, and he presents the significant role that vision plays in the process. Both Shepard and Pinter deal with the subject as an encounter between the two parts of a divided subject. Michel Foucault's discussion of the Panopticon and surveillance provides a model to analyze Pinter's works. Given the breadth and depth of Beckett's texts in dealing with the problem of vision and the subject, I place Beckett at the center of my discussion and examine Shepard and Pinter as playwrights who offer further insights into these problems and the use of visual staging techniques to explore these issues.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cluver, Claus, Pao, Angela
Commitee: Herzel, Roger, Solomon, Rakesh H.
School: Indiana University
Department: Comparative Literature
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 69/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Theater, American literature, British and Irish literature
Keywords: Beckett, Samuel, Camera obscura, Cartesian, Identity, Pinter, Harold, Sartre, Jean-Paul, Shepard, Sam, Subject, Vision, Visual
Publication Number: 3331263
ISBN: 9780549890867
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