Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Breath and Whispers: The “Theatrical” Writings of Beckett, Koltès, Novarina, and Derrida
by Erfani, Amin, Ph.D., Emory University, 2011, 220; 3476904
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the status of “theater” in the works of three playwrights and a philosopher, in late twentieth and early twenty first century. In the wake of Antonin Artaud, a particular form of “theatrical writing” challenges the fundamental structure of Western thought, still grounded in the notion of mimesis since Artistotle’s Poetics. This writing seeks to establish a “primal theater” prior to representation, recognition, or identification. Relying on incantatory enunciations, it rejects mimetic language, discursive articulation, and conceptual interpretation. As a result, this writing exceeds the category of any single form or genre, be it drama, literature, philosophy, or autobiography. Its structure relies, I argue, on a distinctive notion of “ souffle.” The “breath” or “whisper” carries the speaker’s voice, while it simultaneously interrupts its transparency and robs it of its discursive ability. I read this resistance to communication as a process of transmission of affect through speech enactment, rather than a transaction of meaning through structured discourse. The inarticulate quality of this writing follows the injunction to infiltrate into language what these authors commonly call their private “incomprehensible mother tongue.” Indeed, their writing is constantly in dialogue with the evading and mute “mother.” I analyze “her” inscription in the text as both a “real” figure and a movement of discursive erasure, which establishes the act of writing prior to the separation of “text” from “life.” My first chapter demonstrates how Samuel Beckett’s later texts suffer from self-erasure under the rule of maternal repudiation, triggering an insatiable need for shifting between languages, genres, and media, to a point of utter disarticulation. The second chapter examines Bernard-Marie Koltès’ inaugural and elliptical monologues as failed efforts to reclaim the omniscient yet unintelligible maternal body, which structures the entirety of his theatrical work. The third chapter shows that Valère Novarina’s self-generating and notoriously inarticulate texts for the theater emerge from an insatiable desire to be reborn through writing. My final chapter focuses on Jacques Derrida’s call for “theoretical” writing to become elliptically “theatrical,” a call that I read as an attempt to mourn the dying figure of the mother.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bennington, Geoffrey, Nouvet, Claire
School: Emory University
School Location: United States -- Georgia
Source: DAI-A 72/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Romance literature, British and Irish literature, Theater History
Keywords: Beckett, Samuel, Derrida, Jacques, France, Ireland, Koltes, Bernard-Marie, Novarina, Valere, Theatrical writings
Publication Number: 3476904
ISBN: 978-1-124-92604-9
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