Re-envisioning the Theatre of the Absurd: The Lacanian Spectator and the Work of Fernando Arrabal, Arthur Adamov and Eugène Ionesco
Cox, Lara Alexandra
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish some of the contents of this.
This thesis considers the interface between the theatre of the absurd and Lacanian cultural criticism. It conceptualises a ‘theoretical spectator’ produced by the play texts and examines its implications for a politics of spectatorship in a postmodern age. This methodology seeks to escape the trap of existentialist criticism that has dominated ideas on the theatre of the absurd since Martin Esslin’s coining of the term in 1961. I posit the modern-day relevance of absurd theatre, by putting the plays under examination into dialogue with Lacanian and current post-Lacanian cultural and political thought. The chapters theorise various ‘spectatorial positions’ produced by three prominent playwrights of the theatre of the absurd: Eugène Ionesco, Arthur Adamov and Fernando Arrabal. I seek to confirm and bolster my theoretical arguments by turning to contemporary empirical reaction to modern-day performances of two other absurdists playwrights, Samuel Beckett and Jean Genet. One of the key postulates is that the theatre of these playwrights chimes with Lacan’s notion of the split subject. Etymologically, the word ‘absurd’ refers to division; thematically and aesthetically, absurd theatre bears witness to the erosion of subjective stability. The conceptual parity between Lacanian theory and absurd theatre permits me to stake out a new critical pathway with regard to this body of theatre that paves the way for its re-politicisation in a postmodern world.
PhD in French