The Hazards of Socialism: Left Tragic Theatre in the Twentieth Century Restricted; Files Only

Lucas, Kevin (Fall 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/cv43nx917?locale=es
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Abstract

Twentieth-century thinkers sought to understand the durable ideological tendencies of artistic genres. These debates, occurring within Western and Soviet Marxism, influenced major figures in political theatre. Tragedy’s fatalism, irrationality, and emotionality were deemed counter-productive to fostering an empowered and informed public. This dissertation interrogates the political left’s anti-tragic consensus, arguing that the hope to overcome tragedy in art and in life reflected a naïve optimism. As socialist projects confronted the inevitable challenges of political practice, the triumphalism and intellectual certainty that typified socialist art grew increasingly removed from experience. Unexpectedly, the ancient notion of the tragic became rallying point for radical figures who were troubled by the overconfidence of dominant political parties and artistic programs. The tragedies of leftwing playwrights August Strindberg, Andrei Platonov, Jean Genet, and Amiri Baraka form a neglected tradition within twentieth-century political theatre. Provoking unruly political passions and public scandal, political tragedies offered an alternative to the self-assured theatre of rational critique. Heterodox leftwing thinkers— including Lucien Goldmann, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Derrida, and Georges Bataille— likewise grappled with the tragic dimensions of political life. Affirming both the tragic catastrophes and the redemptive reversals made possible by political action, left tragic playwrights and thinkers embraced a passionate, if uncertain, political faith. In an era marked by past failures and looming catastrophes, contemporary artists and thinkers might find resources in the twentieth-century's tragic political discourses. Vulnerability, doubt, pity, and terror do not necessarily enervate political enthusiasms; in fact, affirming ambivalent emotional experiences might make pursuing change more pressing.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………..…………….............. 3

CHAPTER I. Overcoming Tragedy: The Epic Aesthetics of the Left…...……………………. .32

CHAPTER II. Mastery’s Catastrophe: The Political Peripeteias of August Strindberg…....75

CHAPTER III. Risking Fascination with Jean Genet……………………..…………………....... 120

CHAPTER IV. Bad Actor: Amiri Baraka’s Second-Rate Tragedies…………..…………….. ....165

CHAPTER V. Tragic Means/Dialectical Dreams: Taking Andrei Platonov’s Gamble……… 209

POSTSCRIPT………………..………………………………………………….……………............... 263

BIBLIOGRAPHIES…………………………………………………………………………................ .265

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