Breath and Whispers: The "Theatrical" Writings of Beckett, Koltès, Novarina, and Derrida Open Access

Erfani, Amin (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/h415p993w?locale=en
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Abstract

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.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION…………………………………………………………………………….1

I. SAMUEL BECKETT: THE UNSPEAKABLE LAW OF THEATRICAL WRITING……………….20
II. KOLTÈS-NARCISSUS: THE GENESIS OF THEATRICAL WRITING………………………...67
III. LE THÉÂTRE DES PAROLES: THE STAGE OF THE INFANT TONGUE……………………..120
IV. THE END OF THEORY IS JUST THE BEGINNING: OF BLOOD IN JACQUES DERRIDA'S
CIRCONFESSION……………………………………………………………………….172

BIBLIOGRAPHY…………………………………………………………………………208



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