Title

Things That no one can say: The unspeakable act in Artaud's les Cenci

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-2013

Department

English & World Language

Abstract

The theories and lasting influence of Antonin Artaud have prompted two conflicting scholarly interpretations of his project. On the one hand, Artaud's work can be viewed as the expression of a post-human, artistic visionary, providing radical insights into theatre that not only liberate the stage but potentially emancipate all subjective life. On the other hand, Artaud's work can be read as the designs of a violent demagogue whose ideal Theatre of Cruelty attempts to excise all trace of individuality and lived personhood, both onstage and, disturbingly, in the place of the audience. This article argues that the two opposed interpretations of Artaud's project, in fact, identify two irreconcilable facets of a single goal: the attempt to convey the force of trauma's literally unspeakable subjective annihilation by performing it. Through a reading of Artaud's dramatic work Les Cenci, this article explores the two-sided implications of the play's traumatic re-enactment, ultimately suggesting that its annihilating force can be transfigured on the stage-and Artaud's work can be extended beyond its self-imposed program of violence-if the Theatre of Cruelty is allowed to find its double in a Theatre of Dreams.

DOI

10.3138/md.0517

First Page

306

Last Page

326

Volume

56

Issue

3

Publication Title

Modern Drama

Publisher

University of Toronto Press

ISSN

00267694

Comments

At the time of publication, Robert Vork was affiliated with St. Olaf College.

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