Architecture and cruelty in the writings of Antonin Artaud, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett

Melia, Matthew (2007) Architecture and cruelty in the writings of Antonin Artaud, Jean Genet and Samuel Beckett. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis examines the complex role and presence of a range of images and ideas of architecture, as well as cruelty, in the work of Antonin Artaud, Jean Genet, and Samuel Beckett. It argues that the obsessive and varied presence of these ideas offers a substantial connection between the thought and drama of the three writers, and that it is linked to major issues in the political and cultural history of the time. Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the thesis and places architecture and cruelty in the literary and creative culture of post-war France. Chapter 2 examines the urgency of these terms within the specific, historical framework of post-liberation France. Chapter 3 focuses on Artaud and issues of fragmentation, occùpation, and resistance in his oeuvre between 1940 and 1948. Chapter 4 focuses on issues of imprisonment, aesthetics, and revolution in the work of Jean Genet. Chapter 5 examines issues of architecture, resistance, and fragmentation in the late plays of Samuel Beckett. In this chapter we will also examine the vital role Beckett's wartime resistance activity played in informing the architecture of the late drama. All of our subjects explore architecture and cruelty in their different and personal ways: Genet in terms of prisons; Beckett in terms of extreme personal states that can be linked to the resistance; and Artaud through a system of revised revolt and personal resistance, In the introduction and at a number of points in the thesis I explore both the connections and differences between the uses of architecture and cruelty by the three writers, and the range of ways in which these uses relate to the politics and philosophies of the era. The thesis argues in its conclusion that architecture and cruelty, used in both literal and metaphorical senses, can be seen to unite the work of Artaud, Genet, and Beckett more closely than has hitherto been acknowledged. The thesis has also proposed ways in which we can see the of Genet and Beckett as a fonn of cruel theatre, in a sense that serves to define and Artaud's notoriously complex and ambiguous ideas of theatrical 'cruauté'.

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