Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

French and Francophone World Studies

First Advisor

Scullion, Rosemarie

First Committee Member

Blum, Cinzia

Second Committee Member

Ganim, Russell

Third Committee Member

Marra, Kim

Fourth Committee Member

Racevskis, Roland


In the period following the May 1968 protests, French women began to create theatre that highlighted women’s struggles. This study explores the dual influence of Antonin Artaud and Bertolt Brecht on plays by Hélène Cixous, Simone Benmussa, and the Théâtre du Soleil led by Ariane Mnouchkine. Artaud argued that theatre should become a transformative experience through an explosion of sensory stimuli: music, light, noise, and imagery. Conversely, Brecht wanted to use theatre to revolutionize society and theorized that by maintaining historical and emotional distance between the audience and the play, spectators would be encouraged to think critically about the its significance and be compelled to action.

The female playwrights and directors studied created powerful theatre by combining these ideas in a manner mimicking Julia Kristeva’s notion of subject formation. Kristeva proposes that the human subject is never stable. Instead, it oscillates between the non-discursive, emotion-filled state she labels the semiotic and the more language- and logic-propelled symbolic register. These two realms are in constant tension as the semiotic disrupts the logic of the symbolic and in turn, the symbolic strives to regulate the semiotic impulses.

In this study, I argue that the ideas of Artaud are aligned with the semiotic while those of Brecht resemble the symbolic. In the plays examined, the non-linguistic elements of the design and mise-en-scène engage with the didactic aims of the playwrights and directors, causing the spectator to connect emotionally with the story while simultaneously reflecting on its real-world signification.


Antonin Artaud, Ariane Mnouchkine, Bertolt Brecht, Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva, Simone Benmussa


viii, 253 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 235-253).


Copyright © 2019 Heidi Collins