Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
French and Francophone World Studies
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
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
Collins, Heidi. "Post May '68 French theatre by women: the play of language and emotion." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2019.