Antonin Artaud Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Wallace Fowlie (essay date October-December 1959)

(Drama Criticism)

“The New French Theatre: Artaud, Beckett, Genet, Ionesco,” in The Sewanee Review, Vol. LXVII, No. 4, October-December, 1959, pp. 643-57.

[In the following essay, Fowlie outlines Artaud's theory of theatrical ritual and dramatic cruelty, and analyzes his influence on Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, and Eugene Ionesco.]

Jacques Copeau's Vieux Colombier was the most famous and most fecund of the little theatres of the 20th century. All subsequent little theatres have continued the example of Le Vieux Colombier in opposing what Copeau called the double pest of the theatre: industrialization and cabotinage. The meaning of the first word is obvious. But the second...

(The entire section is 5287 words.)

Bettina Knapp (essay date 1964)

(Drama Criticism)

“Artaud: A New Type of Magic,” in Yale French Studies, No. 31, 1964, pp. 87-98.

[In the following essay, Knapp interprets several works of Artaud, arguing that they represent his medium for expressing and transforming the sick and sordid aspects of the human psyche.]

As actor, director, poet, scenario writer or art critic, in whatever field of endeavor Antonin Artaud1 chose to express himself, he sought to penetrate deep within man's unconscious into what became known as “the world of sur-reality.” He wanted to extract from it and materialize those painful and frightening thoughts and clusters of sensations which man wants to conceal from himself or...

(The entire section is 4673 words.)

George E. Wellwarth (essay date 1964)

(Drama Criticism)

“Antonin Artaud: The Prophet of the Avant-Garde Theater,” in The Theater of Protest and Paradox: Developments in the Avant-Garde Drama, New York University Press, 1964, pp. 14-27.

[In the following essay, Wellwarth compares Artaud's dramatic theories to the work of Alfred Jarry.]

[This essay appeared in a slightly different form in Drama Survey, Vol. 2, Winter, 1963, pp. 276–87.]

One of the more curious and paradoxical aspects of modern theatrical history is that trends in the drama have been started not by the playwrights but by the critics. The dramatist presents the thesis, but it is the critical commentator who presents the...

(The entire section is 4634 words.)

Naomi Greene (essay date 1967)

(Drama Criticism)

“Antonin Artaud: Metaphysical Revolutionary,” in Yale French Studies, No. 39, 1967, pp. 188-97.

[In the following essay, Greene traces Artaud's concept of language, his distinction between political and cultural revolution, and the changes in his thought regarding whether body or spirit has primacy.]

Albert Camus has written that there are fundamentally two types of revolution: one—characterized as revolt—is metaphysical; the other, political. A metaphysical revolutionary rebels against the limitations placed upon him by the very nature of human existence, against the laws governing life and death. Unlike a political revolutionary, involved with the problems of...

(The entire section is 3815 words.)

Mary Ann Caws (essay date February 1968)

(Drama Criticism)

“Artaud's Myth of Motion,” in The French Review, Vol. 41, No. 4, February, 1968, pp. 532-38.

[In the following essay, Caws describes the illness which paralyzed Artaud's thought and movement in the context of his belief in a theater of myth created through the expressive language not of words but of mental and physical mnovement.]

J'estime avoir assez emmerdé les hommes par le comple-rendu de mon contingentement spirituel, de mon atroce disette psychique, et je pense qu'ils sont en droit d'attendre de moi autre chose que des cris d'impuissance et que le dénombrement de mes impossibilités, ou que je me taise. Mais le problème est justement...

(The entire section is 2944 words.)

Charles Gattnig Jr. (essay date December 1968)

(Drama Criticism)

“Artaud and the Participatory Drama of the Now Generation,” in Educational Theater Journal, Vol. 20, No. 29, December, 1968, pp. 485-91.

[In the following essay, Gattnig shows Artaud's influence on the de-emphasis of text and the convention of a passive audience in the theater of the late 1960s.]

Some recent visitors to New York's theatres have been surprised and shocked by the kind of involvement required of them in the productions they merely came to view. The audience (which seems to dress less and less formally) is bedazzled by electric equipment: amplifiers scream; strobe lights flash; technicolor slides are projected on the walls and on the audience. The...

(The entire section is 3596 words.)

Maurice M. Labelle (essay date March 1973)

(Drama Criticism)

“Artaud's Use of Language, Sound, and Tone,” in Modern Drama, Vol. 15, No. 4, March, 1973, pp. 383-90.

[In the following essay, Labelle discusses Artaud's use of sound, tone, pitch, and volume in his attempt to undermine conventional language and traditional theater.]

“Oh, for a language to write drama in,” Eugene O'Neill wrote in 1929. “I'm so strait-jacketed by writing in terms of talk! But where to find that language?”1 His cry of frustration reiterated the feelings of one of his French contemporaries, Antonin Artaud (1896-1948). Although O'Neill failed to answer his question, Artaud, in his plays and poems, undertook a long series of...

(The entire section is 3178 words.)

Gilles Deleuze (essay date 1979)

(Drama Criticism)

“The Schizophrenic and Language: Surface and Depth in Lewis Carroll and Antonin Artaud,” in Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism, edited by Josue V. Harari, Cornell University Press, 1979, pp. 277-95.

[In the following essay, Deleuze explores the differences between the languages constructed by Artaud, Lewis Carroll, and schizophrenics.]

The presence of esoteric words and portmanteau words has been pointed out in the rhyming chants of little girls, in poetry, and in the language of madness. Such an amalgamation is troubling, however. A great poet can write in a direct relation to the child that he was and the children that he loves; a...

(The entire section is 7057 words.)

Jane Goodall (essay date Summer 1987)

(Drama Criticism)

“Artaud's Revision of Shelley's The Cenci: The Text and its Double,” in Comparative Drama, Vol. 21, No. 2, Summer, 1987, pp. 115-26.

[In the following essay, comparing Artaud's version of The Cenci to Shelley's, Goodall pays particular attention to showing how Artaud reframes a narrative dependent on language into a play of forces realized by the language of movement and gesture.]

The plague takes images that are dormant, a latent disorder, and suddenly extends them into the most extreme gestures; the theater also takes gestures and pushes them as far as they will go: like the plague it reforges the chain between what is and what is...

(The entire section is 4438 words.)

Lawrence R. Schehr (essay date Winter 1992)

(Drama Criticism)

“Artaud's Revolution: Nowhere to Turn,” in Romance Notes, Vol. 33, No. 2, Winter, 1992, pp. 109-17.

[In the following essay, Schehr argues that Artaud did not consider the transfer of social, economic, and political power from one class to another revolutionary if there was not also a continual subversion of the self, and of the language and grammar which enable its expression.]

We owe Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva debts of gratitude for having made Artaud the focus of contemporary literary inquiry. As early as 1967 in “La Parole soufflée,” Derrida reflects on a corpus that extends from Artaud's early work on the theater to the letters written at Rodez;...

(The entire section is 3809 words.)

Kathy Foley (essay date March 1992)

(Drama Criticism)

“Trading Art(s): Artaud, Spies, and Current Indonesian/American Artistic Exchange and Collaboration,” in Modern Drama, Vol. 35, No. 1, March, 1992, pp. 10-19.

[In the following excerpt, Foley analyzes the influence of Balanese theater on Artaud's ideas about the form, function, and possibilites of his own theater.]

In 1990-91 as part of the Festival of Indonesia, a government to government exchange of the arts, a wealth of Indonesian performance toured American cities. Over the same eighteen-month period there were an equivalent number of collaborative productions mounted by Indonesian directors, writers, choreographers, and U.S. groups (Keith Terry and I Wayan...

(The entire section is 2603 words.)

Thomas Akstens (essay date 1994)

(Drama Criticism)

“Representation and De-realization: Artaud, Genet, and Sartre,” in Antonin Artaud and the Modern Theater, edited by Gene A. Plunka, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994, pp. 170-82.

[In the following essay, Akstens argues that there is a similar attempt in the work of Artaud and Jean Genet to “de-realize” accepted images and definitions of reality.]

This paper concerns two writers who have been highly mythologized: Antonin Artaud and Jean Genet. There is an idea of Artaud; there is an idea of Genet. It is profoundly ironic that Artaud, who complained bitterly of “a rupture between things and words, between things and the ideas and signs...

(The entire section is 5182 words.)

Leonard R. Koos (essay date 1994)

(Drama Criticism)

“Comic Cruelty: Artaud and Jarry,” in Antonin Artaud and the Modern Theater, edited by Gene A. Plunka, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994, pp. 37-50.

[In the following essay, Koos argues that Alfred Jarry strongly influenced Artaud's concept of comedy and of its importance to the theater of cruelty.]

Our speaking on the theme of comedy will appear almost a libertine proceeding to one, while the other will think that the speaking of it seriously brings us into violent conflict with the subject.

—George Meredith, An Essay on Comedy

By providing us with the...

(The entire section is 5843 words.)

Louis Sass (essay date May 1996)

(Drama Criticism)

“‘The Catastrophes of Heaven’: Modernism, Primitivism, and the Madness of Antonin Artaud,” in Modernism / Modernity, Vol. 3, No. 2, May, 1996, pp. 73-91.

[In the following essay, Sass presents a case history of Artaud as artist, primitivist, and madman, arguing that neither Artaud's art nor his madness led him out of the “malaise of modern existence,” characterized by the conflict between consciousness and instinctual being, but deeper into it.]

To heal the catastrophes of heaven, Voyage to the land of speaking blood.1


These words, with their suggestion of a hoped-for...

(The entire section is 9577 words.)

Z. Bart Thornton (essay date March 1997)

(Drama Criticism)

“Linguistic Disenchantment and Architectural Solace in DeLillo and Artaud,” in Mosaic, Vol. 30, No. 1, March, 1997, pp. 97-112.

[In the following essay, Thornton argues that in their work both Artaud and the novelist Don DeLillo transform language into an architecture of sounds.]

Contemporary literary criticism and modern philosophy are rife with architectural metaphors: just as literary critics speak of surfaces and structures, foundations, frames, and fissures, so philosophers from Kant to Heidegger to Derrida have invoked structural concepts in their theorizing. Without the architectural figure, as Mark Wigley has claimed, much of...

(The entire section is 6684 words.)

David Sterritt (essay date December 1998)

(Drama Criticism)

“Kerouac, Artaud, and the Baroque Period of the Three Stooges,” in Mosaic, Vol. 31, No. 4, December, 1998, pp. 83-98.

[In the following essay, Sterritt argues that the writings of Jack Kerouac, the comedy of the Three Stooges, Kerouac's riffs on the Stooges, Artaud's writings about the theater of cruelty, and his wish for a body without organs are all related attempts to transcend the constraints of everyday life by the spirit of carnival.]

American life in the 1950s era was famously marked by conservative discourses of consumerism, consensus, conformity, and cold war. Less frequently noted is the fact that these ideologies were challenged by a variety of...

(The entire section is 6102 words.)