Monthly Archives: February 2014

Artonin Artaud, The Theater and Its Double

Full of wonderful quotes. This larger idea that theater–or art–must be cruel is something that really seems important to me. It’s an important counter to the very tedious assertion (by some of our students among others) that the first and last thing to know about artistic work is its ethics, about whether it is doing “good work” and avoids at all costs cruelty.

“Our long habit of seeking diversion has made us forget the idea of a serious theater, which, overturning all our preconceptions, inspires us with the fiery magnetism of its images and acts upon us like a spiritual therapeutics whose touch can never be forgotten.” pp. 84-85

“Everything that acts is a cruelty. It is upon this idea of extreme action, pushed beyond all limits, that theater must be rebuilt.” p. 85

Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty

Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty, Chapter 3

“Early theorists of rhetoric, dramatists and practitioners of theater display the same behaviors of uncovering and repression…they construct rhetoric as a nonviolent and spectacular way to mediate the violence that accounts for its own genesis. They then go on to denounce selected types of community violence that rhetoric’s inherent violence is morally obliged to extinguish.” pp. 161-162

Rhetoric as a form of producing the surrogate victim of Girard.

“When medieval dramatic productions regaled spectators with an extensive repertoire of special effects that were designed to render pain and suffering as realistically as possible, they consistently pushed the limits of witnessing, impersonation and violence.” Enders args that this also explains incorporation of “real violence” into medieval/Renaissance drama.

[here’s a question: why does rhetoric work to produce power? The answer, via Foucault: because institutions/prior historicities/epistemes/power. But no wonder then genealogy and its hostility to origins: this is the kind of banishment of causality that drives conventional social scientists batty–it’s a “because” that answers almost nothing–or that makes mute whatever it is that rhetoric is working its violence upon]

“ludic violence against Christ”: the playfulness of Christ’s torturers is tied to the horror and gruesome character of games of chance generally

catharsis’ intellectual and cultural roots as a concept: to “purge emotion” and therefore permit the distanced, balanced, etc. subject to step forward to act

“the most beautiful [execution] ever seen” p. 188: what is going on here in Enders’ reading? are there others?

“Among the most haunting features of the history of torture is the transmutation of the role of witness/spectator to that of participant/victim. That is, victims of torture are forced to view the staging of their own dismemberment.” p. 188

Is the audience participating in the catharsis of violence and torture “acquiring or abandoning agency”? p. 191

Enders argues strongly that medieval audiences did not think of the violence of drama as “not really happening”, quite the contrary–that the drama was a mimetic re-enactment