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Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English and American Literature
Jenny S. Spencer
Comparative Literature | Literature in English, British Isles | Theatre and Performance Studies
Entitled “Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd: Parabolic Drama and the Question of Absurdity,” my dissertation interrogates the conventional idea that the Theatre of the Absurd contemplates the purposelessness of life by re-examining some of the major plays of Beckett, Ionesco, Genet and Pinter. I suggest that the plays of the Theatre of the Absurd are, instead, ethical texts that contemplate how life can be made meaningful. I argue that Martin Esslin’s 1961 characterization of such work as “absurd” does not take into account a fully informed reading of Camus, and thus Esslin’s reading does not see the extent to which meaningfulness is fundamental to such cultural productions. Therefore, I push for a rereading of these plays and playwrights that allows for decidedly meaning-making conclusions. Using an up-to-date understanding of Camus’ philosophy as a theoretical frame, I engage with the long history of Theatre of the Absurd criticism, performance histories and reviews, the genre of the parable, philosophy and performance studies. My dissertation, ultimately, argues against a strictly absurd reading and, instead, positions such work within the larger realm of ethics (in the general vein of Camus).
Bennett, Michael Y, "Reassessing The Theatre Of The Absurd: Parabolic Drama And The Question Of Absurdity" (2009). Doctoral Dissertations 1896 - February 2014. 76.