Brecht, Artaud, And The Semiotics Of Distance
Iris L. Smith
Source: DAI, 47, no. 05A, (1986): 1721
"Aesthetic distance" in theatre is redefined semiotically in terms of the distinctions between the sign elements formulated by the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. The types of performance under discussion, Antonin Artaud's theatre of cruelty and Bertolt Brecht's epic theatre, are first examined synchronically, by isolating and discussing basic sign functions. The theatre of cruelty is demonstrated to be an impossible conflation of the sign elements (sign, interpretant, object) in that Artaud attempted to create a pure icon. Epic theatre, on the other hand, plays with the distance among sign elements, leaving room for the spectator to take an active role in signifying processes, both during and after the performance. After these individual sign functions are discussed, a diachronic analysis of both theatres is provided. Verfremdung (estrangement), as it functions in Brecht's Life of Galileo and Mother Courage, is examined as an argumentative and participatory rhythm. Turning to Artaud, whose essays and letters give the best sense of what the diachronic nature of the theatre of cruelty might be, a performance rhetoric emerges clearly, based on Artaud's highly personalized sense of history. The concluding chapter reflects on the general uses of semiotics for a study of the theatre. Calling for semiotic models that do not oversystematize theatre, the conclusion suggests creative strategies implicit in the type of reasoning Peirce called "abduction."
Descriptor: LITERATURE, COMPARATIVE
Accession No: AAG8617791