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Artaud and His Doubles

Kimberly Jannarone

Publication Year: 2012

"While critics have long focused on Antonin Artaud as the epitome of the suffering and martyred artist and on the 'liberating' aspects of his work, argues Kimberly Jannarone, the time has come to situate him within a fuller historical, political, and cultural context. Her important and highly readable book asserts that, far from being a symbol of liberation and 'revolt,' Artaud's work has important affinities with repressive and irrational strands of fascist thought." ---Naomi Greene, University of California, Santa Barbara "An extremely provocative, original, and compelling redirection for scholarship on Artaud and for the histories of the avant-garde with which his work is frequently associated." ---James Harding, University of Mary Washington "Artaud and His Doubles shows the extraordinary discoveries that can come from meticulous archival research, sound historiography, and rigorously theoretical criticism. In these pages, Kimberly Jannarone restores to the historical record Artaud's actual practice as a director and actor and roots his thinking about the theater firmly in its cultural and political contexts. Doing so, she overturns long-lived and widespread misperceptions of that legendary avant-gardist. The Artaud that we find in these pages is not the one we're familiar with, not the desperate romantic we've come to know in the writings of Susan Sontag, the radical performances of the Living Theatre, and the poststructuralist meditations of Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze. Indeed, the mythical Artaud of the 1960s counterculture and the theory generation must now give way to the facts of the matter. This is theater history at its very best---this is why theater history matters." ---Mike Sell, Indiana University of Pennsylvania Artaud and His Doubles is a radical re-thinking of one of the most well-known and influential theater artists and theorists of the twentieth century. Placing Artaud's works and rhetoric within the specific context of European political, theatrical, and intellectual history of the early twentieth century, the book reveals Artaud's affinities with a disturbing array of anti-intellectual and reactionary writers and artists whose ranks swelled catastrophically between the wars in Western Europe. Kimberly Jannarone shows that Artaud's work (particularly his famous 1938 manifesto, The Theater and Its Double) itself reveals two sets of doubles: one, a body of peculiarly persistent received interpretations from the American experimental theater and French post-structuralist readings of the 1960s; and, two, a darker set of doubles brought to light through close historical examination---those of Artaud's contemporaries who, in the tumultuous, alienated, and pessimistic atmosphere enveloping much of Europe after World War I, denounced the degradation of civilization, yearned for cosmic purification, and called for an ecstatic loss of the self. Artaud and His Doubles will generate provocative new discussions about Artaud and fundamentally challenge the way we look at his work and ideas. This book will appeal to scholars of theater, drama, French arts and literature, cultural studies, and intellectual history, as well as to those interested in the history of art and culture of the interwar era. Kimberly Jannarone is Associate Professor in the Department of Theater Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Cover photo © 2010 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. xv-xvi

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A Note on the Texts and Translations Used

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pp. xvii-19

A small fraction of Artaud’s writing is available to the English-language reader. Only four volumes of the twenty-six-volume Oeuvres complètes have been translated into the English Collected Works...

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Introduction : The Uses and Abuses of Antonin Artaud

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pp. 1-28

An apocalyptic sensibility drives the writing of Antonin Artaud, infuriated and propelled by a sense of the world’s utter and unimaginable wrongness. Artaud’s works, expressing exhilaration in brutality and seeking peace in annihilation...

Section I : The Fight against Civilization; or, The Rebirth of Tragedy

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Chapter 1 : Invocation of the Plague

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pp. 31-49

Horrific new life spreads rapidly over its progenitor in the form of a million poisonous creatures. A ruptured sexual organ lights up the world, “flash[ing] like the sun,” after which a brothel keeper flees and a virgin rises from the dead...

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Chapter 2 : Reactionary Modern

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pp. 50-72

In the long history of alternatives to rationality, Artaud’s writing occupies a critical place. A vein of irrationalist and vitalist thought that had flowed through late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe found a ferocious and climactic articulation after World War I...

Section II : Audience, Mass, Crowd

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Chapter 3 : The Avant-Garde and the Audience

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pp. 75-95

A theater audience, as it appeared in Paris by the time Artaud arrived in 1921, assumed the general form of an obedient group of spectators sitting silently in a darkened auditorium. The dynamic, noisy, and engaged audiences of centuries’ worth of theatrical performances had metamorphosed...

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Chapter 4 : Theaters for the Masses

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pp. 96-115

Artaud conceived of his theatrical project in the aftermath of World War I, when feelings of alienation and a deep yearning to belong to something larger than the self organized the social and aesthetic dimensions of much of European mass culture. The change in the relationship between the individual and the community was heralded as both alienating and empowering...

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Chapter 5 : Crowds and Cruelty

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pp. 116-132

Stephen Koch argued persuasively in 1966 that Artaud’s theater is non-dialogic, that it proposes a one-way communication between the controller of the event and its participants. As opposed to Jarry’s theater, which launched its assault with the goal of engaging the audience member’s own capacity for action...

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Chapter 6 : The Artist of the Theater

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pp. 133-158

“In my view,” Artaud writes, “no one has the right to call himself author, that is to say creator, except the person who controls the direct handling of the stage” (TD, 117). “Director”—or metteur en scène—is the primary theatrical term in which we should think of Artaud...

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Chapter 7 : Controlling Forces

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pp. 159-188

Michel Foucault invokes Artaud in Madness and Civilization as a visionary artist whose “courage” in the face of his “ordeal,” as Foucault frames it, represents a personal and poetic protest against the absence of a coherent reality and the inability to create. Coming as it does near the end of his study of the institutionalization of the insane

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Conclusion : Longing for Nothingness

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pp. 189-200

If World War I had shattered many Europeans’ belief in the promise of their civilization, Artaud responded by continuing to attack those beliefs, as if to prove, over and over, that the worst fears about our civilization were correct. His theater aimed for a revolution based on pulling down structures...


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pp. 201-232

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 233-242


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pp. 243-253

E-ISBN-13: 9780472027941
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472035151

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Theater: Theory/Text/Performance