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Women in French Studies THE VERBOSITY OF MINIMALISM: SARRAUTE, DURAS AND REDONNET Rachael A. Criso University of Pennsylvania Minimalist theater seeks to convey its message via a few simple elements: a nearempty stage, one or two characters and sparse dialogue. Uninflected voices offer fragments of life in attenuated scenes of existential angst. Often omission serves as comment, and pauses punctuate the speech. It is the spectators who must fill the gaps. These blanks constitute one of the major thrusts behind minimalist drama, and exist as non-verbal, non-visual voices. In Archéologie du savoir. Michel Foucault argues that what is not said can often be more substantive that what is: " Le discours manifeste ne serait en fin de compte que la présence répressive de ce qu'il ne dit pas; et ce non-dit serait un creux qui mine de l'intérieur tout ce qui se dit" (36). The unsaid manipulates our comprehension of what we hear, colors our perception, and guides our understanding. Thus, minimalist drama, given its visual and verbal starkness, operates within the realm of the spectators' subconscious, causing strings of connectors to link, remember, judge, condemn, pity or praise, all in an unrecorded split-second. Ultimately, the juxtaposition of disparate, banal statements with silences expresses much more than the individual words taken at face value. Consequently, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. In his study, Théâtres du nouveau roman, Arnaud Rykner coins the phrase "logodrame " to describe plays in which conversation, or the parole, acts as catalyst. In the logo-drame. language exists as the motorizing force (instead of as a mere descriptive instrument), and dramatic progression is determined by the dialogue and its barely-perceptible fluctuations in intonation and tone. For example, to reveal "inner movement" — the emotions concealed beneath commonplace events and inane conversation —Nathalie Sarraute developed what she called "tropismes." Sarraute evokes superficial, mundane situations through 21 Women in French Studies banal dialogue perforated with silence. These minimal verbal exchanges give way to "sous-conversations" — the fleeting, impalpable sentiments which words are too clumsy to describe. As Sarraute explains, the botanical term, "tropisme," reflects the instinctive nature of these emotions, in the same way that a plant has an instinctive and natural tendency to move toward a light-source. In her radio play, Le Silence, Sarraute emblematizes physical silence. As there is no scenery or action to distract the listener, only words and silence act as communicators. Even in a subsequent stage version of the play, disembodied voices, devoid ofparticularizing traits, serve as the vehicle for the tropistic force and the only way to express inner movements. Throughout Le Silence, the main character, Jean-Pierre, says almost nothing. His silence triggers the logo-drame when the other characters question his lack ofcommunication. They interpret it as a superior attitude; they see it as scorn, disapproval. Later, they mistake it for a sign of intelligence, then moral strength and, finally, physical prowess. Jean-Pierre refutes none of these attributes, which only serves to encourage the others to continue their diverse interpretations of his silence. Most importantly, his silence forces the others to articulate their reactions — they would rather say anything than be left in the void. Silence undermines the nature and reason for social intercourse. It invades the interchange between human beings, and acts as a parasite on communication. In this play particularly, it functions as the negator of speech itself, destroying conversation by erecting a barrier. However, counteractions by the other characters indicate the existence of the "non-dit," the inferiority, intellectual weakness, rejection, guilt and envy — emotions often felt but seldom voiced. When Jean-Pierre finally speaks, only to utter a banality, the spell is broken, and the others are quick to deny the effect of his silence and their unguarded reactions. Finally, the act of speech erases the memory of silence; the other characters, as nothing concrete was expressed into words, calmly pretend that they were never angry, admiring orjealous. The "non-dit" then operates in both directions; the intangibility of inner movements, only perceived and never concretized, makes them easy to deny and impossible to prove. In Sarraute's recent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-5486
Print ISSN
1077-825x
Pages
pp. 21-26
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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