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Title: A witness to pain : Samuel Beckett and post-war Francophone drama
Author: Simpson, Hannah
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 0752
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis examines how Beckett stages physical pain in his early theatre plays, arguing that Eleutheria (1947, pub. 1995), En attendant Godot/Waiting for Godot (1952/1954), Fin de partie/Endgame (1957), Happy Days/Oh les beaux jours (1961/1963), Play/Comédie (1964) and Not I/Pas moi (1972/1975) generate intensely sceptical readings of sympathetic or redemptive forms of witnessing. These plays raise questions about our capacity both to communicate our own physical suffering, and to comprehend - or in some cases even to perceive - another's pain. They prompt us to interrogate the utopian ideas of empathetic witnessing and of the theatre auditorium as a site of intimate communion, which were popularised after World War II and which still linger in public consciousness and contemporary criticism. Bringing together Anglophone and Francophone scholarship, this project resituates Beckett's early plays in the long aftermath of World War II in France, reading them as part of a post-war drive in Francophone literature to formulate new ways of negotiating the extreme wartime and post-war experience of witnessing others' pain. I offer a comparison of Beckett's plays with the work of four contemporary Francophone artists: Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, Eugène Ionesco, and Marguerite Duras, each of whom, like Beckett, lived out World War II in France as non-native non-combatants. I explore how these plays construct a live encounter with the human body within the paradoxically intimate distance of the theatre auditorium, drawing the spectators' own responses unsettlingly into question. This comparative examination combines close textual analysis with consideration of recorded audience responses to the staging details of specific productions, ranging from Roger Blin's 1953 première production of En attendant Godot at the Théâtre de Babylone through to Vahid Rahbani's unlicensed 2005 staging of Eleutheria in Tehran and Jess Thom's 2018 staging of Not I at the Battersea Arts Centre.
Supervisor: Jones, Susan Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available