Monday, November 26, 2007
Theatre of Cruelty is a concept in Antonin Artaud's book Theatre and its Double. “Without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle, the theater is not possible. In our present state of degeneration it is through the skin that metaphysics must be made to re-enter our minds” (Artaud, Theatre and its Double). By cruelty, he meant not sadism or causing pain, but rather a violent, physical determination to shatter the false reality which, he said, lies like a shroud over our perceptions. To put it another way, it's not cruelty in the sense of being violent, but the cruelty it takes for the actor to completely strip away their masks and the cruelty of showing an audience a truth that they don't want to see. He believed that text had been a tyrant over meaning, and advocated, instead, for a theatre made up of a unique language halfway-between thought and gesture. Antonin Artaud described the spiritual in physical terms, and believed that all expression is physical expression in space.
You might notice above some concepts central to our discussion of the primitive/modern: "our present state of degeneration," the merging of the material/spiritual, also the "shattering of false reality" that literature can often abet.
In Dutchman, pay special attention to signs of these concerns--specifically, the notion of a language that is between thought and gesture--a new kind of realism that is designed to shock audiences in a primal, Neitzschean way.
Of course, others have stated: "the Theatre of Cruelty has often been called an impossible theatre--vital for the purity of inspiration which it generated, but hopelessly vague and metaphorical in its concrete detail." Is there a vagueness in detail or "message" in Dutchman, or does Baraka update his work to make it politically relevant?
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Finally, what kind of political commentary might be implicit in the description of the peoples of Cliff City? In the description of the city as a place of "design"?
Monday, November 12, 2007
A close reader might also discover an incredible interest in colors throughout the text: Ch. 1 tells us about St. Peter's view, "From the window he could see, far away, just on the horizon, a long, blue, hazy smear--Lake Michigan, the inland sea of his childhood." There are many such--aesthetic?--appreciations throughout the text, and many such dwellings upon "observation": it's worth asking what role they have in the text.... Are they part of a larger dialectic?