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UBC Theses and Dissertations

À corp(u)s perdus : corporéité et spatialité dans le théâtre de Bernard-Marie Koltès et d’Hélène Cixous Mounsef, Donia


This thesis deals with the representation of the body and space in the theatre of Bernard-Marie Koltes and Helene Cixous. From the theoretical point of view, it looks at transition in French theatre from a modern to a postmodern predicament, from a discursive to a corporeal theatre. It then looks at the ways postmodern culture maps, configures, disciplines, and violates the body, particularly through the relationship of the new textuality to its stage manifestations. Textually, it analizes three plays by each playwright. The juxtaposition of the works of Koltes and Cixous allows for an in depth look at the theatre of the 1970's and 80's in France, a period marked by theatrical decentralisation and experimentation. Both favoured a strong tie to theatre practice while developing a close relationship with a theatre director: Patrice Chereau, in the case of Koltes, and Ariane Mnouchkine, in the case of Cixous. Aside from looking at the relationship with theatre practitioners, this thesis examines a number of aesthetic and political affinities which bring Koltes and Cixous together, such as redefining a postmodern mythology and a political role for theatre. Unlike many postmodernist theatre practices that try to evade political commitment, both Cixous and Koltes are preoccupied with the resistance to a nihilistic discourse, and propose an evolving and corporeal stage presence inscribed in a pluralistic space of representation. For Koltes, the body on the stage resists symbolic categorization in Combat de negre et de chiens (1979), it then becomes related to spatial reality outside language in Quai ouest (1985), and finally the corporeal body is culturally and ideologically mapped in Le Retour au desert (1988). This triple dimension is also reflected in the work of Cixous, for whom the theatre is a space of feminist praxis. First, the space of representation, through the subversive performativity of the body, questions the premises of the psychoanalytic gaze in Portrait de Dora (1976), then classical mythology is rewritten to disrupt patriarcal discourse in Le Nom d'Oedipe: chant du corps interdit (1978), and a post-colonial role for theatre is redefined in order to question the historical subject in L'Indiade ou l'lnde de leurs reves (1987). Finally, this thesis looks at the ways both Koltes and Cixous join in with postmodernism in declaring the impossibility of grand-narrative, while trying to show how identity cannot be based on essentialist categories of race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but on the performance of all these various categories as they intersect in the performing body.

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