Le Théâtre et le mal

Theatre has from the start been associated with evil: because of its topics, since tragedies and comedies stage morally flawed individuals and actions (and sometimes full-fledged monsters); but also by its very nature: can the process of “deception” that characterizes dramatic performance be intrinsically harmful for society? could theatre be an invention of the Devil?

This course intends to explore how thinkers, from Plato to Artaud and beyond, have theorized the relationship between evil and theater (especially the enigmatic catharsis), and to focus on a selection of controversial plays and productions that call into question the paradoxical nature of the “pleasure” derived from stage performance: Is it enough to ensure that Vice is punished at the end to ward off its potential seduction? Do plays where evil “explodes” on stage tend to glorify horror in an aestheticized form, or do they unsettle the audience in order to awaken them? Is the aim of drama primarily moral, or can it go beyond good and evil?

Authors include Euripides, Seneca, Shakespeare, Racine, Marivaux, Ibsen, Genet, Kane. 

This class will be conducted as a French-style lecture followed by an informed collective discussion.