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Title:Reinforcing and destabilizing myths of origin: Storytelling and biopolitical communities in contemporary theater in French
Author(s):Strole, Nicholas A.
Director of Research:Keller, Marcus
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Keller, Marcus
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Proulx, Francois; Mathy, Jean-Philippe; Rushing, Robert
Department / Program:French and Italian
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):French Literature
Francophone Literature
French Theater
Francophone Theater
Contemporary Theater
Performance Studies
Abstract:This dissertation examines representations of community in contemporary theater in French through the theoretical lens of biopolitics and analyses of the ways in which stories are told. In close readings of major theatrical works in French after 1968, I reveal how two different notions of community have been represented on stage both in France and abroad. In particular, I read plays by Aimé Césaire, Bernard-Marie Koltès, Marie NDiaye, and Wajdi Mouawad against the French post/neocolonial context of the latter half of the twentieth century as well as the international migration crisis of the early twenty-first century. While the plays in my corpus have been scrutinized by critics as either literary texts or performances, they have not yet been examined in a single study on both text and performance through the critical lens of biopolitics and myths of origin. More specifically, this study demonstrates how political communities in contemporary theater in French are formed through the origin stories that the protagonists tell and retell. An analysis of the biopolitical discourse employed in these stories reveals that two distinct conceptions of community, developed and nuanced further in this dissertation through Roberto Esposito’s conceptions of immunitas and communitas, are represented in the various plays. While Bernard-Marie Koltès and Marie NDiaye depict community as a pessimistic, bordered immunitas, Aimé Césaire and Wajdi Mouawad represent connections between characters through the more fluid and borderless notion of communitas. In chapter one, I argue that the postcolonial subjects represented in Aimé Césaire’s theater stand their ground to preserve their rich cultures while also bringing together stories from disparate time periods and cultures in an effort to build new multicultural and multi-origin communities. Chapter two analyzes the aesthetic qualities of Bernard-Marie Koltès’s neocolonial spaces to show how their solitary nature encourages the protagonists to focus on recounting their particular origin stories instead of engaging with other individuals in the communities they are inhabiting. In chapter three, I reveal how Marie NDiaye’s theater represents migrants as hybrid beings who are constantly evolving and adapting to new environments and thus are never able to feel completely at home in one particular community. Conversely, chapter four analyzes how Wajdi Mouawad’s migratory characters form strong communities that stretch across barriers of time and space through the narratives that they collect and share during their journeys from one community to the next. Through these readings, I show how community, storytelling, and biopolitics interact in theater in French in ways that not only reflect the conditions of outsiders and minorities but also provide insight into how these minority figures can eventually unite and strengthen the communities with which they interact. Ultimately, I argue that oral storytelling in contemporary theater in French pushes protagonists to interact directly with their origin stories in order to decide if they will find refuge in immunitas with its defined borders or in communitas with bonds that stretch across barriers of time, space, and culture.
Issue Date:2020-02-04
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Nicholas A. Strole
Date Available in IDEALS:2020-10-07
Date Deposited:2020-08

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