Essay notes: Absurdism

 “Cut from his religious, metaphysical and transscendental roots man is lost, all his actions become senseless, absurd and useless.” (Eugene Ionesco, ‘Danis les armesde la ville’ Cahilles de la Compagnie Madeleine Rehaud-Jean-Louis Barrault. Paris, no. 20, October 1957.) From pg 23 of “Theatre of the Absurd, Esslin.
JEAN-PAUL SATRE: a french philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer and literary critic whose main topics were existentialism and humanism, phenomenology.
CAMUS ALBERT: a French philosopher, author, and journalist. Mostly developed absurdism and nihilism.
Contrasting with conventional theatre:
“Strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition” (Esslin p. 24)
Absurd theatre                                     Conventional theatre
no story or plot to speak of                  cleverly constructed story
no recognizable characters                  judged subtlely of characters and motivations
actors as mechanical puppets             fully explained theme
have no beginning no end                     holds a mirror up to natur, portrays the manners of age
reflections of dreams and night mares
incoherent babblings                         relies on witty reportec and pointed dialogue
(Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen. Pg 21-22)
  • Absurd theatre cannot be judged by the standads of conventional theatre, but it’s own. (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
  • Absurd writers do not wish to belong into movements, groups. They are happily isolated too their own world, though the themes and ideas might often be similar to other absurd writers, because absurd deals with preoccupations and anxieties. (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
  • Absurd is the reflection of the attitude of that time (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
  • Plays fall into this category of absurdism conveying humanity’s sense of alientation and its loss of bearings in an illogical, unjust and ridiculous world.
  • Although serious, the plays can be quite comical with much irony.
  • Absurd ‘out of harmony with reason or propriety, incongruous, unreasonable, illogical’ (esslin, 2001, p.23)
  • Goes against Aristotle’s completeness: beginning, middle, end
  • All major ‘rules’ may be broken
  • Titles may have nothing todo with the play
  • There might not be a recognisable story or recognisable characters
  • Actions might begin but then be forgotten about
  • ‘Non Sequitur’ language – Latin term meaning ‘it doesn’t follow’; sentences do not follow in sequence, and words do not mean what we expact them to mean
  • Use of silecne
  • Incoherent and jargon fill the absurdist play
  • a prime example of this would be Lucky’s monologue in Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953)
  • Characters:
    • have an element of the ridiculous within their actions
    • frequently exemplify as existential point of view toward human behaviour
Nihilism: philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, value.Nihilism aslo has forms that say knowledge is not possible, or that reality doesn’t actually exist.
Absurdism:
Key feature: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
Rejection of two main doctrines: The existence of God and immortality of the soul
Belief in atomism (atom and void)
Developed after WW II
Life is irrational, illogical, without reason, pointless
Belief in Atomism (atom and void)
Murphy (1936, published in 1938) novel by Samuel Beckett: set in the dark shadows of Murphy’s mind, absurdism explored throughh language, existential characters; mathematical, musical and physilogical irrationality
“The dark zone of Murphy’s mind is a (…) womb of irrationality” (Ackerley and Gontarski, 2006, p. 2)
  • “There are many ways to tell a story, some of them known and others still to be discovered” (Brecht in Willett 1978:201)
  • “Theatre is only of any worth through the magical link of realism to dreams and nightmares” (Shumacher 2001:81)
Syrrealism:
1924-1966
Along with Existentioalism is one of the key precursors to Theatre of the Absurd
Key words: Liberation and Exploration
Andre Breton: Manifesto of SUrrealism (1924)
Influenced by Karl Marx
Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams had a big effect
Influenced by pshychoanalysis
Existentialism: study of human existence, it’s condition and it’s place and role in the world.
Main issue-existence or absence of GOD
Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) – atheist view and absence of God
Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) – connecting existentioal thinking to God
Key figures: Jean-Paul Satre – Plays: The Flies (1943); No Exit (1944); Dirty Hands (1948)
Albert Camus – Plays: Caligula (1938); The Misunderstanding (1944); Requiem for ….; Influential Essay – The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
  • WHY AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
    • While naturalism digged deep into realistic expressions and outcomes, there were several alternative movements starting to discover something different than
‘just to show real life as it is’.
  • All these movements were slightly different from each other, yet they could be connected as
MODERNISM,
or at least branches or roots of modernism.
WHY DID ALL THOSE NEW MOVEMENTS STARTED TO DEVELOP?
Because people always get bored. They are never 100% happy with what they have\do etc. They need something different, something new, something surprising and unprecedented. Additionally, new flows started at rough times in the history- between two world wars and all the other conflicts and social problems, naturalism was too depressing, people wanted to escape from reality, they needed fun, hope and pleasure to relief their pain.
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH NATURALISM? WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE?
Naturalism lost most of the imagination, the creativeness, while trying to copy every single detail from observable objects\activities. Modernism tried to rediscover the creativeness believing that there is smth else that just the ‘world we see’. Perhaps, we all see it slightly differently. There are things that we pay more attention than to others, there are emotions, feelings all these abstract things, which cannot be expressed by showing reality. Modernism found a different view to unconscious mind than naturalism, finding that it is not just black&white, that dreams and supernatural are yet so believable, that they could be truth, though they’re not. New movements built a new relationship between reality and unrealistic stuff.
  • WHAT IS IT?
    • Philosophical stance embracing a wide range of relativist perspectives – efforts of humanity to find or  define, express or exclude the inherent meanings of anything including human existence, are absurd because the qualities of communicable information available to the human mind, and relationship with reality makes any certainity about impossible. Absurdist assessments stand in contrast to many assumptions of absolutism.
  • In theatre it is seen as devoid of purpose (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
  • WHO?
    • Dramatists like Camus, Sartre, Salacrou, Anouilh, Giraudoux present the senseless of life in a lucid and logically constructed form(Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
    • NEW dramatists as Beckett, Adamov, Ionesco, Genet, step further and present the irrationality of life in irrational ways (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
E X A M P L E S
Samuel Beckett
  • Waiting for Godot
    • we know nothing about characters, their background, their family life, their occupation, biography.
    • Therefore there is no exposition, anouther major structural piece missing from a standard play.
    • We see characters for whom little or no explanation in given. Most of the places the plays take place in are symbolic, time is flexible, plots focus on a condition rather than telling a story
    • Vladimir and Estragon, also called Didi and Gogo
    • question about choices – they choose to wait, what’s the barrier between choice (desicion) and act? Are thy choosing to meet Godot or to wait as itself?
    • question about philosophies – that our lofe and our actions are completely senseless
    • “Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer” – is it safer not to do anything
    • Questions about Lif, Conciousness and Existence – what is the value of life in the play, deadened life with habit, is there a wider dimension we are not aware of, are we even awake
    • questions about time – time is a barrier. time loses meaning when the actions of one day have no relevance or certainity on the next
    • religion- if Godot is representing God
    • friendship – if they arebetter offeach other or not
    • why do Vladimir and Estragon want to kill themselves? why don´t they
  • E U G E N E     I O N E S C O
    • The Chairs
      • The Old Man’s and Old Woman’s house is surrounded by stagnant water, which would symbolize way and time they are living in, that their lives have stalled, time is stalled, nothing flows, but is the same, boring and smelly.
      • Though they have lived together for 75 years, they still feel alone and also they feel isolated from all the other world.
      • Chairs remark watching a play within a play
      • The Chairs is in many ways scathingly satrical, skrewing the idea that human beings have some greater purpose in life. When the Olds Mans’s dreams all come to nothing at the end of the play, we are forced to ask ourselves if anyone’s dreams ever really come true, to wonder whether any of our lives have a greater purpose or meaning.
      • Characters – The Old Man: seems to have never really taken responibility for anything and constantly blames his wasted life on other people. He didn’t have a certain proffession, but did a little bit of everything, so he was splintered and never focused on anything never acheiveing anything he wanted. The Old Lady lived for her husband. She supports him in every way. AT one point she doesn’t obnly do everything for the Old Man, but also starts to echo him when he gives a speech.
      • Semiramis –  the wife of King Ninus, succeeding him to the throne of Assyria.
      • The old man’s message contains a meaning of life
      • It is not clear if the couple just imagined the guests, or they’re only invisible to the others.
      • It is not clear that The Old Man actually has the message
      • They are very happy to see the Orator had arrived and will deliver the message, so they’ve got nothing to live for, they kill themselves without waiting for the Orator to actually deliveer the IMPORTANT message.
      • The Old Man wants to bring meaning to his wasted life, all his dreams have come no nothing and now he is trapped in a boring, repetitive existence.
      • Is there any point of making plans/dreaming at all?
      • DO all dreams ultimately end in a dissapointment?
      • If his dreams would have come true if only he had taken responsibility for his life/actions
      • Characters are alientated
      • Though they have spent their lives together they still feel alone, The Old Man misses his mother
      • They try to find happiness in their fantasies or memories, but even then fail in the end..
      • Existentialism states that all human beingsare inherently alone, so is in the play. The only waywe can bring meaning to our lives is to take responsibility for our actions and to decide for ourselves what is meaningful.
      • TIME – the play is cyclical, characters end up where they began, are doomed to repeat their actions, over and over again until they die.
      • Paratamatu isolation and need to rely on someone
      • Trouble with memory – yesterday doesn’t have a meaning
      • Do we really know if anything in the past was real? Or if anything at the moment is actually real, ecpecially that on the other moment it is already past.
      • Memory is unreliable – all we have is now!
      • The Old Man: “I’ve invited you in order to axplain to you… That the individual and the person are one and the same.”
      • The Old Man: “I wanted to climb stairway, they rotted the steps… I fell down…I wanted to travel, they refused me a passport…..I wanted to criss the river, they burnt the bridges” – blames all his failures to the others.
      • Playing with reality: The Old Man claims that they didn’t have children, The Old Lady talks about a son who left them at the age of 7.
      • At a point where one if the invisible guests has given The Old Lady a present she tries to guess what it is, saying absolutely random items, though it is in her hands, and then The Old Man says that “It is a picture, can’t you see?” which makes the audience to consider that all the guests and the story is an imagination of The Old Man and The Old Woman is lovingly playing along.
      • The Old Man seems to be completely surprised when the Orator arrives physically, which supports theory that the couple is just playing an make-bellieve game to entertain themselves.
 
 
 
 

QUOTES:  

 

  • To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death; what is divine, terrible, incomprehensible, is to know that one is immortal.
  • The Myth of Sisyphus (1942): “A world that can be explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in universethat is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranges. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity” (Ray, 2002, p.108)
  • Western man has turned to love, courage and God for the strength to endure, to go on, but there is a fouth way of coping with the fiasko, one lacking all dignity, heroism, and nobility, accepting the comic, the absurd. This, the fundamental unherioic was Samuel Beckett’s way. (paraprhrased in Ackerley and Gontarski, 2006, p.2) “Cut from his religious, metaphysical and transscendental roots man is lost, all his actions become senseless, absurd and useless.” (Eugene Ionesco, ‘Danis les armesde la ville’ Cahilles de la Compagnie Madeleine Rehaud-Jean-Louis Barrault. Paris, no. 20, October 1957.) From pg 23 of “Theatre of the Absurd, Esslin.
    JEAN-PAUL SATRE: a french philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer and literary critic whose main topics were existentialism and humanism, phenomenology.
    CAMUS ALBERT: a French philosopher, author, and journalist. Mostly developed absurdism and nihilism.
    Contrasting with conventional theatre:
    “Strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition” (Esslin p. 24)
    Absurd theatre                                     Conventional theatre
    no story or plot to speak of                  cleverly constructed story
    no recognizable characters                  judged subtlely of characters and motivations
    actors as mechanical puppets             fully explained theme
    have no beginning no end                     holds a mirror up to natur, portrays the manners of age
    reflections of dreams and night mares
    incoherent babblings                         relies on witty reportec and pointed dialogue
    (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen. Pg 21-22)
    • Absurd theatre cannot be judged by the standads of conventional theatre, but it’s own. (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
    • Absurd writers do not wish to belong into movements, groups. They are happily isolated too their own world, though the themes and ideas might often be similar to other absurd writers, because absurd deals with preoccupations and anxieties. (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
    • Absurd is the reflection of the attitude of that time (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
    • Plays fall into this category of absurdism conveying humanity’s sense of alientation and its loss of bearings in an illogical, unjust and ridiculous world.
    • Although serious, the plays can be quite comical with much irony.
    • Absurd ‘out of harmony with reason or propriety, incongruous, unreasonable, illogical’ (esslin, 2001, p.23)
    • Goes against Aristotle’s completeness: beginning, middle, end
    • All major ‘rules’ may be broken
    • Titles may have nothing todo with the play
    • There might not be a recognisable story or recognisable characters
    • Actions might begin but then be forgotten about
    • ‘Non Sequitur’ language – Latin term meaning ‘it doesn’t follow’; sentences do not follow in sequence, and words do not mean what we expact them to mean
    • Use of silecne
    • Incoherent and jargon fill the absurdist play
    • a prime example of this would be Lucky’s monologue in Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ (1953)
    • Characters:
      • have an element of the ridiculous within their actions
      • frequently exemplify as existential point of view toward human behaviour
    Nihilism: philosophical doctrine that suggests the lack of belief in one or more reputedly meaningful aspects of life. Argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, value.Nihilism aslo has forms that say knowledge is not possible, or that reality doesn’t actually exist.
    Absurdism:
    Key feature: Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
    Rejection of two main doctrines: The existence of God and immortality of the soul
    Belief in atomism (atom and void)
    Developed after WW II
    Life is irrational, illogical, without reason, pointless
    Belief in Atomism (atom and void)
    Murphy (1936, published in 1938) novel by Samuel Beckett: set in the dark shadows of Murphy’s mind, absurdism explored throughh language, existential characters; mathematical, musical and physilogical irrationality
    “The dark zone of Murphy’s mind is a (…) womb of irrationality” (Ackerley and Gontarski, 2006, p. 2)
    • “There are many ways to tell a story, some of them known and others still to be discovered” (Brecht in Willett 1978:201)
    • “Theatre is only of any worth through the magical link of realism to dreams and nightmares” (Shumacher 2001:81)
    Syrrealism:
    1924-1966
    Along with Existentioalism is one of the key precursors to Theatre of the Absurd
    Key words: Liberation and Exploration
    Andre Breton: Manifesto of SUrrealism (1924)
    Influenced by Karl Marx
    Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams had a big effect
    Influenced by pshychoanalysis
    Existentialism: study of human existence, it’s condition and it’s place and role in the world.
    Main issue-existence or absence of GOD
    Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) and Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) – atheist view and absence of God
    Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) – connecting existentioal thinking to God
    Key figures: Jean-Paul Satre – Plays: The Flies (1943); No Exit (1944); Dirty Hands (1948)
    Albert Camus – Plays: Caligula (1938); The Misunderstanding (1944); Requiem for ….; Influential Essay – The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
    • WHY AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
      • While naturalism digged deep into realistic expressions and outcomes, there were several alternative movements starting to discover something different than
    ‘just to show real life as it is’.
    • All these movements were slightly different from each other, yet they could be connected as
    MODERNISM,
    or at least branches or roots of modernism.
    WHY DID ALL THOSE NEW MOVEMENTS STARTED TO DEVELOP?
    Because people always get bored. They are never 100% happy with what they have\do etc. They need something different, something new, something surprising and unprecedented. Additionally, new flows started at rough times in the history- between two world wars and all the other conflicts and social problems, naturalism was too depressing, people wanted to escape from reality, they needed fun, hope and pleasure to relief their pain.
    WHAT WAS WRONG WITH NATURALISM? WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE?
    Naturalism lost most of the imagination, the creativeness, while trying to copy every single detail from observable objects\activities. Modernism tried to rediscover the creativeness believing that there is smth else that just the ‘world we see’. Perhaps, we all see it slightly differently. There are things that we pay more attention than to others, there are emotions, feelings all these abstract things, which cannot be expressed by showing reality. Modernism found a different view to unconscious mind than naturalism, finding that it is not just black&white, that dreams and supernatural are yet so believable, that they could be truth, though they’re not. New movements built a new relationship between reality and unrealistic stuff.
    • WHAT IS IT?
      • Philosophical stance embracing a wide range of relativist perspectives – efforts of humanity to find or  define, express or exclude the inherent meanings of anything including human existence, are absurd because the qualities of communicable information available to the human mind, and relationship with reality makes any certainity about impossible. Absurdist assessments stand in contrast to many assumptions of absolutism.
    • In theatre it is seen as devoid of purpose (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
    • WHO?
      • Dramatists like Camus, Sartre, Salacrou, Anouilh, Giraudoux present the senseless of life in a lucid and logically constructed form(Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
      • NEW dramatists as Beckett, Adamov, Ionesco, Genet, step further and present the irrationality of life in irrational ways (Esslin, M. (2001) Theatre od the Absurd. 3rd ed. London: Methuen)
    E X A M P L E S
    Samuel Beckett
    • Waiting for Godot
      • we know nothing about characters, their background, their family life, their occupation, biography.
      • Therefore there is no exposition, anouther major structural piece missing from a standard play.
      • We see characters for whom little or no explanation in given. Most of the places the plays take place in are symbolic, time is flexible, plots focus on a condition rather than telling a story
      • Vladimir and Estragon, also called Didi and Gogo
      • question about choices – they choose to wait, what’s the barrier between choice (desicion) and act? Are thy choosing to meet Godot or to wait as itself?
      • question about philosophies – that our lofe and our actions are completely senseless
      • “Don’t let’s do anything. It’s safer” – is it safer not to do anything
      • Questions about Lif, Conciousness and Existence – what is the value of life in the play, deadened life with habit, is there a wider dimension we are not aware of, are we even awake
      • questions about time – time is a barrier. time loses meaning when the actions of one day have no relevance or certainity on the next
      • religion- if Godot is representing God
      • friendship – if they arebetter offeach other or not
      • why do Vladimir and Estragon want to kill themselves? why don´t they
    • E U G E N E     I O N E S C O
      • The Chairs
        • The Old Man’s and Old Woman’s house is surrounded by stagnant water, which would symbolize way and time they are living in, that their lives have stalled, time is stalled, nothing flows, but is the same, boring and smelly.
        • Though they have lived together for 75 years, they still feel alone and also they feel isolated from all the other world.
        • Chairs remark watching a play within a play
        • The Chairs is in many ways scathingly satrical, skrewing the idea that human beings have some greater purpose in life. When the Olds Mans’s dreams all come to nothing at the end of the play, we are forced to ask ourselves if anyone’s dreams ever really come true, to wonder whether any of our lives have a greater purpose or meaning.
        • Characters – The Old Man: seems to have never really taken responibility for anything and constantly blames his wasted life on other people. He didn’t have a certain proffession, but did a little bit of everything, so he was splintered and never focused on anything never acheiveing anything he wanted. The Old Lady lived for her husband. She supports him in every way. AT one point she doesn’t obnly do everything for the Old Man, but also starts to echo him when he gives a speech.
        • Semiramis –  the wife of King Ninus, succeeding him to the throne of Assyria.
        • The old man’s message contains a meaning of life
        • It is not clear if the couple just imagined the guests, or they’re only invisible to the others.
        • It is not clear that The Old Man actually has the message
        • They are very happy to see the Orator had arrived and will deliver the message, so they’ve got nothing to live for, they kill themselves without waiting for the Orator to actually deliveer the IMPORTANT message.
        • The Old Man wants to bring meaning to his wasted life, all his dreams have come no nothing and now he is trapped in a boring, repetitive existence.
        • Is there any point of making plans/dreaming at all?
        • DO all dreams ultimately end in a dissapointment?
        • If his dreams would have come true if only he had taken responsibility for his life/actions
        • Characters are alientated
        • Though they have spent their lives together they still feel alone, The Old Man misses his mother
        • They try to find happiness in their fantasies or memories, but even then fail in the end..
        • Existentialism states that all human beingsare inherently alone, so is in the play. The only waywe can bring meaning to our lives is to take responsibility for our actions and to decide for ourselves what is meaningful.
        • TIME – the play is cyclical, characters end up where they began, are doomed to repeat their actions, over and over again until they die.
        • Paratamatu isolation and need to rely on someone
        • Trouble with memory – yesterday doesn’t have a meaning
        • Do we really know if anything in the past was real? Or if anything at the moment is actually real, ecpecially that on the other moment it is already past.
        • Memory is unreliable – all we have is now!
        • The Old Man: “I’ve invited you in order to axplain to you… That the individual and the person are one and the same.”
        • The Old Man: “I wanted to climb stairway, they rotted the steps… I fell down…I wanted to travel, they refused me a passport…..I wanted to criss the river, they burnt the bridges” – blames all his failures to the others.
        • Playing with reality: The Old Man claims that they didn’t have children, The Old Lady talks about a son who left them at the age of 7.
        • At a point where one if the invisible guests has given The Old Lady a present she tries to guess what it is, saying absolutely random items, though it is in her hands, and then The Old Man says that “It is a picture, can’t you see?” which makes the audience to consider that all the guests and the story is an imagination of The Old Man and The Old Woman is lovingly playing along.
        • The Old Man seems to be completely surprised when the Orator arrives physically, which supports theory that the couple is just playing an make-bellieve game to entertain themselves.
     
     
     
     

    QUOTES:  

    • To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death; what is divine, terrible, incomprehensible, is to know that one is immortal.
    • The Myth of Sisyphus (1942): “A world that can be explained by reasoning, however faulty, is a familiar world. But in universethat is suddenly deprived of illusions and of light, man feels a stranges. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, truly constitutes the feeling of Absurdity” (Ray, 2002, p.108)
    • Western man has turned to love, courage and God for the strength to endure, to go on, but there is a fouth way of coping with the fiasko, one lacking all dignity, heroism, and nobility, accepting the comic, the absurd. This, the fundamental unherioic was Samuel Beckett’s way. (paraprhrased in Ackerley and Gontarski, 2006, p.2)
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s