No More Masterpieces Thesis Proposal
The bold declaration and conviction of Antonin Artaud, putting the masterpieces behind and making way for revolutionary theatre practice induced controversies among the academe and theatre world. Antonin Artaud is a French poet, dramatist, actor, and Surrealist theoretician that strives to liberate humanity’s subconscious from conformity. Artaud’s way of thinking is greatly influenced by his fascination and obsession with mysticism. He had a series of mental disorders where he was sent to the asylum repeatedly. The vision of absurdity and surrealism made him pursue against contemporary theatre arts that the society lead by bourgeois are indicting to the culture (Encyclopedia Britannica). Artaud’s attack of the contemporary culture of worshipping the old works of art and literature is a form of rebellion against conformity which is very similar with the Surrealist movement. He indicted conformism as overrated and overused in the theaters making this form of art fallacious and no longer discerning with the reality of the world. While the masterpieces done by historical figures are appreciated by the society, Artaud exposed his skeptical ideas against the use of these masterpieces that accordingly compromises the real essence of the existence of theatres.
Artaud, being daring enough to criticize the bourgeois society in their definition of art, has awakened the notion of the dynamic culture. Art is a product of man’s expression while the collection of which contributes to culture. Through culture, mankind and art is united in harmonious form (Brustein, R). Artaud exposes his dismay on how the society treated culture very narrowly subjugating its concepts on man’s psychic experiences devoid of the facts of current day life and dynamism. He proposes on renouncing the empiricism of imagery, referring their poetry as hermetic messages. Accordingly, the substance of poetry paced on vague movements, and its reverberations lost its sensibility. In the same way, he magnified the power that the theatre can cause to its viewers. If theatres only use its magical gesture mimesis and its communicative power, then theatre would have manifested a strong force in the society today (Artaud). However, as he revealed, there is no such power in the theatres today as the middle class society’s definition of art and theatre has dominated the global perceptions. The real essence of theatre and the art embedded in it has been coated heavily and its significance is not surfacing in today’s modern culture. Along with his contempt of the previous forms of art being repeated over time, Shakespeare and the other artists and writers in the Renaissance was demoted with value as mere masterpieces of the past that must be given rest. Artaud’s conclusion of the theatres being fearful and having no energy has lost the essence of poetry and art. Artaud declared that there is theatre degradation due to its being dependent on historical artifacts. His words caused stirrings in the society waking up the other side of perspective of man in terms of theatres.
Artaud raised up concerns that distracts the society and condemn contemporary culture. The European culture is addressed to grow like a new organ and gain the idea of culture-in action. Man’s ideas must be revised at certain periods and have painful cleavages to adhere to the real facets of life. If the theatres, long before, have been created as expressions of people’s repressions, portrayed in agonized poetry to go against the society’s bizarre corruptions and other facts of life, then so it must until today (Richards). Theater has lost the essence and significance of why they were created after all. It is important to awaken it like long-sleeping animal, and revive its purpose. However, the production of classics would not renew its objectives. What requires today is the radical and revolutionary showcase of the current day life and realities. It must express the society’s innate form of expression that matters in the society. Man has long since become familiar with the classical stories about Romeo and Juliet, and others. What need to be produced are radical originals that convey a new pattern of poetry and create a history today. Theatres must not settle in the analysis of characters, plots, and settings. It must not magnetize its existence to stories of conflicts about love, duty, and money. The society and culture have been self-obsessed and preoccupied on the matters of personal relationships and problems revealed in theatres which are very anti-poetic (Artaud).
The brave call of Artaud to impose changes in the theatre, culture, and society, has caused divisions in the perspective of theatre appreciation. There are those who stick to the contemporary way of doing things and abhor any changes that come along the way. Artaud refers them as worshippers of the past masterpieces. The other faction believes in the principles of Artaud. Like him, they are sickened with the overplaying of previous masterpieces. Man has condoned himself with the previous forms of art, forgetting their own capacities to match these great people. In fact, man has all devices and resources to overcome what has already published. Artaud did not just introduce a new concept. He also induces a movement calling upon societies to come out of their shells, and make theatres a real substance of life rather than mere imitations of the past. There is an abrupt change of intellectual approaches of images that can be applied in the theatres. Artaud refers this as “pure theatre” where there are mise en scene, with elimination of words, and derive a new set of physical gestures and language that mime the various life circumstances. The gestures in space that can be imposed in theatres would result to a profound intoxication of life that restores the basic elements of ecstasy. There must be a real transformation of life connecting the viewers to the primal and honest truth about humanity. Instead of doing peeping tom episodes in the play, there must be induction of primitive and bloodthirsty aspect of man that lets the viewer understand and see the true nature of man and life. While the revolutionary concept of Artaud provokes division in the theatre world, it resulted to a healthy encounter. The stir up of concepts that promotes debate upon the world of theatres will surely result to better results. The conventional people will prove their point by providing worth seeing plays derived from history’s masterpieces, while the surrealist theatre makers will produce plays that viewers may see their point. In either ways, this competition of standards and idealism promote quality productions regardless if Artaud may prove his point or not. What matters is its effects to the theatre world. Artaud’s challenge to the contemporary theatre society and culture may breed new found concepts that will undertake in the future scenes in theatre plays. Sooner or later, this phenomenon will become a turning point of history and become a masterpiece itself. It is up to the later generations if this event is worth the look, or be left as mere decorations on the walls and dead artifacts found only in the books. It is up to them to consider its revival, or conclude it as non-usable when the future generations would apply a no more masterpieces ideology.
Artaud, Antonin. “No More Masterpieces”.
Brustein, R. “No more Masterpieces”. The Michigan Quarterly Review. 6(3). (1967).
Encyclopedia Britannica. “Antonin Artaud”. Encyclopedia Britannica. (2013). Web.
Richards, C. “Antonin Artaud: The Theatre and its Double”.
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