From Prague to Paris: The Beginning of Theater Semiotics and Sartre's Early Esthetic of Theater

in Sartre Studies International
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At a time when a "return to Sartre" is being heralded in France and elsewhere in preparation for the celebration of the centennial of his birth, it seems appropriate to ponder the nature and tenor of this renewal. To which aspects of Sartre's work are we returning as the centennial approaches, and are we doing so with fresh eyes or with the same critical prejudices that have obscured our appreciation of this work in the past? If one looks for answers to Bernard-Henri Lévy (aka BHL), the principal instigator of this current renewal, with specific regard to the genre that interests us in these pages—the theater—one is going to be sorely disappointed. For while Lévy considers Sartre "the first [writer]—the only [writer]—to know how to split himself equally well between being a theoretician and an accomplished storyteller," he lavishes this praise solely on the theory and practice of Sartre's novels: "The concept of engagement is not a political concept stressing the social duties of the writer; it is a philosophical concept highlighting the metaphysical powers of language. … Sartre … has never really written a novel with a [totalizing] thesis or message" (BHL 85, 86).

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

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