My article focuses on Le Théâtre existentialiste (Existentialist Theater) by Simone de Beauvoir, recently translated and published in the volume of the Beauvoir Series on her literary writings. The first part introduces the original sound recording of this text and the circumstances behind its possible production in New York City in 1947 and my discovery of it at Wellesley College in 1996. The second part analyzes the divisions of Beauvoir's remarks as she presents Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and their principal plays from the period of the Occupation: The Flies, No Exit, and Caligula. The third part then evaluates certain of Beauvoir's key concepts in terms of how they were able to define adequately the substance of existentialist theater for a postwar American audience and whether they remain valid for a more contemporary theatrical public some six decades later.
Dennis A. Gilbert
Sartre's conflicted relationship with his theatrical audience is explained by showing how Sartre's initial theatrical venture, Bariona, created in a POW camp in December 1940, sparked an idealized conception of the audience. The particular context in which the play was produced brought its performers and audience together into an almost mystical fusion. But these virtues, derived from pre-textual “oral“ culture, lost much of their luster with Sartre's second play, The Flies. Like its predecessor, The Flies used myth to counter German censorship, but in occupied Paris in front of a much more heterogeneous audience. The resulting comparative failure complicated Sartre's relationship to the mass audiences he sought in the post-war years. Theater audiences became emblematic of a wider public Sartre never fully trusted to accept or understand his ideas. Furthermore, Sartre's decision to stage almost all his plays between 1946 and 1959 at the “bourgeois“ Théâtre Antoine only made him even more mistrustful of audiences he often found himself writing “against.“
Adrian Van Den Hoven
This article analyzes articles and interviews published in Sartre on Theater and focuses on five plays (Bariona, The Flies, No Exit and The Condemned of Altona) in order to arrive at a coherent conception of Sartre's theater. Sartre views the stage as “belonging to a different imaginary realm“ in which the characters' language, gestures and the props function in a synecdochical relationship in respect to the spectators. It is their task to grasp these “signs“ and bundle them into a coherent and meaningful whole. Because Sartre views the theater as an imaginary realm, he can free himself from the strictures of his philosophy: 1) the irreversibility of time; 2) the fact that life does not give us a second chance; and 3) that death means that our life falls into the public domain. This freedom allows Sartre to deal with temporality in a novel way and to deal with “life after death“ as life simply continued. Conversely, he can scramble temporality for psychological reasons in order to bring out deep rooted personal conflicts, as he does in The Condemned of Altona.
Dennis A. Gilbert
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).
Theorizing Mobility through Modern Subway Dramas
This article begins from the premise that modern American drama provides a useful and understudied archive of representations of mobility. It focuses on plays set on the New York City subway, using the performance studies concept of “restored behavior” to understand the way that these plays repeat and heighten the experience of subway riding. Through their repetitions, they make visible the psychological consequences of ridership under the historical and cultural constraints of the interwar period. Elmer Rice's 1929 play The Subway is read as a particularly rich exploration of the consequences of female passenger's presumed passivity and sexualization in this era. The Subway and plays like it enable scholars of mobility to better understand the ways that theatrical texts intervene in cultural conversations about urban transportation.
This article shows that Sartre’s theatrical works offer a reflection on morality, in particular The Flies, The Devil and the Good Lord, and The Sequestered of Altona. The ethical reflections that we find in his plays fill a philosophical gap left after Being and Nothingness. The plays offer an exploration of freedom’s rootedness in situation which complements the more theoretical notes of the posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics. Additionally, I link Sartre’s ethics and Nietzsche’s ethics showing that both thinkers rest their philosophies on a strict atheism. Further, their elaborations on morality follow a similar path by emphasizing individual freedom and thus subsequently the responsibility of the individual as the creator of values.
Cet article fait la démonstration que les œuvres théâtrales de Sartre, plus particulièrement Les Mouches, Le Diable et le bon dieu et Les Séquestrés d'Altona, tiennent lieu de réflexion morale chez Sartre. La réflexion éthique qu'on y retrouve comble un manque laissé par les écrits philosophiques suivant L'Être et le néant. Les pièces et leur exploration de l'ancrage de la liberté dans la situation offrent un complément aux notes plus théoriques des Cahiers pour une morale, publiés à titre posthume. En plus de faire cette démonstration, cet article explore les liens entre la morale des pièces sartriennes et la morale nietzschéenne. Il ressort de cet examen que ces deux morales s'appuient sur un athéisme pur et dur et s'élaborent de même façon en mettant l'emphase sur la liberté de l'individu et son rôle en tant que créateur de valeurs.
Sartre's evocation of ideological socialism in Dirty Hands' protagonist Hugo, as opposed to the pragmatism of the realist, Hoederer, found an attentive audience in April 1948. The means are justified by the ends, Hoederer insists, although that means “getting one's hands dirty.“ Eighteen months later, Camus produced Les Justes, which offers an implicit rebuttal of Sartre's position. Kaliayev-like Hugo, an idealist and an intellectual-is rebuked by his hard-line colleague, Fedorov, for failing to throw his grenade at the Archduke's carriage merely because he was accompanied by children. Kaliayev's vindication of the individual's moral conscience, even in the midst of collective action, counters Hoederer's position. For Camus, the ends do not necessarily justify the means; there are always lines to be drawn in the name of an ethical stance which, ultimately, protects human dignity from the allure of morally compromised “progress.“ Consideration of each playwright's notion of authenticity, as embodied in their respective protagonists, leads us to consider whether Sartre had, in effect, anticipated Kaliayev in the person of Hugo and foreshadowed his critique of Camus's L'Homme révolté, which led to their definitive quarrel.
The Russian Teatr Interviews of 1956 and 1962
Dennis A. Gilbert and Diana L. Burgin
Title Page of the 1962 Interview Sartre's scattered commentaries and remarks on theater, published in a variety of media outlets, as well as in the most unlikely of essays (spanning philosophical texts, biographies, and literary criticism
John Ireland and Constance Mui
We are thrilled, on the occasion of the 25 th anniversary of Sartre Studies International , to publish for the first time in English (thanks to Dennis Gilbert's initiative and perseverance) two interviews on theater given by Sartre to Russia
Sartre's play Les Mouches (The Flies), first performed in 1943 under German occupation, has long been controversial. While intended to encourage resistance against the Nazis, its approval by the censor indicates that the regime did not recognize the play as a threat. Further, its apparently violent and solitary themes have been read as irresponsible or apolitical. For these reasons, the play has been characterized as ambiguous or worse. Sartre himself later saw it as overemphasizing individual autonomy, and in the view of one critic, it conveys an “existentialist fascism.” In response to this reading, it is necessary to attend to the elements of the play that already emphasize duty to society. From this perspective, the play can be seen as anticipating the concern with collective responsibility usually associated with the later Sartre of the 1960s. More than this, the play's apparent “ambiguity” can be found to exemplify a didacticism that is much more complex than sometimes attributed to Sartre. It is not only an exhortation about ethical responsibility, but also a performance of the difficulties attendant to that duty.