Molière's language: perspectives and approaches

Clark, Sally R. (2005) Molière's language: perspectives and approaches. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In spite of over three hundred years of commentary on Molière's plays, one area of research has been neglected by scholars, namely the role of language in the creation of comedy. Of those critics who have analysed Moliere's use of language, the majority have limited their focus to a small number of plays and do not consider what makes his discourse comic. Even more surprising is the fact that virtually no Moliériste has attempted to view Molière's language from the perspective of modern literary and linguistic theory. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to explore the extent to which contemporary theory elucidates, or perhaps even obscures, our understanding of Moliere's language. While critics in the past have tended to apply a single theory to his plays, we will consider whether a multi-theoretical approach can best account for the range of Moliere's linguistic humour. The analysis of the comedies will be informed by post-Saussurean theories of language, many of which have never been applied to Moliere's work before. The first part of the thesis, entitled 'Language and Society' will address a long-standing debate which continues to divide Molièristes as to the nature of his comedy. Whereas W. G. Moore and Rene Bray have portrayed Moliere as an actor and director, whose primary aim was to amuse his audience, this theatricalist position has been challenged in recent years by the socio-critical theories of James Gaines, Paul Benichou, Larry Riggs and Ralph Albanese. We will consider whether it is possible to reconcile these two opposing approaches through an examination of parody. The second part of the thesis moves from the notion of language as representational to the focus on the ludic function of language games, and discusses whether these represent a retreat into a fantasy world or whether they have a subversive role. Finally, we will turn from the conscious humour of language games to the comedy of the unconscious, in which characters accidentally reveal more than they intend in their speech. The thesis concludes with a recognition of the extent to which recent critical theories may help inform our reading of the comic dramatist.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > French
Supervisor's Name: Peacock, Prof. Noel
Date of Award: 2005
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2005-30914
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2018 10:11
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2018 10:14

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