Agents, Puppets, and Being-for-Others: Traces of Humanism in the Stage Characters of Jean-Paul Sartre and Eugene Ionesco

Walmsley, Benjamin A (2000) Agents, Puppets, and Being-for-Others: Traces of Humanism in the Stage Characters of Jean-Paul Sartre and Eugene Ionesco. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The main aim of this thesis is to provide a sustained and in-depth comparison of the theatre and thought of Jean-Paul Sartre and Eugene Ionesco, and in so doing to fill the void in an astoundingly neglected field of criticism. The thesis explores the rich contrasts and surprising similarities emanating from the different slants of Sartre's Existentialism and Ionesco's Absurdism, which are juxtaposed under the umbrella term of Humanism. The intention of this comparative survey is to trace the ontological, metaphysical, and ethical implications of Humanist thought evident in the theory and theatre of the two dramatists, and to assess the contribution made by Ionesco and by Sartre to the quest of contemporary Humanist philosophy to determine the significance of precisely what it is to be human. To facilitate comparison, the dramatists' subjects have been diametrically divided into agents and puppets. Much has been written on the Sartrean agent, based as it is on action and concrete engagement in its world; and the characters that people the stage and world of Ionesco, though less analysed, can be seen to emerge as puppet-like creations, pre-determined, controlled, and passive, and fashioned on the theatrical tradition of guignol. Such division is thus far from arbitrary, and it provides an ideal point of departure for the ensuing comparative exploration. The focus lies in four main areas: firstly, the history and tradition of Humanist philosophy is reviewed, and the thought of Sartre and Ionesco placed into its context; secondly, the Sartrean agent is explored in the light of the Existentialist ontology of Freedom, consciousness and temporality, and of the ethical concepts of Engagement, responsibility, and Authenticity; thirdly, the lonescan puppet is scrutinised with reference to Absurdist notions of Anguish, revolt, passivity, and despair; and finally, the complex world of Being-for-Others, of relationships, coexistence, and society, is discussed in a contrapuntal analysis of the presence of others, the tensions between the Self and the Other, the search for a collective ethic, and the reality of individualism and isolation. The methodology is based on the intensive textual analysis of the dramatists' theatrical works, supported by the non-fictional philosophy of their lectures, essays, novels, treatises, and journals which offer a vital insight into their respective worldviews, interests, and intentions. The writers are placed into their philosophical and contemporary contexts, and the influences of both come under review. The ultimate aspiration of the thesis is to prove that such a comparison is not only valid but of vital importance, and long overdue if the wealth of contrasts and similarities is ever to be uncovered, and if light is to be shed on the timeless and thus continuing problems inevitably faced by Man.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Ramona Fotiade
Keywords: French literature
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-76398
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 14:44
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 14:44

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