LA LUMINOTECHNIE DANS LE THEATRE DE SAMUEL BECKETT: DRAMATURGIE ET METAPHYSIQUE (FRENCH TEXT) (IRELAND, FRANCE)
JACQUEMONT, CHRISTIANE VYMETAL
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
In spite of the extensive scholarly research on Beckett's works, very little has been said about one topic that may be considered important in the theater, namely, light. Beyond the obvious fact that light is an indispensable component in the theater, we have noticed in Beckett's plays a definite sophisticated exploitation of the technique of stage lighting, as well as an obsessive recurrence of the theme of light in the text itself. Light with Beckett becomes a powerful means of disclosing a strange metaphorical world. Hence we felt that an archetypal interpretation was the most relevant for our approach. Our study of the text is essentially immanent, and we pay particular attention to the highly precise stage directions of our author. To substantiate our position, we have interviewed stage directors and actors who provided us with a stimulating documentation on their work with Beckett (see five interviews in appendix). Because Beckett's work is the expression of his vast knowledge, we devoted the first chapter to the archetype of light with its religious, philosophical, cultural and esthetical connotations, that we develop later throughout our thesis. Through the study of the nature and the function of light, we underline the increasing importance of that theme, the progressive invasion of darkness and the characters' definite affinity towards darkness. The whole structure of Beckett's theater is based on the duality of light and darkness. Light associated with movement and speech is above all a principle of life, while darkness, denoting immobility and silence, symbolizes death. Beckett constantly presents an interesting reversal of normal and traditional values. Everything related to light is experienced by Beckettian characters as disturbing, even painful, whereas darkness is on the contrary seducing, attractive, inviting. Moreover, that positive valorization of darkness is found in the striking and obsessive image of the womb recurrently evoked by the foetal position, the garbage cans, the jars, the mound, the mouth-sex, etc... The image of the womb is naturally related to darkness, silence, immobility and water. Therefore, progression towards darkness could be interpreted as a regressus ad uterum. Beckett's treatment of the return to the womb shifts from the Freudian preoccupation with the individual mother to the Jungian archetypal mother, the Mater Magna. This cosmic dimension is constantly conveyed in Beckett's work through a search towards sparseness, the essential, the center, a quest for stillness, solitude, silence and a physical immersion of the character in darkness. The attraction towards darkness is consequently the attraction towards death, which is according to Mircea Eliade, "a reintegration in the cosmic night," where the individual is being dissolved into the universal absolute. In that perspective our interpretation refutes the traditional opinion which labels Beckett's vision as pessimistic.