Langage et communication dans le theatre de Jean Tardieu
Master of Arts
Much of today's avant-garde theater is concerned with depicting another level of human reality than that which conventional drama deals: with. The avant-garde attempts to strip away social convention in order to expose the absurdity of twentieth century human existence and to explore the fundamental nature of man. In its experimentation the avant-garde divorces itself most significantly from traditional theater by its treatment of the discursive and artistic language by which man communicates. Not only has a new idiom of the spoken language developed to express basic avant-garde themes, but also a new concept of theatrical language — that is, all the elements at the disposal of the mise en scene — has come into being to expand the dramatic repertory. Of all the avant-garde experiments, the twenty-three short plays of Jean Tardieu have perhaps explored the greatest range of possibilities of the spoken language and been the most revolutionary in their use of the non-verbal language of the theatrical mise en scene. This thesis proposes to examine three important areas in which the theater of Jean Tardieu elucidates the nature of verbal and theatrical language and human communication. First, as a philologist and as a poet of considerable acclaim, Tardieu brings to the avant-garde stage a profound insight into the possibilities of the spoken word. Disillusioned with discursive language as a tool for real communication, he exchanges the powers of verbal logic, which often tyrannize man rather than liberate him, for the poetic — or what Antonin Artaud termed the incantatory — powers of language. In Tardieu's theater, the "langage au théâtre " is transfigured into "poésie au théâtre." . The sounds and rhythms of speech are more important than meaning. Secondly, drawing on his background in music and the plastic arts (his mother was a professional musician and his father, a painter), Tardieu pushes his experiments with the language of the mise en scene — lighting, decor, accessories, movement, and the human voice used as a musical instrument — beyond all previously considered limits. His technical experi¬ mentation, such as in his controversial Une Voix sans Personae, a play without characters, has changed the "langage au théâtre " into a " poésie du theatre." Finally, from the marriage of these two areas of dramatic language experiments — "langage au théâtre " and "langage du théâtre " — emerges Tardieu's personal message about human communication, both verbal and emotional. In his vision the human condition is most often pathetic. Man is isolated from other human beings and prevented from communicating his inner reality by the artificiality and mechanization of modern life, reflected in the mechanical and artificial conventions of his language. Beneath the reality of verbal logic and the primary world, however, Tardieu reveals a deeper, artistic, almost mystical reality in which man's innermost self can find expression.