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The Theater and Its Double
ISBN 0802150306 / 9780802150301 / 0-8021-5030-6
Publisher Grove Press
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Since its first publication in 1938, The Theater and Its Double by the French artist and philosopher Antonin Artaud has continued to provoke, inspire, enrage, enliven, challenge, and goad any number of theatrical debates in its call for a "Theater of Cruelty." A trio of theatrical manifestos, the book is an aggressive attack on many of the most treasured beliefs of both theater and Western culture. According to Artaud, the theater's "double" is similar to its Jungian "shadow," the unacknowledged, unconscious element that completes it but is in many ways its opposite. As "culture" inexorably draws the artistic impulse into safe channels, the repressed irrational urges of theater, based on dreams, religion, and emotion, are increasingly necessary to "purge" the sickness of society. Artaud identifies language itself as one of the major cultural culprits, and his attacks on it occasionally makes his text rough going. But his challenge to restore relevance to the heart of the theatrical experience remains fundamental to the vitality of theater, and his insistence on the sensory experience of drama as opposed to the literary (and such innovative ideas as the use of unconventional "found spaces") continues to be the clarion call of the theatrical avant-garde. --John Longenbaugh [via]