Subjectivity And Politics In Pasolini's Bourgeois Tragic Theater

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Romance Languages
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Italian Literature
Theatre and Performance Studies
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Italian author Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote his plays Affabulazione, Orgia and Porcile during his shift to theater in the late 1960s as a critical response to consumer culture in Italy and the West more generally. For him, this expanding mass, petit-bourgeois civilization displaced Italy’s premodern cultures and their sense of the sacred. In his plays, his bourgeois protagonists re-experience the sacred and undergo conversion. The works engender his new “bourgeois tragic” genre, in which the sacred’s return destroys modern subjectivity. They offer a unique examination of this subjectivity, its radicalizing breakdown and the potential radical politics that could emerge from that breakdown. To further these significant insights, this study systematically theorizes Pasolini’s Bourgeois Tragic Theater – his dramatic genre and its production through his “Word Theater” practices – as one of bourgeois subjectivity and politics. It is the first of its kind among the Italian- and English-language criticism, framed through psychoanalysis and classical and twentieth-century Western theater. The predominant form of radical subjectivity and politics is “self-destructive otherness” and martyrdom, the latter of which will be a falsity and no politics at all. However, Orgia and Porcile in its drafts formulate a more critical radical subjectivity and politics: the transformation of self-destructive otherness into the “Logic of Otherness,” which looks to reconstruct Otherness as a new ideology of liberation. The protagonists ultimately fail to act on this Logic, and the plays end ambiguously, suspending catharsis. When Pasolini’s dramas are staged through his Word Theater praxis, his complete Bourgeois Tragic Theater looks to realize this Logic itself. It gives spectators the task of creating their own catharsis through its post-performance dialogue, which contains a Platonic pedagogy with radicalizing effects for subjectivity and politics. Pasolini’s theater will contradict the conclusion among scholars that his tragedies signal the “Second Pasolini,” one who is unable to propose any affirmative and effective form of resistance to modernization in this period. In fact, his theater will be his most rigorous and concerted effort at a radical political art, attempting to answer the crisis of both Marxism and the Church, with foresight of the pitfalls of the Student Movement.

Kevin Brownlee
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