Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd: Camus, Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, and Pinter (Paperback)

Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd: Camus, Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, and Pinter By M. Bennett Cover Image

Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd: Camus, Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, and Pinter (Paperback)


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Fifty years after the publication of Martin Esslin's The Theatre of the Absurd, which suggests that 'absurd' plays purport the meaninglessness of life, this book uses the works of five major playwrights of the 1950s to provide a timely reassessment of one of the most important theatre 'movements' of the 20th century.
Michael Y. Bennett is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, USA, where he teaches courses on modern drama. He is the author of Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd (2011/2013), Words, Space, and the Audience (2012), and Narrating the Past through Theatre (2012). He is the editor of Refiguring Oscar Wilde's Salome (2011); and the co-editor of Eugene O'Neill's One-Act Plays: New Critical Perspectives (2012) as well as editor of The Edward Albee Review .
Product Details ISBN: 9781137378767
ISBN-10: 113737876X
Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan
Publication Date: December 12th, 2013
Pages: 179
Language: English

"Michael Y. Bennett's new book, Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd, is an ambitious text fifty years in the making ... [It] is a terrific first book. Bennett's bravery in challenging the theoretical canon is a great example to follow." - Journal of Modern Literature

"In Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd: Camus, Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, and Pinter, Michael Y. Bennett turns Esslin's text on its head to offer more nuanced, more hopeful analyses of these canonical playwrights ... Not only does he offer provocative, convincing readings of these plays, he also broadens his analysis to include works by contemporaries of the original 'absurdists,' and by those of different historical moments and/or gender. This move not only extends his interpretive framework beyond the oft covered territory that is the focus of this book, it also extends the life of his analysis. Bennett's work is strengthened by the fact that his writing style is approachable and his work well signposted." - Theatre Survey

"[Bennett] offers a number of intriguing and insightful readings of these [absurdist] plays and playwrights . . . Throughout [Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd], Bennett is effectively practicing a structural model of reading these works traditionally labeled as 'Absurdist,' and his reassessment of the Theatre of the Absurd through the lens of parable offers a unique new vision of these well-studied works. Undoubtedly, Bennett's analyses will prove intriguing for the theatre or literature scholar interested in the Theatre of the Absurd." - Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

"The plays discussed by Esslin and Bennett, including their works - The Theatre of the Absurd and Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd respectively - make a 'double reed flute'...To the audiences used to listening to the melody that echoes the experimentations in the domain of dramaturgy and theatre art of the 1940s and 1950s in Europe, Bennett's work secretly tells them to listen to another melody. The melody that Bennett is trying to make us hear tells that beyond the moribund situation in our life and society, there is always hope...Bennett and Esslin do not replace each other but form a cohort. Together, their critical works form a 'double-reed flute.' With one end we listen to a melody composed in 1960s, and from another end, we listen to the one orchestrated by a very talented theater critic from the young generation of our times." - Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry

"In the chapters following the introductory debates, Bennett moves… to a more detailed examination of each individual play, and in this scrupulous analysis, I believe, lies the strength of this critical study. While pondering the ethical nature of Beckett's Waiting for Godot as a parable in chapter one, Bennett offers interesting critical insights into the redemptive quality of the characters of Didi and Gogo… In chapter two, which centers on Pinter's The Birthday Party, Bennett… discusses how 'the failure of sense' demonstrated though the characters' markedly unsuccessful interaction in Pinter's play prompts readers to look for ways to establish meaningful communication. Stating that Genet's The Blacks is a parable rather than a ritual – as it has been traditionally referred to – Bennett highlights both the play's performative and paradoxical nature in chapter three… this chapter is full of thought-provoking ideas on ritual, performance, and the representation of race, as well as on the inherent tensions between the public and private in Genet's work. Delving into the idea of ambiguity in chapter four, Bennett points to the significance of a dialectic in analyzing Ionesco's Rhinoceros and encourages readers to look for a range of choices in our meaning-making process… I applaud the author's attempts at vigorous reassessment of standard idioms and traditional methodologies in broadening an established canon of absurdist drama." - Text & Presentation

"Reevaluating the cornerstone thought of existentialist philosopher Albert Camus, Bennett announces that the Theatre of the Absurd - as presented in Martin Esslin's landmark study of the same name - is far more than a despairing announcement that the world is meaningless or absurd. Rather, he argues that the plays that have famously been labeled absurdist are dramatic thought experiments that actively present ways to tolerate, defy, or even defeat that pervading sense of meaninglessness. Intriguingly, Bennett sees the Theatre of the Absurd as a collection of sophisticated parables demonstrating the resilient, undaunted, and even redemptive spirit of hope within the human species." - William W. Demastes, Professor of English, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

"Bennett argues vigorously in proposing a fresh and radical re-assessment of the Theatre of the Absurd and its context, probing performative aspects of key texts." - Peter Raby, Emeritus Fellow, Homerton College, Cambridge University