Architecture and Cruelty in the Writings of Genet, Artaud and Beckett: A Discussion of Recent Research

By Matthew Melia.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper, I will present aspects of my recent research on the themes of architecture and cruelty in the writings of Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud and Samuel Beckett, with a view to demonstrating how the research project may contribute to original developments in humanities research.

The paper unpacks and analyses the co-dependent relationship of architecture and cruelty in mid to late 20th century history, and observes their impact and presence in the ‘cruel’ and ‘total’ theatre of these three post-war, ‘post-modern’ (as I argue them to be) writers and dramatists: Jean Genet, Antonin Artaud and Samuel Beckett. In the mid to late twentieth century, the terms architecture and cruelty constituted a complex set of multi-valent significations. My study attempts to unpack these meanings and their locations, specifically in terms of: the bricks and mortar of material buildings, social organisation à la Foucault, the architecture of stage space and of the theatrical auditorium, isolation, the prison space and the prison of the human heart, cruelty in terms of physical torture and also as a theatrical mode (within a reconfigured theatrical architecture), and as both metaphors and metonyms.

The paper aims to juxtapose these crossdisciplinary issues with a number of the themes which the conference will prioritise, specifically: violence and peace, language and human meaning, modernity and post-modernity, and historical analysis, with the intention of delineating a set of future research developments in the humanities.

Keywords: Cruelty, Architecture, Theatre, Modernity, Post-modernity

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 9, pp.39-48. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 609.034KB).

Dr. Matthew Melia

Lecturer in Television and Film, School of Performance and Screen Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University, London, UK

I am a lecturer in film and television studies at Kingston University, Surrey, UK. I completed and passed my doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Architecture and Cruelty in the Writings of Genet, Artaud and Beckett’ in 2008 and am in the process of furthur developing aspects of research affiliated to the thesis for publication. Other resarch interests include issues of space, politics and identity in post war television comedy and science fiction in Britain.


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