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Melancholy ontology, evental ethics, and the lost (m)Other in Howard Barker’s Theatre of Catastrophe: an analysis of 13 objects

Melancholy ontology, evental ethics, and the lost (m)Other in Howard Barker’s Theatre of Catastrophe: an analysis of 13 objects
Melancholy ontology, evental ethics, and the lost (m)Other in Howard Barker’s Theatre of Catastrophe: an analysis of 13 objects
Taking my point of departure from Sakellaridou’s perceptive discussion, the argument in this article is twofold. First, it intends to demonstrate that melancholia constitutes a premise of Barker’s dramatic world on three levels: the ontological, the existential, and the aesthetic. Secondly, it expounds how, on an ontological level, melancholia stems from what Kristeva calls a nonsymbolizeable and non/pre-objectal Thing, which can variously be construed in terms of God, the (m)Other, or an indefinite not-yet-arrived, ideal other (person or world) which is 370 Comparative Drama regarded as always already and irretrievably lost. The latter line of inquiry is conducive to revealing the pivotal role the (m)Other figure plays in Barker’s work.

In order to delineate the features that testify to the melancholic strain in Barker, I begin with a brief discussion of necrophilia and the (m)Other in relation to Death, the One, and the Art of Theatre, and, to a lesser extent, Found in the Ground, The Last Supper, Early Hours of a Reviled Man, and Golgo. I then engage with the implications of this strain by focusing on a less examined play: 13 Objects. This in turn allows the explicit articulation of the two crucial but hitherto unrecognized melancholic dimensions in Barker, namely, the ethical and the ontological. In doing so, I shall concisely demonstrate that Barker’s melancholy, far from being confined to the pathological, serves as the existential-ontological condition of possibility of resistance to the strictures of the putative real/world and dominant sociopolitical discourse, as well as enhancing the imaginative (but not the imaginary) capacity of the character for conceiving other modes of existence, relationality, and language. Deriving my terms from Butler and Derrida, I seek to reveal the significant implications of these dimensions. A crucial caveat, however, needs underscoring at the very outset. Put concisely, my deployment of psychoanalytical categories (such as melancholia) as part of my theoretical premise is primarily a heuristic move and is ontologically oriented, rather than normative or pathologizing. This attitude stems particularly from the fact that Barker’s tragic characters and their mode of individuality and desire are neither naturalistic nor realistic—alternating between embodying a state of being and a mode of becoming, rather than featuring as characters in the conventional sense—and thus seldom follow the rules of naturalistic psychology.
0010-4078
365-405
Fakhrkonandeh, Alireza
01a37fed-90cb-4b0c-a72e-32276e951e5f
Fakhrkonandeh, Alireza
01a37fed-90cb-4b0c-a72e-32276e951e5f

Fakhrkonandeh, Alireza (2017) Melancholy ontology, evental ethics, and the lost (m)Other in Howard Barker’s Theatre of Catastrophe: an analysis of 13 objects. Comparative Drama, 50 (4), 365-405. (doi:10.1353/cdr.2016.0027).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Taking my point of departure from Sakellaridou’s perceptive discussion, the argument in this article is twofold. First, it intends to demonstrate that melancholia constitutes a premise of Barker’s dramatic world on three levels: the ontological, the existential, and the aesthetic. Secondly, it expounds how, on an ontological level, melancholia stems from what Kristeva calls a nonsymbolizeable and non/pre-objectal Thing, which can variously be construed in terms of God, the (m)Other, or an indefinite not-yet-arrived, ideal other (person or world) which is 370 Comparative Drama regarded as always already and irretrievably lost. The latter line of inquiry is conducive to revealing the pivotal role the (m)Other figure plays in Barker’s work.

In order to delineate the features that testify to the melancholic strain in Barker, I begin with a brief discussion of necrophilia and the (m)Other in relation to Death, the One, and the Art of Theatre, and, to a lesser extent, Found in the Ground, The Last Supper, Early Hours of a Reviled Man, and Golgo. I then engage with the implications of this strain by focusing on a less examined play: 13 Objects. This in turn allows the explicit articulation of the two crucial but hitherto unrecognized melancholic dimensions in Barker, namely, the ethical and the ontological. In doing so, I shall concisely demonstrate that Barker’s melancholy, far from being confined to the pathological, serves as the existential-ontological condition of possibility of resistance to the strictures of the putative real/world and dominant sociopolitical discourse, as well as enhancing the imaginative (but not the imaginary) capacity of the character for conceiving other modes of existence, relationality, and language. Deriving my terms from Butler and Derrida, I seek to reveal the significant implications of these dimensions. A crucial caveat, however, needs underscoring at the very outset. Put concisely, my deployment of psychoanalytical categories (such as melancholia) as part of my theoretical premise is primarily a heuristic move and is ontologically oriented, rather than normative or pathologizing. This attitude stems particularly from the fact that Barker’s tragic characters and their mode of individuality and desire are neither naturalistic nor realistic—alternating between embodying a state of being and a mode of becoming, rather than featuring as characters in the conventional sense—and thus seldom follow the rules of naturalistic psychology.

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Accepted/In Press date: 30 November 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 1 December 2016
Published date: 26 February 2017
Organisations: English

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Local EPrints ID: 410923
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/410923
ISSN: 0010-4078
PURE UUID: 7c60bc11-4901-408e-a613-2610367b550f

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Date deposited: 09 Jun 2017 16:32
Last modified: 27 Apr 2022 05:23

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