chapter  7
21 Pages

The Poetics of Pantomime and Circus, Part II

Octave Mirbeau
WithJennifer Forrest

Unlike Laforgue, Octave Mirbeau is not generally associated with either the acrobat or pantomime clown. Like Laforgue, however, he employed their techniques of semantic destabilization in order to mobilize an assault on the powerful quintet of social-cultural systems that would constitute his lifelong targets: the state, the military, the church, education, and the social elite. If, after 1882, he never wrote another work devoted to a circus acrobat, there is not a novel in his Œuvre that does not incorporate the funambule and the funambulesque into the tools of his romanesque repertoire. He moved from a faith in the power of reason and language to shine a reproving light on social inequities and crimes to the transgressive position of agency that funambulesque desemantization afforded him.