chapter  17
9 Pages

Artaud’s anatomy

ByAllen S. Weiss

The mid-nineteenth century saw a confluence of epistemological and aesthetic transfigurations that would mark European art for nearly a century: the internalization of the sublime, the liberation from representation, the hybridization of genres, the fantasy of the total work of art, the destruction of aesthetic hierarchies, and the valorization of intoxication and synesthesia.1 Consequently, the epistemological function of the body as paradigm was radically transformed: from the early modernist fragmentations of the body (analytical Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, and the entry of psychopathological art into the mainstream of modernism) through the psychological and philosophical acceptance of the distorted and abnormal body image (as manifested in Nietzsche’s insistence of the soul as being something of the body; Freud’s psychoanalytic symptomatology and the metapsychology of dreams and the claim that all ego is body ego; Jungian archetypal analysis and the role of the symbolic body; Schilder’s study of body image; Minkowski’s investigations into the pathology of lived time; Dubuffet’s notion of art brut, and Merleau-Ponty’s studies of the phenomenology of the lived body). These epistemological and aesthetic conditions at the core of high modernism would find an apogee in Antonin Artaud’s “theatre of cruelty,” only to finally implode in the dystopia of his madness, giving way to those final works that would radically transform not only theatre but also poetry and poetics in general.