OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA  - Founded 24 January 1895

4:00 P.M.

October 8, 1998

Freedom & Authority
In the Theatre of the Absurd

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by Paul J. Little Ph.D.

Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library


Today I will discuss the following areas in the Theatre of the Absurd movement: 1) the identifiable characteristics of the movement; 2) presupposition regarding the nature of human existence and the universe; 3) the categories of moral and circumstantial freedom and authority in the form and substance of the Theatre of the Absurd.

Biography of Paul J. Little

Born August 6, 1928 in Wister, Oklahoma


  • Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, London, England. Certificated, 1979

  • Syracuse University, NY. Ph.D. 1969. University Teaching Fellowship

  • Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, Berkeley, CA. B.D. 1958

  • University of Glasgow, Scotland. Rotary Fdation Grad Fellowship, 1955

  • Linfield College, McMinnville, OR. B.A. 1953


U. S. Navy

Professional activities

  • Directed Trojan Women, Othello, Twelfth Night, Glass Menageries, Equus, many others

  • Acted Oedipus in Oedipus Rex, Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof

  • Tom in Glass Menagerie and others

  • Chairperson of theatre departments at Univ of Redlands and Linfield College

  • Established and administered The Gallery Players of Oregon

  • Founded and administered The Inland Empire Theatre

  • Formed and president of Camelot Productions

  • Musical producer for Redlands Community Music Association

  • Chair, Univ of Redlands Faculty Council and Academic Committee

  • Vice President, Southern California Educational Theatre Association

  • Professional Affiliations Past and Present

  • Danforth Foundation Teaching Award

  • Linfield College Prof of the Year

  • Who's Who in American Univ & Colleges

  • Outstanding Educators of America

  • Redlands Council of the Arts man of the Year

  • Syracuse Univ. Teaching Award

Community Affiliations

  • Redlands Rotary Club

  • First Baptist Church

  • Art Commission


The arts, golf, fishing, reading


  • Wife Jo Ann developed and leads seminars on "Parenting Your Parents Support Group."

  • Son, Brad, Broadway Musical Theater

  • Son, Jeffrey, V.P. for National Merit Scholarship Program

  • Daughter, Terry, V./P. in personnel for environmental firm, Earth Technology

Freedom & Authority In the Theatre of the Absurd

"What is the meaning? That is for you to decide." These lines from Eugene Ionesco’s, "The Bald Soprano" summarize our challenge while examining the illusive and enigmatic Avant-garde theatre. This movement will remain puzzling to those of us who must rely only on reason and rationality to penetrate its essence; but for those who are willing to accept the Theatre of the Absurd on its own terms, it may, at best, provide a paradoxically lucid awareness of the period immediately following the conclusion of World War II, or, at least, an exposure to a distinct approach to the theatre. In any event, the impact of this movement on theatre history justifies our attention for two reasons: first, it was the form of theatre to most radically break from the authority of Aristotle’s Poetics since William Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" and "Richard the Third" and Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre; and, secondly, it presupposed a concept of human existence and the universe which is antithetical to the fundamental theological assumptions of Western Christianity. For example, Samuel Beckett’s god, unlike Yahweh, was unjust. And that unjust deity made tragedy inevitable. Tragedy is only possible in the face of injustice.

Identifiable Characteristics of the Theatre of the Absurd

The Theatre of the Absurd can be identified in three ways: 1) as an attempt to establish a new form of theatre which radically altered traditional concepts of plot, conflict, characterization, action and aesthetic distance; 2) as an iconoclastic effort to reveal the inability of language and logic to cope with the apparent futility of the fundamental human condition; and 3) as an attempt to confront our human dilemma in a science-ridden, unjust world and to reveal this dilemma to others through a poetic and mystical experience made possible through avant-garde humor, contradictions, and a heightened form of theatre. In the word’s of one of its primary exponents, Eugene Ionesco, "An avant-garde man is like an enemy inside a city he is bent on destroying, against which he rebels; for like any system of government, an established form of expression is also a form of oppression. The avant-garde man is the opponent of an existing system." Impatience with the avant-garde is reflected in the no less an artist than W.H. Auden, "There is a certain kind of person who is so dominated by the desire to be loved for himself alone that he has constantly to test those around him by tiresome behavior; what he says and does must be admired, not because it is intrinsically admirable, but because it is his remark, his act. Does not this explain a good deal of avant-garde art?" Harold Rosenberg, the U.S. art critic called the avant-garde an addiction that could be appeased only "….by a revolution in permanence." In typical avant-garde exaggeration, the British painter Wyndam Lewis claimed, "We are the first men of a Future that has not materialized. We belong to a ‘great age’ that has not ‘come off.’ We moved too quickly for the world. We set too sharp a pace."

Presuppositions Regarding the Nature of Human Existence & the Universe

The playwrights in the Theatre of the Absurd all express similar presuppositions of human existence and the universe. Their attitudes reflect extreme pessimism, sometimes nihilistic, sometimes searching. They envision a world in which god is estranged from man. In Samuel Beckett’s play, "Endgame" the lead character, Hamm, after attempting to pray, can only say of God, "The bastard! He doesn’t exist!" The old Jewish proverb fits, "If God lived on earth, people would break his windows."

The material world complicates man’s existence by burdening him unnecessarily with false goals or unnecessary cares. Writing in "Notes and Counter Notes", Eugene Ionesco says, "For me, it is as though at every moment the actual world had completely lost is actuality. As though there was nothing there; as though there were no foundations for anything or as though it escaped us. Only one thing, however, is vividly present: the constant tearing of the veil of appearances; the constant destruction of everything in construction. Nothing holds together, everything falls apart."

The absolutes once established by religion, then by reason and logic, no longer exist. The universe of order and reason has been destroyed by its own child. Stephane Lupasco, in her "Logic in Contradiction" says, "Microphysics suggested that certain forms of energy shared simultaneously the contradictory properties of waves and particles; quantum physics gave it to be understood that the ‘logically’ impossible could and did happen; atomic physics produced evidence which implied that effects need have no cause, and that phenomena might create themselves out of nothing; while Einstein at one blow appeared to invalidate both Euclid and the rational conceptions of time and space. The exact significance of these various discoveries…is irrelevant; what matters here is the impression that they left upon the consciousness of the average intellectual or artist.

These discoveries made it obvious that whatever laws do govern the universe must be far more complex than those propounded by classical logic; therefore, man’s reliance on reason and logic is a vain attempt to hold to a false reality. The philosophical significance of materialism and determinism is undermined; the time honored methods of Aristotelian logic are to be suspect if not incompetent. Rational, logical man no longer has a clearly defined place in the universe; he has lost his orientation, his purpose. John Keats foreshadowed the condition in a letter to his bothers in 1818, "There is nothing stable in the world; uproar is our only music." Man has become a gratuitous creation of an impassive creator who exists in a world foreign to him, unable to be understood in terms he can comprehend. His existence is absurd. He senses that he has something to say but he doesn’t know what it is, how to find it or how to say it. He is frustrated in his attempt to communicate because language is an imperfect and indefinite tool. At the center of the universe and himself there is a void. Man reaches out, he struggles to disentangle himself from illusion. He waits. He recognizes the inevitability of death. These basic human experiences are the only valid knowledge we have of universal man. We can understand each other only in terms of these basic human experiences. Man never solves the fundamental dilemma of his absurdity, impotence and meaninglessness. Nietzsche described it this way, "In the consciousness of the truth he has perceived, man now sees everywhere only the awfulness of the absurdity of existence … and loathing seizes him."

The playwrights in the avant-garde Theatre of the Absurd attacked, resisted, or ignored all the traditional sources of authority -- political concepts, God, the church, social institutions, science, etc. – - which they asserted masked or belied the true human dilemma. Truth, as they found it and experienced it, was their only authority. No one and nothing could make a claim upon them. In return, the only request they made of us through their writing was that we "act", but they did not tell us that we "must" act. They did not become a source of authority themselves; instead, they revealed to us the emptiness and the meaninglessness of life, especially life lost by default as in Samuel Beckett’s "Krapps Last Tape." The existential view of man was clearly implied through out the Theatre of the Absurd, and with this view was the assertion of our complete freedom from all social authority. This theatre advocated artistic anarchy. To quote Samuel Beckett, "To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."

I now want to relate this movement in the theatre to the philosophical categories of freedom and authority. As I do so the dichotomy between form (the art of the theatre) and substance (the art of the drama) must be kept clear. Both are important areas of consideration and they are related in that, while form is traditionally governed by substance, in the Theatre of the Absurd the substance or content is the form. A play by Beckett is not about something. It is that something itself. Beckett calls it, "Direct expression" (a literary device Beckett borrowed from James Joyce).

I want first to deal with freedom and authority in the form of theatre. Then, with the larger issues of the freedoms and authorities implied in the substance of the Theatre of the Absurd.

The most essential freedom for the playwright is moral freedom, the ability to think and express what he ought. As an artist, he creates his own morality; he must be free to create according to his own concept of truth. Others may attempt to impose the authority of the morality of society, of the church, or politics upon him, but theirs is a false assumption of authority. It is the artist’s prerogative to abide by his own concept of morality by expressing the truth however he finds it and regardless of wherever he finds it.

Not only must the artist have moral freedom, but the artists in the Theatre of the Absurd need also to have a circumstantial freedom on at least two levels: 1) In the community of artistic endeavor which involves the authority of tradition and aesthetic philosophies, particularly the western canon of Aristotle’s, "Poetics"; and, 2) In the cultural community in which the playwright produces his work.

Circumstantial freedom in the area of artistic endeavor was especially important to the avant-garde playwrights who rebelled against the tradition of the realistic theatre. They equated realism in drama with a paper mache representation of truth which was as outdated as the eighteenth-century scientific rationalism which produced it. Eugene Ionesco put it this way. "Realism…falls short of reality. It shrinks it,…falsifies it; it does not take into account our basic truths and our fundamental obsessions; love, death, astonishment. This reality presents man in a reduced and estranged perspective. Truth is in our dreams, in the imagination."

The avant-garde writer claimed his circumstantial freedom in the realm of art to express his truth in a form which contradicted and opposed modern realism but also the ancient authority of Aristotle. Aristotle defined a story by ascribing to it a beginning, a middle, and an end. Plot, whether of primary or secondary importance, provided a framework for action in which the audience could think ahead to what was going to happen. The avant-garde playwright forms no plot. On the contrary, he uses story rather than plot. The playwright endeavored to express intuition in a poetic story rather than a linear plot believing, according to Edward Albee, "…conceptual and discursive thought impoverishes the ineffable fullness of the truth the artist apprehended." The technique he used to replace the plot was an unfolding of the truth in a sequence of interacting elements. The action, therefore, deviated radically from the authority of the traditional formalized "cause and affect" found in the "well made plays" of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Instead of thinking ahead to what will happen in a plot, the audience of the avant-garde drama was asked to reconstruct his world view in order to assimilate the world which the artist revealed to him.

The stage supplies the audience with a number of disjointed clues that they must fit into a meaningful pattern. In this manner the audience is forced to make a creative effort of their own, an effort at interpretation and integration. The time has been made to appear out of joint; the audience of the Theatre of the Absurd is being compelled to set it right, or, rather, by being made to see that the world has become absurd, in acknowledging that fact to take the first step in coming to terms with reality.

Time, space and action, the three unites set forth by Aristotle, and reshaped by Shakespeare, are all but ignored by the avant-garde writers. Action assumed radically different forms. Time and space were not so much disregarded as they were distorted to fit the subjective world which the playwright was attempting to reveal to the audience. It was a world turned up side down. Clocks strike twenty-nine; a tree buds overnight; a room shrinks in size; and a corps grows inside a grand piano. Like the modern painter who distorts reality to portray a metaphysical rather than a photographic truth, the avant-garde writer attempted to free his theatre from unnecessary adherence to the unity’s of time space and action in order to present man subjectively in the basic moral institutions of his existence. In this radical theatre the playwright reasserted his moral freedom to break from traditional forms in the theatre in order to establish a new form based upon a different awareness of what constitutes reality. Wallace Stevens touches on artists dealing with realism. " The genuine artist is never ‘true to life." He sees what is real, but not as we are normally aware of it. We do not go storming through life like actors in a play. Art is never real life." Though he was moving in a different direction with his arrogant idea, I cannot avoid the classic quote of Oscar Wilde, "I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for."

The playwright is also subject to the circumstantial limitations of the cultural community in which he produces his work. The theatre is the most vulnerable of the arts in this respect. With the possible exception of architecture, the theatre is the most social of the arts. It depends on factors beyond the will of any single individual or small group of individuals. The good news and the bad news is that it has no museums. A painting exists whether it is viewed or not. The theatre art must have an audience, an immediate audience, and to have that involves economic considerations, social ideologies, and the good health of a particular community.

Paris, the city of origin for the Theatre of the Absurd, provided an especially favorable cultural climate for the avant-garde writers, by assuring them freedom from the social demands of conformity. It was truly an international center. It magnetically attracted artists of all nationalities who were searching for freedom to work and to live non-conformist lives, unhampered by the need to look over their shoulder to see whether their neighbors were being shocked. There was something about the world of cafes and small hotels that made it possible to live easily and unmolested. This may just be one of the reasons that Paris became the locale of the avant-garde movement.

Equally important, the theatergoers in Paris were highly intelligent, receptive and thoughtful people. They were enthusiasts who were ready to proclaim the merits of original experimentation. Although staging and production values in the Paris theatre were often criticized as unprofessional and haphazard (especially by the English), the reality of an avid theater-going audience provided a degree of circumstantial freedom to the avant-garde writers that they could not posses in a country where the public was apathetic to serious theatre, conditioned to realistic drama, or where a very authoritative government discouraged experimentation. (Shades of Jessie Helms and the National Endowment for the Arts.)

It is interesting to note that the principle writers of the Theatre of the Absurd were not French. Samuel Beckett was Irish; Eugene Ionesco was Rumanian; and Arthur Adamov was an Armenian Russian. The only exception in the pantheon of Absurdist writers was Jean Genet, who was French. With him, the other writers, not only found in Paris the atmosphere that allowed them to experiment in freedom, but also found there the opportunities to get their work produced.

It must not be supposed, however, that the Theatre of the Absurd was so esoteric, that it was solely dependent on the receptiveness of the French theatergoing audience. In less than ten years from the first production of "Waiting for Godot", the plays of the leading avant-garde writers had been produced in countries throughout the world. The universality of appeal governs, to a great extent, the degree of circumstantial freedom which the theatre has. The Theatre of the Absurd had elements of universal appeal which enabled it to transcend national boundaries and cultural climates.

It should be noted that universal appeal is often a reflection of the times that produce a work of art. Paris in the late 1940’s was the center of a pessimistic existentialism brought about by the decadence of World War II.

Separate from freedom and authority in form are the issues of freedom and authority implied in the substance of the Theatre of the Absurd. Was Man, according to the playwright, free morally, metaphysically and circumstantially? If an avant-garde writer were asked whether or not man was morally free, more often than not he would have shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yes, but man usually ignores this freedom, and he can never be certain of what constitutes ‘ought’ because no one can tell him." Moral authority implies a higher being or ideal to which one conforms his will. The world of the Theatre of the Absurd was frustrated by the acknowledged absence of such authority. The two characters in Ionesco’s "The Bald Soprano", were driven to anguish because of the lack of authority. Samuel Beckett speaks at length about an immutable god, and, indeed, needs such a god to fulfill his tragic world view. Unlike Jean Paul Sartre, a French contemporary, Beckett’s characters are unable to ignore God. In the arena of social and political authority, the avant-garde writers were at best caustic and at worst cruel.

Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.

The playwrights of the avant-garde were actively concerned about man’s exercise of their metaphysical freedom, the freedom to will. This concern was easily visible in their works. Implicit in the plays of Theatre of the Absurd, was a message which encouraged people to act, to feel, to live life fully. Beckett’s play, "End Game", is interrupted, as the character, Hamm, breaks the fourth wall, pulls his chair toward the audience and pleads with them to leave: "My God, get out of here and love one another." When no one leaves, and the play goes on, with its miserable situation where love is absent, you can’t help but feel that Beckett has pulled a beautiful trick on his audience, showing dramatically how they refuse to exercise their will and at the same time, illustrating that he has no moral right to tell people what to do.

In Ionesco’s "Rhinoceros", the character, Berenger, is faced with the decision to maintain his human identity while the rest of the populace renounces theirs by joining the herd of Rhinos that has taken over the city of Paris. His insistence upon maintaining his own human identity illustrates his exercise of the freedom of will to will, to assert his metaphysical freedom. But Berenger is unique in this respect, an exception that proves the rule. In Samuel Beckett’s "Krapp’s Last Tape", we encounter a despicable old man who has withdrawn from life, a loser who has stopped exercising his powers to will and to live life actively. We find old Krapp, unable to relate to the present. He plays back tape recordings he made in his youth, in an attempt to regain the experience of living. But he has nothing more to record for the future because he has lost his will to will through default. "Nothing to say. Not even a squeak." I think I can safely surmise, that although man has the freedom to will, the writers of the avant-garde believed that most men failed to exercise it, or didn’t know how. The result is that they cease to really exist. To quote Beckett’s tramp Estragon in "Waiting for Godot", "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful." Parenthetically, many in the audience of these plays expressed similar judgments.

This concern over man’s failure to exercise his will to will was passionately expressed. The idea of such a freedom was in reality an anachronism which did not fit comfortably into the cosmology of the avant-garde writers. Metaphysical freedom, implies an orderly universe, controlled by the laws of cause and affect, in which a person can choose their course of action and, with some certainty, predict the consequences of that action. The power to will as one wills presupposes a world capable of being understood in terms of rational human action. The Theatre of the Absurd discouraged this kind of thinking, and expounded, instead, a "Chaplinesque" kind of science labeled by Ionesco as "Pataphysics". By definition, Ionesco’s psuedo-science lay beyond the ontological arguments of metaphysics and navigated totally into the intuitive realm.

According to this avant-garde, tongue in cheek, philosophical view, everything has equal value. Since it has equal value, every event determines a law, a very particular law – which is the very same thing as saying that there is no law, moral, scientific, spiritual or aesthetic.

When carried to its most insane implications, this Pataphysical doctrine was an extreme stage of philosophical anarchy; but it was an anarchy of a non-destructive nature, characterized on the one hand by an effervescence of gaiety, and on the other by a broad and universal tolerance.

There is neither time for nor justification for further examination of the nature of the anarchy expressed in the plays of this movement. The curriculum of the school of Pataphysics was expounded with intense irony in the true spirit of the Theatre of the Absurd, but it was valid only to the degree that it characterized the absolute freedom from rationality which the new tradition claimed. Absolute freedom defines nothing, it limits nothing. Man’s existence becomes so absurd that the phrase, "metaphysical freedom" became obsolete. Perhaps this understanding of the avant-garde writers’ world view will explain why their characters do not exercise their freedom to will as they will. Man, in their literature, does not know how or why to react to their freedom. In Beckett’s "End Game", the character Clov illustrates this dilemma. All through the play he resents having to serve his master Hamm, the blind tyrant. In the end, he resolves to leave. He prepares to walk out, and then, contradicts his will by making no overt move to actually leave. In Beckett’s, "Waiting for Godot", we find a similar stalemate at the ending of both of its acts. Valdimir say, "Well?…shall we go?" Estragon, his partner in waiting responds, "Yes, let’s go." In capital letters Samuel Beckett gives the following stage directions, THEY DO NOT MOVE. Their action of non action (the doctrine of wu-wei) is systematic of the schism which develops between man’s will and his action when he exists in a world of complete freedom which has no meaning to him.

Dealing with circumstantial freedom in the substance of the Theatre of the Absurd, is more difficult because these avant-garde playwrights were more preoccupied with the inner, subjective truth than the outer realities. They were concerned, however, with man’s preoccupation with his material world. Arthur Adamov in, "Le Ping Pong", deals with this theme, and showed how people allow themselves to be limited by their environment. He attempted to illustrate that when a machine, which is a means to an end, becomes an end to itself, the people who made that machine have perverted all the values of their lives that are genuine ends in themselves—their creative instinct, their capacity to live, and even their sense of being a part of a community. In this play we have a powerful image of the alienation of man through the worship of a false objective, the deification of the gadget, the monarchy of the machine. This type of play found its American predecessor in Elmer Rice’s American Drama, "The Adding Machine".

Even though Ionesco’s "Rhinoceros" was inspired by his experiences with Adolph Hitler’s influence, Ionesco was not so much concerned with the limitations upon circumstantial freedom that were imposed by society or a political authority as he was with man’s own limitation upon his circumstantial freedom.


If we compare the development of the Theatre of the Absurd to similar movements in other art forms, it was a belated one. The avant-garde theatre represented essentially the same search for new forms of expression that cubism, abstract-expressionism, Dadism, surrealism, atonal music, and the esoteric literary forms of James Joyce and Franz Kafka represented in the other arts. Whereas these trends took place during the first three decades of this century, the first plays in the tradition of the Theatre of the Absurd, (with a few exceptions, i.e. Jarry’s "Ubu Roi") did not appear until shortly after World War II. This delay can perhaps be attributed to the fact that the theatre depends upon a wider audience than other arts, and had to wait until these trends had time to filter into a wider consciousness. The very nature of the Theatre of the Absurd made its development as an art form difficult to follow. The artistic forms and techniques, which the avant-garde writer used were not entirely new or unprecedented. However, its novelty was in its unusual combination of older, even archaic, traditions.
The Theatre of the Absurd raised many pertinent questions in the areas of freedom and authority. Was its rejection of language and logic justified? Was this movement little more than a tangent in the trends of modern intellectual thought to in the quest of a new artistic canon? Was the Theatre of the Absurd an example of a trend in the arts similar to what motivated Copernicus, Einstein and the proponents of modern symbolic logic in their iconoclastic efforts to reject the canons that restricted their scientific and philosophic creativity? What kinds of cultural climates are necessary for quality theatre? Is universal appeal the major characteristic that qualifies art as "good"? Is it the artist’s prerogative to express revolutionary ideas, regardless of what effect they may have upon society? Are there any absolute values in art by which we can evaluate movements such as the Theatre of Absurd? Are there existent canons by which we can measure what is "good art" and are they valid for our time and for our audiences? Is it necessary for substance to dictate form in quality art? How valid is truth expressed through art?

The Theatre of the Absurd with its radicalness, and extremes raised questions that challenged artists as well as society and those who lived in it. It challenged us to examine our values, an examination that continued into the decade of the flower children. The movement was short lived. Does that infer that it was insignificant or meaningless? Which brings us back to the beginning. What was its meaning? That is for you to decide. Thank you.


Books and Articles

Aronson, B., Art Attack: A Short Cultural History of the Avant-garde (1998)

Bair, D., Samuel Beckett: A Biography (1978)

Barth, J., "The Literature of Exhaustion" Atlantic (Jan. 1967)

Bataille, C., The Absence of Myth 1994

Brueur, R., and Huber, W. eds. A Checklist of Beckett Criticisms (1996)

Camus, A., Saint Genet (1979)

Camus, A., The myth of Sisyphus (1942)

Coe, R., Eugene Ionesco: A Study of His Work (1968)

Danto, A., After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Role of History (1997)

Eliot, T., Tradition and the Individual (1946)

Esslin, Martin, The Theatre of the Absurd (1961)

Federman,R., and Fletcher, J., Samuel Beckett: His Works and His Critics (1970)

Foster, H., The Return of the Real: The Avant-garde and the End of the Century (1996)

Goldberg, R., Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present (1988)

Graham, R., The Last Soviet Avant-garde (1997)

Graver, D., The Aesthetics of Disturbance: Anti-Art in Avant-garde Drama (1995)

Hayman, R., Eugene Ionesco (1976)

Hoffer, E., The Passionate State of the Mind (1955)

Huges, G., A Companion to Modal Logic (1984)

Kramer, T., The Age of the Avant-garde (1984)

Lamont, R., and Friedman M. eds, The Two Faces of Ionesco (1978)

Lane, R., A Bundle of Broken Mirrors (1996)

Lazer, M., The Dream and the Play: Ionesco’s Theatrical Quest (1982)

Leiter, S., From Belasco to Brook: Representative Directors of the English Speaking Stage (1998)

Pronko, L., Eugene Ionesco (1965)

Rosenberg, H., Quality: Its Image (1973)

Shapir, M., The Aesthetic Experience of the Twentieth Century: The Avant-garde (1997)

Shattuck, R., The Banquet Years (1968)

Somol, R., Autonomy and Ideology: Positioning the Avant-garde in America (1997)

Watson, S., Strange Bedfellows: The First American Avant-garde (1991)

Weintraub, l., Art on the Edge and Over: Searching for Arts Meaning in Contemporary Society (1997)
Wollen, P., Raiding the Ice Box (1991)

Zweig, S., The world of Yesterday (1943)

Major Authors: Biography and Bibliography

Edward Albee

An American playwright, Albee was born in Washington, D.C. in 1928. His work is filled with clever, often satiric twists with an underlying terror. His most widely regarded work is Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolfe (1962). The Zoo Story (1959) was his first acclaimed play. He has been awarded three Pulitzer Prizes for A Delicate Balance (1967); Seascape (1975); Three Tall Women (1991). Other works by Albee include: The Sand Box (1961); The American Dream (1961); Tiny Alice (1964).

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett was born in Ireland in 1906 and died in 1989. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. His two major novels, Murphy (1938), and Molloy (1951) both portray how individuals are trapped by grotesques situations in apparently normal worlds. He is best know for his absurdist plays. His work is laden with a distressing humor and an overwhelming sense of suffering and loss. His works include: Dream of Fair to Middling Women (written in 1932, published in 1990); Watt (1944), Waiting for Godot (1952), Endgame (1957), From an Abandoned Work (1958), Happy Days (1961), First Love (1970), Six Residua (1978), Three Occasional Pieces (1982), What Where (1984), Worstward Ho! (1984)

Jean Genet

Genet was a French dramatist, born in 1910 and died in 1986. He was the leader of the avant-garde movement identified as the Theatre of Cruelty. He was put into prison and their he wrote a number of autobiographical narratives about crime and homosexuality. The most influential of these narratives was Our Lady of the Flowers (1943). In 1948 a number of French literary figures led by Albert Camus, intervened with the government and were successful in obtaining a pardon from a sentence of life imprisonment. His most important works are: Ondine (1939); The Apollo of Bellac (1942); The Maids (1947); The Thief’s Journal (1949); The Balcony (1956); The Blacks (1958); The Screens (1961); Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (1970); Prisoner of Love (1986).

Eugene Ionesco

Romanian born, Eugene Ionesco (1909) was the most overt comic in the avant-garde theatre movement. He uses his outrageous sense of humor to express the absurdity of bourgeois values and the futility of our human efforts in a universe ruled by chance. His major works include: The Bald Soprano (1950); The Lesson (1951); The Chairs (1952); The Killer (1958); Rhinoceros (1959); Exit the King (1962); Notes and Counter-Notes (1962); Hunger and Thirst (1964); Fragments of a Journal (1967); Present Past - Past Present (1968); Macbett (1972; The Man with the Suitcases (1975).

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