Thursday, October 14, 2004

Re-excavating/Erasing the Self (Cherie)

Name: Peter Weiss
Date: 1964
Title: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat
as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

First of all I cannot possibly touch upon all that I want to say. The comments below represent but one potion of a much broader response.


The play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performied by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade truly reflects how art remains as a means to represent conflict. This play is more than simply the reenactment of the bourgeois society and its reflections of the French Revolution. It concentrates on the possibility of the transcendence of the self; a struggle still present in today’s postmodernistic views of consciousness. This play about a play is soaked in the melee of revolutionary politics. It is both ironic and humorous. The humanistic madness that engulfs the entire proceeding is highlighted by the comedic cartoon-faced choir. Their nursery rhyme songs denote political and historical observation as well as act as a touchstone of familiarity, while remaining untouchable. They invoke a universal voice while speaking to the madness to which they have succumbed. Like Foucault’s history, the play is something which has lost its original meaning, and is in need of re-excavation. The problem arises when one uses the tools of intellect to attempt to discern the haunting images that swim wildly about the stage.
Both Marat and the Marquis proclaim that the Revolution has failed. For the Marquis, a revolution is needed but one which liberates the individual from social and intellectual convention. His failure is a personal one, brought on by spiritual and intellectual defeat. The Marquis’ attempt to erase his own bias is what ultimately leads to the creation of a personal story, like a translator who tries to recreate an original text. This can be thought of as Foucault’s Don Quixote created by the history of that which he intended to embody, but in turn he is merely a refection of that which he originally sought. Even romance is subjected with his relationship with Corday. She is whipping him, by request, in order to erase his own inability to escape his intellectual failings. This failing is all too human, inevitable, and inescapable.
Marat feels that the Revolution is a casual effect of the rich bourgeois looking for profit. His romance is rapt in society; he even emulates an enraptured state with his quaking and passionate cries. He too is unable to escape the delusional desire of his imagined society. The priest is the only one who seems to capture the rapture and support Marat. He rouses a radical upheaval of events, even at one point turning to the audience and inciting them to take up his call to action. He is a vocal radical projection of Marat’s words which remain apart from the audience’s view. It seems a little Marxist in nature supporting Marat’s plan for equality, although individual freedom and creativity break that mold of dependency. Society must be purged of its corruptive classes. The whole idea of punishment both on the level of the personal and societal dictative courses seems to align with Focault’s attitudes. The perverse inmate is constantly beaten, highlighted, and finally castigated as an other throughout the play. All the characters seem to be of Foucault’s subjugated history, described in a way that is constantly rewritten, a tumultuous event that causes a viewer to remain in self doubt about the realty that they are witnessing. This is reinforced when the dates fly from in front of the modern audience. By watching the play about the past, history is turned in on itself. The postmodern view of history ending is blurred, for the comments can apply to today, yesterday, and the past. One loses oneself in analyzing the place and the cause of what the actors speak and beckon us to questioned what we know of history at all. Ultimately, this invokes the audience while imprisoning us in our own opinions. It is a voyeuristic event; we are watching the seen form inside the painting. From the lunatic to the animal, from the bourgeoisie to the common, from the neurotic to the symptomatic, this play has finally encouraged me to want to know more.

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