The Tragic Sense of Life, or We Are Left with Self : Theatrical Roots Re-Visited

The European Legacy 13 (3):277-285 (2008)
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Although the self is distinct from identity, this essay offers some insight into how identity is maintained—in the processes by which a self is formed, and through the actual content of the schemata that compose the self-concept. The author explains how in the 1920s utopian representations of a “new man” indicate the blank space where an aesthetic for the self can appear long before a theory of choice and commitment can exist in reality. Far from being a dramaturgical plan of action, such utopian representations disorient the elements of discourse in order to prepare the way for the appearance of something inconceivable or inexpressible within this discourse. The theatricality produced in this oppositional public sphere—like that of Max Reinhardt, Bertolt Brecht, Ernst Toller, and later by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus—can thus be read as expressions of unfulfilled desire resisting the limitations of the present system and breaking beyond with self-defined narratives not yet realized in our everyday lives.



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