'There is nothing like a dead man to demand existence' (Antonin Artaud)

Twitchin, Mischa. 2023. 'There is nothing like a dead man to demand existence' (Antonin Artaud). In: Sharon Coleclough; Bethan Michael-Fox and Renske Visser, eds. Difficult Death, Dying and the Dead in Media and Culture. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 175-188. ISBN 9783031407314 [Book Section]

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The double sense of ‘challenging cultural representations of death’ is profoundly attested to by those who, identifying with their posthumous existence, write in memory of their own death. This chapter explores the testimony offered by—and to—such paradoxical enunciations as ‘I have died’ in the work of Antonin Artaud, as he addresses not only his experience of electro-shock treatment but also his sense of a social bewitchment that causes the death of those whom he famously described as having been ‘suicided by society’. What is ‘challenging’ in Artaud’s work is not simply literary but, in the profoundest sense, cultural. In a text entitled Alienation and Black Magic, for instance, he suggests that ‘those who live, live off the dead…’; that ‘contemporary medicine tries to create death artificially’; and that this forces a division between ‘being human’ and ‘becoming a manifest madman’. For Artaud, society is seen as a means for some to profit from the living death of others and the chapter addresses this in the light of contemporary analyses such as Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s Deaths of Despair and Byung-Chul Han’s critique of a ‘palliative society’.

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Theatre and Performance (TAP)


25 November 2023Published

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01 Dec 2023 14:12

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05 Dec 2023 15:38



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