The Body and the Senses in Racine's Theatre

Carolyn Rosen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Until now, critics have not made full use of the perceptual awareness with which Racine endows his characters. This particular consciousness lends itself to a study inspired by phenomenology. Racine’s characters are fascinating because their language and action speak to the dramatist’s sophisticated portrayal of embodied sense experience. I show that Racine uses the senses in an innovative way, and prefiguring modern articulations of the body, sense experience and the world. My first chapter looks at what Racine’s characters see and how they experience love, especially the coup de foudre. This ‘love at first sight’ experience is profoundly destabilising, and significantly impacts upon the entire body. In my second chapter I examine vision which, for various reasons, has gone wrong through hallucination, deception, premonition, and divine vision. By treating these more unusual forms of vision, I show how Racine plays with and reworks understanding of the senses. In the third chapter I focus on the sense of touch in the lives of the characters.While one might presume that the stage conventions of Racine’s time proved severely restrictive and therefore made sight the most important of the senses, such is not the case. The undeniable influence of these conventions means that the characters feel their own experiences even more powerfully and use tactile language to describe sensations which do not necessarily stem from a literal, physical interaction.The fourth chapter examines hearing and listening. I address language in the plays, and how verbal communication between characters—as well as the anticipation or absence of that communication— involves their bodies and senses. The presence of the divine in Esther and Athalie corresponds to a major emphasis on hearing and listening, and this chapter also examines the music of these last two
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Harris, Joseph, Supervisor
Award date1 Mar 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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