Man at the end of history: Henrik Ibsen's works in the light of French post-Hegelian theoretical thought

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Man at the end of history: Henrik Ibsen's works in the light of French post-Hegelian theoretical thought

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Title: Man at the end of history: Henrik Ibsen's works in the light of French post-Hegelian theoretical thought
Author: May, Gergana
Abstract: The dissertation argues that from today's point of view, Ibsen's plays can be divided into two qualitatively different groups: the first one consisting of plays that respond to particular socio-historical moments, and as such yield a strong notion of progress and history in them, and a second one, which comprises plays capturing the notion of already living "at the end of history" and express the problems that arise for humanity in relation to that. The ultimate purpose of the endeavor is to capture and reveal those dynamics in Henrik Ibsen's thinking which, combined with his dramatic art, give his works its unique power and longevity.It argues that reading Henrik Ibsen's contemporary dramas through French post-Hegelian thought, specifically that of Alexandre Kojeve and Georges Bataille, provides the basis for a new periodization of his production. There is a major philosophical shift in the works in the sense that the first part can be read as a clear Hegelian progression (and this is valid for all the plays up to The Lady from the Sea): one play picks up the issues and ideas of the previous ones and builds gradually onto them, developing them further and taking them to a higher level of resolution. With Hedda Gabler Ibsen introduces an essentially different understanding of the human being, which can be equated to Georges Bataille's revision of the Hegelian system. Bataille claims that man at the end of history is not a happy satisfied human being, a "being-in-totality" that has acquired absolute knowledge, but that he is rather a frustrated individual left with an abundance of "unemployed negativity."Examining the shift in the works allows us to better understand the surge in popularity of Ibsen's plays around the world during the last two decades of the 20th century.The discussion also illuminates contemporary social phenomena like the "mid-life crisis" and the "quarter-life crisis": I discuss those in relation to the theatrical production of Ibsen's works today. The dissertation thus bridges between literary theory and criticism, theatrical performance and social studies in an attempt to offer a commentary on the present human condition.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 2006.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/10241

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