- Biographical and Critical Essay
- Tric trac du ciel
- "Cup and Ball"
- Correspondance avec Jacques Riviere; L'Ombilic des Limbes; Le Pese-Nerfs
- "Nerve Scales"
- Fragments d'un Journal d'Enfer
- "Fragments of a Diary from Hell"
- L'Ombilic des Limbes
- Le Pese-Nerfs
- "Textes Surrealistes"
- A la grande nuit, ou Le Bluff surrealiste
- L'Art et la Mort
- "Cinema et Realite"
- "Cinema and Reality"
- Le Moine
- Le Theatre et son double
- Heliogabale ou l'Anarchiste couronne
- D'un voyage au pays des Tarahumaras
- Les Tarahumaras
- "Le rite du peyotl chez les tarahumaras"
- Les Nouvelles Revelations de l'Etre
- "Cinq adaptations de textes anglais"
- Lettres de Rodez
- Suppots et suppliciations
- Artaud le Momo
- Van Gogh, le suicide de la societe
- Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu
- Writings by the Author
- Further Readings about the Author
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
- Tric Trac du ciel, illustrated by Elie Lascaux (Paris: Galerie Simon, 1923).
- L'Ombilic des Limbes (Paris: Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Française, 1925).
- Le Pèse-Nerfs (Paris, 1925); enlarged as Le Pèse-Nerfs, suivi des Fragments d'un Journal d'Enfer, Collection Critique, no. 5 (Marseilles: Cahiers du Sud, 1927).
- Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière (Paris: Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Française, 1927).
- A la grande nuit, ou Le Bluff surréaliste (Paris: Antonin Artaud, 1927).
- L'Art et la Mort (Paris: A l'Enseigne des Trois Magots/ Denoël, 1929).
- Le Théâtre Alfred Jarry et l'Hostilité Publique, by Artaud and Roger Vitrac (Paris, 1930).
- Le Moine de M. G. Lewis, raconté par Antonin Artaud (Paris: Denoël & Steele, 1931).
- Héliogabale ou L'Anarchiste couronné, illustrated by André Derain (Paris: Denoël & Steele, 1934).
- Les Nouvelles Révélations de l'Être, as Le Révélé (Paris: Denoël, 1937).
- Le Théâtre et son double (Paris: Gallimard, 1938); translated by Mary Caroline Richards as The Theater and Its Double (New York: Grove, 1958).
- Revolte contre la poésie (Paris, 1944).
- D'un voyage au pays des Tarahumaras, Collection L'Age d'Or, no. 9 (Paris: Editions Fontaine, 1945); enlarged as Les Tarahumaras (Décines, Isère: L'Arbalète, 1955; revised edition, Paris: Gallimard, 1974); translated by Helen Weaver as The Peyote Dance (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976).
- Lettres de Rodez (Paris: Editions G.L.M., 1946).
- Xylophone contre la grande presse et son petit public, by Artaud and Henri Pichette (Paris: Impremerie Davy, 1946).
- Artaud le Mômo (Paris: Bordas, 1947); translated by Clayton Eshleman and Norman Glass as Artaud the Momo (Santa Barbara, Cal.: Black Sparrow Press, 1976).
- Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société (Paris: K Editeur, 1947); translated as "Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society," in The Trembling Lamb: Artaud, Carl Solomon, Leroi Jones, edited by John Fles (New York: Phoenix Book Shop, 1959).
- Ci-gît, précédé de La Culture indienne (Paris: K Editeur, 1947).
- Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, émission radiophonique enregistrée le 28 novembre 1947 (Paris: K Editeur, 1948); translated by Guy Wernham as To Have Done with the Judgment of God: Words for Radio Dated Nov. 28, 1947 (San Francisco: Bern Porter, 1956).
- Lettre contre la Cabbale: Adressé à Jacques Prevel (Paris: Haumont, 1949).
- Supplément aux Lettres de Rodez, suivi de Coleridge le traitre (Paris: Editions G.L.M., 1949).
- Vie et Mort de Satan le Feu, suivi de Textes Mexicains pour un Nouveau Mythe, preface by Serge Berna (Paris: Editions Arcanes, 1953); translated by Alastair Hamilton and Victor Corti as The Death of Satan, and Other Mystical Writings (London: Calder & Boyars, 1974).
- Galapagos: Les Iles du bout du monde, illustrated by Max Ernst (Paris: Broder, 1955).
- OEuvres complètes: Antonin Artaud, edited by Paule Thévenin (Paris: Gallimard, 1956-)--includes volume 1, Préambule. Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière. L'Ombilic des limbes. Le Pèse-nerfs. L'Art et la mort. Textes et poèmes inédits (1956); revised and enlarged, in two volumes, as Préambule; Adresse au pape; Adresse au dalaï-lama; Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière; L'Ombilic des limbes; Le Pèse-nerfs; suivi des Fragments d'un journal d'enfer; L'Art et la mort; Premiers poèmes, 1913-1923; Premières proses; Tric trac du ciel; Bilboquet; Poèmes, 1924-1935 and Textes surréalistes; Lettres (1970; revised and enlarged, 1976; revised and enlarged, 1984); volume 2 (1961; revised and enlarged, 1980); volume 3, Scenari. A propos du cinéma. Lettres. Interviews (1961; revised and enlarged, 1978); volume 4, Le Théâtre et son double, Le Théâtre de Séraphin, Les Cenci (1964; revised and enlarged, 1978); volume 5, Autour du "Théâtre et son double" et des "Cenci" (1964; revised and enlarged, 1979); volume 6, Le Moine de Lewis raconté par Antonin Artaud (1966; revised and enlarged, 1982); volume 7, Héliogabale ou l'Anarchiste couronné; Les Nouvelles révélations de l'être (1967; revised and enlarged, 1982); volume 8, De "Quelques problèmes d'actualité" aux "Messages révolutionnaires"; Lettres du Mexique (1971; revised and enlarged, 1980); volume 9, Les Tarahumaras; Lettres de Rodez (1971; revised and enlarged, 1979); volume 10, Lettres écrites de Rodez: 1943-1944 (1974); volume 11, Lettres écrites de Rodez: 1945-1946 (1974); volume 12, Artaud le Mômo; Ci-gît; précédé de La Culture indienne (1974); volume 13, Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société; Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu; (suivi de) Le Théâtre de la cruauté; Lettres à propos de "Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu" (1974); volume 14, Suppôts et suppliciations, 2 parts (1978); volume 15, Cahiers de Rodez: Février-avril 1945 (1981); volume 16, Cahiers de Rodez: Mai-juin 1945 (1981); volume 17, Cahiers de Rodez: Juillet-août 1945 (1982); volume 18, Cahiers de Rodez: Septembre-novembre 1945 (1983); volume 19, Cahiers de Rodez: Décembre 1945-janvier 1946 (1984); volume 20, Cahiers de Rodez: Février-mars 1946 (1984); volume 21, Cahiers de Rodez: Avril-25 mai 1946 (1985); volume 22, Cahiers du retour à Paris: 26 mai-juillet 1946 (1986); volume 23, Cahiers du retour à Paris: Août-septembre 1946 (1987); volume 24, Cahiers du retour à Paris: Octobre-novembre 1946 (1988); volume 25, Cahiers du retour à Paris: Décembre 1946-janvier 1947 (1990); volume 26, Histoire vécue d'Artaud-Mômo: Tête-à-tête (1994).
- Autre chose que de l'enfant beau, illustrated by Pablo Picasso (Paris: Broder, 1957).
- Voici un endroit (Alès: Editions P.A.B., 1958).
- México, Spanish version, edited, with an introduction and notes, by Luis Cardoza y Aragón (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1962); enlarged French version published as Messages Révolutionnaires (Paris: Gallimard, 1979).
- Antonin Artaud: 1896-1948, dessins, Cahiers de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix, no. 37 (Sables d'Olonne, France: Musée de l'Abbaye Sainte-Croix, 1980).
- Antonin Artaud: Dessins (Paris: Editions du Centre Georges-Pompidou, 1987).
- L'Arve et l'aume; suivi de 24 lettres à Marc Barbezat (Décines Isère: L'Arbalète, 1989).
- Antonin Artaud: OEuvres sur papier (Marseilles: Musées de Marseille / Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1995).
- Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société, deluxe illustrated edition (Paris: Gallimard, 1990).
Editions in English
- Antonin Artaud Anthology, translated by Bernard Brechtman and others, edited by Jack Hirschman (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1965).
- Collected Works, 4 volumes, translated by Victor Corti (London: Calder & Boyars, 1968-1974)--volume 1 (1968) includes "Umbilical Limbo," "Nerve Scales," "Art and Death," and "Cup and Ball".
- The Cenci, translated by Simon Watson-Taylor (London: Calder & Boyars, 1969; New York: Grove, 1970).
- The Theater and Its Double: Essays, translated by Corti (London: Calder & Boyars, 1970).
- To Have Done with the Judgment of God, translated by Clayton Eshleman and Norman Glass (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1975).
- Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, translated by Helen Weaver, edited, with an introduction, by Susan Sontag (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976)--includes "Correspondence with Jacques Rivière," "Fragments of a Diary from Hell," and "Situation of the Flesh".
- Antonin Artaud: Four Texts, translations by Eshleman and Glass (Los Angeles: Panjandrum Books, 1982)--comprises "To Georges Le Breton (Draft of a Letter)," "Artaud the Mômo," "To Have Done with the Judgment of God," and "The Theater of Cruelty and an Open Letter to the Reverend Father Laval".
- Artaud on Theatre, translated and edited by Claude Schumacher (London: Methuen Drama, 1989; revised and enlarged, edited and translated by Schumacher and Brian Singleton, 2001).
- Watchfiends and Rack Screams: Works from the Final Period, edited and translated by Eshleman and Bernard Bador (Boston: Exact Change, 1995).
- Ventre Brûlé ou La Mère Folle, Paris, Théâtre Alfred Jarry, 1 June 1927.
- Les Cenci, adaptation of Percy Bysshe Shelley's The Cenci, Paris, Théâtre de la Cruauté, May 1935.
- La Coquille et le Clergyman, motion picture, 1927.
SELECTED PERIODICAL PUBLICATIONS--UNCOLLECTED
- "Lettre (à Adamov) et Fragments," L'Arche, 16 (June 1946): 38-40.
- "J'ai depuis trente ans une chose capitale à dire," Combat (1 November 1947): 2.
- "La magre à la condition la même et magre à l'inconditionné," 84, no. 1 (1947): 1-3.
- "Les malades et les médecins," Quatre Vents, no. 8 (1947).
- "Paris-Varsovie," 84, nos. 3-4 (1948): 54-56; revised as "Je hais et abjecte en lâche," 84, nos. 8-9 (1949): 278-328.
- "Les pensées ne passent pas de l'une à l'autre . . . ," "Les êtres ne sortent pas dans le jour extérieur . . . ," "Le corps est le corps . . . ," "J'étais vivant . . . ," "L'endroit où l'on souffre . . . ," "Lettre à Paule Thévenin du 1er septembre 1947," "L'être a des états innombrables . . . ," "Je n'admets pas . . . ," "Il n'y a pas de plein . . . ," "Et si je parle de remise en cause du jugement dernier . . . ," "C'est moi / l'Homme . . . ," "Où vais-je à l'infini? . . . ," "En guise de / choix . . . ," "Il fait très froid . . . ," "Oui il y a encore . . . ," "Ce matin . . . ," "Il faudra que je retrouve . . . ," "Y-a temimazza," "Faites le mal . . . ," "Il n'est pas possible à la fin . . . ," "La question qui / compte . . . ," "J'arme mon bras droit . . . ," 84, nos. 5-6 (1948).
- "Le visage humain," Mercure de France, no. 1017 (May 1948): 98-102.
- "Main d'ouvrier et Main de singe," "Lettres (à Maurice Saillet)," "Lettre (à Adrienne Monnier)," "Il fallait d'abord avoir envie de vivre," K, nos. 1-2 (June 1948): 3-5, 108-114, 115-117, 128-131.
- "Aliéner l'acteur," "Le Théâtre et la science," L'Arbalète, no. 13 (Summer 1948): 7-14.
- "C'est qu'un jour . . . ," "Je suis l'inerte . . . ," "L'erreur est dans le fait . . . ," 84, nos. 10-11 (1949): 404-408.
- "Je n'ai jamais rien étudié . . . ," "Dépendre corps; l'amour unique," 84, no. 16 (December 1950): 11-18, 20.
- "L'éperon malicieux," "Le double cheval," Botteghe Oscure, no. 8 (1952): 25-30.
- "Trois textes (écrits pour être lus à la galerie Pierre)," Le Disque Vert, no. 4 (November-December 1953): 37-49.
- "Chiote à l'esprit," Tel Quel, no. 3 (Autumn 1960): 3-8.
- "Ainsi donc la question," Tel Quel, no. 30 (Summer 1967): 12-22.
- "Il y a dans la magie . . . ," Tel Quel, no. 35 (Autumn 1968): 90-95.
- "L'amour est un arbre . . . ," Tel Quel, no. 39 (Autumn 1969).
- "Notes pour une 'Lettre aux Balinais,'" Tel Quel, no. 46 (Summer 1971): 10-34.
- "Dix ans que le langage est parti . . . ," Luna-Park, no. 5 (1979): 7-10.
- "Moi, je vous dis . . . ," Obsidiane, no. 5 (1979): 8-10.
- "La force du Mexique," Nouvelle Revue Française, no. 345 (August 1982): 3-7.
- "Lorsque je tire sur un être . . . ," TXT, no. 28 (1991): 5-9.
- "Lettres (à Maurice Bataille d'octobre 1947)," France-Asie, no. 30 (September 1948): 1049-1058.
- Lettres d'Antonin Artaud à Jean-Louis Barrault, edited, with a preface, by Paul Arnold and notes by André Frank (Paris: Bordas, 1952).
- "Lettre (à Pierre Loeb du 23 avril 1947)," Les Lettres nouvelles, no. 6 (April 1958): 481-486.
- "Lettre (à Albert Camus)," Nouvelle Revue Française, no. 89 (May 1960): 1012-1020.
- "Lettre (à Roger Karl du 1er mars 1939)," Lettre ouverte, no. 2 (March 1961): 59-60.
- "Onze lettres à Anaïs Nin," Tel Quel, no. 20 (Winter 1964): 3-11.
- "Lettres inédites (de 1930 à 1933)," Opus International, no. 3 (1967): 62-69.
- Lettres à Génica Athanasiou: Précédées de deux poèmes à elle dédiés (Paris: Gallimard, 1969).
- "La dernière lettre de Rodez," Magazine littéraire, no. 95 (December 1974): 51.
- Lettres à Anie Besnard, edited by Françoise Buisson (Paris: Le Nouveau Commerce, 1977).
- Nouveaux écrits de Rodez: Lettres au docteur Ferdière, 1943-1946, et autres textes inédits, suivis de six lettres à Marie Dubuc, 1935-1937, preface by Gaston Ferdière, présentation et notes by Pierre Chaleix (Paris: Gallimard, 1977).
- "Lettres à Janine," Nouvelle Revue Française, nos. 316-317 (May-June 1979): 177-191, 167-179.
- "Lettres (à Pierre Bordas)," Nouvelle Revue Française, no. 364 (May 1983): 170-188.
- "Lettres (à A. Adamov et J. Lemarchand)," Nouvelle Revue Française, no. 413 (June 1987): 112-119.
When Antonin Artaud died of cancer in 1948 at the age of fifty-one, he was a marginal figure in the French artistic world. A minor motion-picture actor and founder of two short-lived avant-garde theater companies, Artaud was scarcely known as a writer other than to those familiar with the Surrealist movement. Since his death he has become one of the cultural legends of the twentieth century and is remembered for having changed the course of Western theater. His greatest significance, however, lies in the displacement effected by his poetic writing of commonly held ideas about literature. All his literary production, and especially his late writing, severely disrupts the limits of the modernist artistic and conceptual tradition.
The significance of Artaud's writings was long largely unrecognized, mostly because his name has been entangled with the clichés of literary madman and poète maudit (accursed poet). Ill-informed opinion still confines him to the role of last in a great lineage of failed, self-destructive geniuses. His violently blasphemous later writings were banned, and Suppôts et suppliciations (Henchmen and Torturings), his summative late work, went unpublished for thirty years, appearing only in 1978 as volume fourteen (two parts) of OEuvres complètes: Antonin Artaud (Complete Works: Antonin Artaud, 1956-). In the 1960s his notoriety spread beyond France with anglophone countercultural movements feting him as a drug user, internee, and genius schizophrenic who had seen with unparalleled vision through the straitjackets of rationality and decried man's imprisonment within socially constituted norms. At the same time he was notably championed by several important post-structuralist thinkers (including Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva ), who applauded the challenges his work posed to the fundamental categories underpinning the orthodoxies of Western thought. Along with Georges Bataille and Friedrich Nietzsche he was cited as one of a select band whose writings were saturated in a radical and corrosive negativity that modernism could not contain. His work was said to necessitate a rethinking of the linguistic subject. And certainly all Artaud's work is a response to the idea that "language speaks us"--that human beings use a preexisting linguistic structure, one that serves as a repository of cultural meaning and thus determines the social world and individual identity. Discussion of Artaud's work has since been inseparable from its interrogation by post-structuralist theory.
Artaud is most widely known for his seminal collection of essays, Le Théâtre et son double (1938; translated as The Theater and its Double, 1958), which sets out a vision of a theatrical practice revelatory of primal universal forces--a "Théâtre de la cruauté" (Theatre of Cruelty), as he called it. Artaud's dramaturgical writings are generally recognized as among the most fertile and vigorous influences on twentieth-century Western theater, which he condemns for its reliance on the text and on conventions of plot and character. He is also remembered, though to a lesser extent, for a piece that originally appeared in Nouvelle Revue Française in 1924, Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière (1927; translated as "Correspondence with Jacques Rivière," 1968), one of the definitive modernist discussions of a favored topic, literature and silence.
But Artaud wrote many other texts in a variety of modes, including letters, notes, essays, prose, and prose poetry. His writing resists categorization into traditional genres and fuses modes; the most prominent forms are the open-letter-essay-poem of Artaud's early years and the poetic-fantastic-metaphysical-diatribe of his later years, both highly rhetoricized. Artaud frequently incorporated letters into his works, destabilizing the relationship of art to life. The most striking thing about his writing is its difficulty. It is violent, imprecatory, and short-winded. His poetic texts are typically only a page or so long. His writing is so unusually fragmented that it is generally artificial to differentiate texts intended for publication from jottings originally meant only for his own reading.
There are three phases to Artaud's literary trajectory. The first phase, during which his texts focus on an existential and expressive void, opens on the strong note of Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière and runs to L'Art et la Mort (1929; translated as "Art and Death," 1968), his final Surrealist collection. The second phase, in which his poetics are transferred to other modes, runs until 1937 and includes his theatrical and cinematic writings, and texts inscribed within ancient, primitive, and esoteric culture--Héliogabale ou L'Anarchiste couronné (Helogabalus, or The Crowned Anarchist, 1934), D'un voyage au pays des Tarahumaras (1945; translated as The Peyote Dance, 1976), and Les Nouvelles Révélations de l'Être (New Revelations of Being, 1937), respectively. Here his sense of void generates an increasingly desperate and metaphysical slant. In 1937 Artaud was committed to a mental asylum; he was released in 1946. With his transfer to Rodez asylum in 1943 he returned gradually to writing. The third phase, only fully underway in 1945, includes the Rodez writings and the crescendo of texts of the final years of his life back in Paris, most notably Artaud le Mômo (1947; translated as Artaud the Momo, 1976), Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, émission radiophonique enregistrée le 28 novembre 1947 (1948; translated as To Have Done with the Judgment of God: Words for Radio Dated Nov. 28, 1947, 1956), and Suppôts et suppliciations. With the conflagration of these final-phase texts there is a change in mood and register. They are of a different order of conceptual and linguistic extravagance. While his early writing is challenging, his late masterpieces operate in the penumbra of delirium.
Throughout his career Artaud's energies were channeled in the direction of what Camille Dumoulié, a leading Artaud critic, refers to in his 1996 monograph as "automythography." That is not to say Artaud's work is autobiographical. His texts are concerned with a self-writing; however, it is of the first importance to appreciate that his efforts are directed not toward the successful narration of an inner and outer life but toward writing an imagined and more authentic form of self. Initially, this dream of a pure and wholly undetermined self was conducted by way of the aspiration for an all-saying language. By the end of his life Artaud added to this aspiration the idea of an entirely new form of bodily existence and a radically different metaphysical and ontological order. As becomes clear to the reader of the late writings, Artaud's texts are an ongoing recasting of a life story in epic terms, in which the writing is to function not as a representation of what is, as a retelling of Artaud's self, but instead as a magically creative performance eliciting a reconstituted self and universe, which Artaud describes as perpetually on the point of emergence. Artaud's writing is thus situated in a domain particular to him, an interzone between the theorizing of a speculative conceptual system and the writing of a univers imaginaire (imaginary universe). Rightly renowned for its extraordinary difficulty, the fantasist late writing, which enthusiastically details God's possession of Artaud's digestive and sexual organs, has been dismissed as rant wallowing in an infantile defiling of the sacred with the abject. But attention given since the 1990s to its signifying processes reveals a trenchant, muscular writing crafting a mythic world; this automythographic space is convulsed as Artaud dismantles and reconstructs its constitutent myths. But this very process of structuration and dissolution is part of Artaud's carnavalesque rewritings of key identity notions and in fact contributes much to its real and surprising aesthetic power.
Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud was born in Marseilles on 4 September 1896 at 15 rue Jardin des Plantes (he later claimed, for abstruse numerological reasons, that it was number 4). His mother, Euphrasie Nalpas, came from the Turkish port of Smyrna (now Izmir), and his father, Antoine-Roi Artaud, a wealthy shipping agent, was frequently absent. The extent of Artaud's identification with the feminine is apparent in the androgynous redistributed anatomies of his late texts and drawings, and in the claims of his final writing to be a matrix that gives birth to a new Artaud. More than one commentator has noted the pronounced Oedipal dimension to Artaud's relations with his mother, whose maiden name he temporarily adopted during his prolonged period of mental instability. His two grandmothers, who were sisters, were strongly present in his childhood and are steady figures in an otherwise fluctuating group that figures prominently in his late productions, his "filles de cour à naître" (daughters of the heart to be born). Incest and transgressive genealogies are integral to Artaud's texts.
Of the givens of his état civil (family background), it is Artaud's name that plays the most important role in his late poetry. The influence of the names Marie and Joseph may be found in the Christic posturing of the poetry, in his claim to be the archetypal victim of the Christian ideological order, and in his parallel counterclaim to be androgynous and the progenitor of a new spiritual elite of "filles de cour." More generally, his writing may be interpreted as an attempt to accede to the status of self-naming (auto-nomy). The adopted name "Antonin" is doubly diminutive: it is a derivative of "Antoine," and it distinguishes him from his father, Antoine-Roi (a name of great Oedipal resonance). The great drive in his late writing to assume the name Antonin Artaud without thereby losing his autonomy is part of a larger campaign to escape from the linguistic and biological orders. His best-known late work, Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, collected in volume thirteen of the OEuvres complètes (1974), closes on a postscript that asks "Qui suis-je / D'où viens-je / Je suis Antonin Artaud / et que je le dise / comme je sais le dire / immédiatement / vous verrez / mon corps actuel / voler en éclats / et se ramasser / sous dix milles aspects / notoires" (Who am I? / Where do I come from? / I am Antonin Artaud / and let me say this / as I know how to say it / immediately / you will see / my present body / burst into fragments / and remake itself / in ten thousand manifest aspects). After his release from Rodez he felt able to name himself Artaud le Mômo (Marseilles slang for idiot, derived from Momos, the Greek God of raillery): Artaud the self-named idiot-god of a parodic order.
But the intellectual sophistries and sophistication of Artaud's later writing and its challenges to Western thought are worlds apart from his staid upbringing. His was a traditional French Catholic bourgeois childhood, overshadowed by suffering and death, two keynotes of his work. At the age of four he contracted meningitis and subsequently suffered from neuralgia and stammering. He was one of only three to survive out of nine infants, and when he was seven was profoundly affected by the death of a seven-month-old baby sister, Germaine; in his late poetry he claims her as his spiritual offspring and her name becomes associated with ideas of existential and metaphysical regeneration.
Artaud's school career was unexceptional. He began writing derivative verse at the age of fourteen (using the decadent pseudonym Louis des Attides), but at the age of seventeen, suffering from neurasthenia (depression), he destroyed his writings and withdrew from the baccalauréat (school-leaving exam). In 1915 he was sent to a sanatorium outside Marseilles. This visit was the first of a series of private "rest cures." Some biographers see these as having less to do with mental disorders than with quieting the troublesome son of a good family. Apart from a brief interruption in 1916 when Artaud was conscripted into the army--he was discharged after two months, allegedly for sleepwalking--he spent most of the next five years in sanatoriums, in what was the most stable period of his adult life. He spent his time drawing and reading (particularly the works of Arthur Rimbaud , Charles Baudelaire , and Edgar Allan Poe ). In 1919 he was prescribed laudanum, precipitating a lifelong addiction to opiates and other drugs. He later claimed--in, for example, "Lettre a Monsieur le Législateur de la loi sur les stupéfiants," published in 1925 in L'Ombilic des Limbes (translated as "Umbilical Limbo," 1968)--that society had no right to persecute "non-voluptuous" drug users, for only the individual could gauge his own pain and weigh this discomfort against that of narcotic dependency. Artaud made repeated, brutal attempts at unsupervised detoxification. These early stays in sanatoriums foreshadow the nine-year internment of 1937-1946, and his final two years spent under partial supervision in a convalescence clinic. All in all more than half (sixteen years) of Artaud's adult life was spent in some type of medical institution.
In 1920 the family arranged for the twenty-three-year-old Artaud to go to Paris to attempt an artistic, literary, and theatrical career. He was referred to a leading psychotherapist, Dr. Toulouse, who asked him to edit and write reviews for his artistic and scientific journal, Demain. Initially Artaud lodged with the Toulouse family, but he soon began an itinerant life, moving between hotel rooms and friends, sometimes with nowhere to stay. This mode of existence continued until his committal in 1937.
The beginnings to Artaud's writing career were slow and in no way suggested the arrival of a revolutionary figure on the literary scene. He published undistinguished symbolist-inspired poems, and rather better essays, in half a dozen reviews. His first collection of poetry, Tric trac du ciel (Backgammon of Heaven), appeared in 1923. The poems are in rhyming stanzas, and Artaud excluded this volume from his plan for his OEuvres complètes, though it was in fact included in the second edition of volume one (1970; revised and enlarged, 1976; revised and enlarged again, 1984) In 1923 he also produced Bilboquet (translated as "Cup and Ball," 1968), a slim review in pamphlet form that appeared twice and was financed and wholly written by himself; these texts were also collected in the 1970 edition of volume one of his OEuvres Complètes. They stand midway between the traditional rhyming stanzas of the earlier poems and the self-analytic poetic fragments developed to the fullness of their power during his alliance with Surrealism.
Over these early years of the 1920s Artaud concentrated his energies on acting. His cousin Louis Nalpas, a successful motion-picture producer, had advised him to acquire stage experience before trying a movie career. For four years Artaud performed with influential adventurous theater companies, first with Lugné-Poë's Théâtre de l'OEuvre and then with Charles Dullin's L'Atelier, for which he also designed costumes and scenery. His roles were frequently minor, but he attracted attention, and displeasure, by his idiosyncratic gestural style of acting: with L'Atelier, for example, Artaud played Charlemagne and in rehearsals insisted on crawling into the throne room. In the course of his work with L'Atelier, Artaud met a striking Romanian actress called Génica Athanasiou. Artaud himself was fiercely handsome, with strong prominent cheekbones, deep-set dark eyes, luxuriant swept-back hair, and, reputedly, lips stained purple by laudanum. A passionate sexual liaison developed, although Athanasiou was bewildered by Artaud's letters, which analyzed his nervous condition, suffering, and dependency on drugs. She broke off the liaison after six years in 1927. Artaud continued to write to her until 1940, and he tried to locate her after his release from Rodez. His Lettres à Génica Athanasiou were published posthumously, in 1969. Artaud is not known to have had any other major sexual relationship.
Over this period André Breton 's Surrealist movement was superseding Dadaism. Artaud joined the circle of the painter André Masson and through this connection began attending Breton's gatherings in 1924. In a letter to Madame Toulouse written in October of that year, collected in the supplement to the revised edition of volume one of OEuvres complètes, Artaud explains that whereas for others Surrealism was a willed, aestheticized vision, for him it was "le système du monde et de la pensée que je me suis faite depuis toujours"(the worldview and way of thinking I devised for myself from the beginning). He rapidly became a leading figure in Breton's movement, and in 1925 he was nominated director of the Bureau de recherches surréalistes. This prominent role allowed him to introduce his own urgent concerns into the movement. Stephen Barber, in his 1993 biography of Artaud, suggests that his expulsion from the Surrealist movement in 1926 (at the same time as Phillipe Soupault, the co-pioneer of automatic writing) was in large part a result of Breton's disquiet at the guiding force Artaud had become.
Artaud's fiercely provocative, polemical, and iconoclastic writing cut against the rarefied complacency of early Surrealist literary activity. Whereas, prior to its politicization in the late 1920s, the emphasis in Surrealist writing was on a creative liberation from rational orthodoxy and a joyous release of energies, Artaud's writing was one of violent socioreligious invective and channeled hatred against everything he saw as a barrier to freedom. The third edition of the standard-bearing review La Révolution Surréaliste (The Surrealist Revolution, 1925), edited by Artaud, includes open letters of virulent insult to the Pope, the rectors of European universities, and the head doctors of asylums (the last two written by Michel Leiris and Robert Desnos respectively, but closely overseen by Artaud). There are two further open letters, to the Dalai Lama and the "Ecoles du Bouddha" (Schools of Buddha), awash with a neophytic admiration for Eastern culture. In versions rewritten in 1946 to head his projected OEuvres complètes the invective is as intense as in the early letters against the Western instruments of state; by the end of Artaud's career, culturally specific anger had become generalized existential wrath. These revised versions of the letters were included in the 1970 edition of volume one of the OEuvres complètes.
Artaud's greatest discontent was with discursive structures. His first-phase writings, including Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière; L'Ombilic des Limbes; Le Pèse-Nerfs (1925; translated as "Nerve Scales," 1968); and Fragments d'un Journal d'Enfer (1926; translated as "Fragments of a Diary from Hell," 1976), are powerful accounts of the silences, misdirections, and stallings of linguistic consciousness. Artaud's ideas overlapped extensively with those of fellow poets concurrently elaborating Surrealist philosophies of language: all shared the belief that language is desiccated of suppleness, exactitude, and vital dynamism by rational modes of thought; if it could circumvent these modes, they argued, poetry would acquire so radical and magical a creative potential that it might change reality (an idea Artaud later pushed to unusual extremes). But Artaud's writing diverged sharply from that of canonical Surrealist practitioners in its quickened sense of imminent existential dissolution and the imaginative, self-analytical theorizings this condition provoked. Whereas the poetry of Breton and Louis Aragon celebrates the split within the linguistic subject (the possibility of being aware of one's own consciousness) as introducing a rejuvenating strangeness into experience, Artaud's texts repeatedly rework his sense of linguistic breakdown and self-alienation.
Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière, an exchange of letters slightly predating his involvement with Breton's movement, explores Artaud's acute sense of derealization within discourse. Rivière, the editor of the vanguard Nouvelle Revue Française, had turned down some poetry by Artaud. A brief correspondence ensued, and Artaud's five self-analytic letters neglect all questions of poetic practice to reenact the passion of thought endeavoring to think itself. He suggests that an authentic articulation of thought remains tantalizingly beyond his grasp, yet he insists on the value of his writing as testimony to an "effondrement central de l'âme, à une espèce d'érosion, essentielle à la fois et fugace de la pensée" (a central collapse of the soul, to a sort of essential yet fleeting erosion of thought). While such a linguistic and existential vacuum is difficult to discern in his insipid verse offerings, Artaud's exposition of intellectual and linguistic crisis is of a dazzling brilliance and stands as a defining event in the writing of negativity.
Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière presents Artaud's sense of the disjuncture between language and reality as both exemplary of and exceeding a generalized human condition of alienation within discourse. Practitioners of modern literature such as Tristan Tzara or Breton abdicate to language through aesthetic choice; Artaud does so out of necessity, for "Cette inapplication à l'objet qui caractérise la littérature est chez moi une inapplication à la vie. Je puis dire, moi, vraiment, que je ne suis pas au monde, et ce n'est pas une simple attitude d'esprit" (This failure to attend to the object which characterizes literature is in my case a failure to attend to life. I can truly say that I am not in the world, and this is no mere mental stance). He is dispossessed of his thought by an essential flaw in the processes of reflexive, verbalized consciousness, "quelque chose qui détruit ma pensée . . . un quelque chose de furtif qui m'enlève les mots que j'ai trouvés" (something which destroys my thought . . . a furtive something which robs me of the words which I have found). For Artaud, literature is thus not an aesthetic issue but an ontological and existential one. The authorship and proprietorship of utterance is threatened by the very processes in which it originates. So when Artaud poses the question of the literary existence of his thought, and whether he should content himself with his literary scraps--"raclures de l'âme" (scrapings of the soul) and "déchets de moi-même" (detritus of myself), as he puts it in Le Pèse-Nerfs--he is asking whether he should accept existence and write with the flawed grain of subjecthood or whether he should pour his energies into writing against fundamental existential givens and against language. He opts, famously, for writing against.
This discovery that language is necessarily alienating and self-presence impossible in linguistic consciousness--that it speaks him as much as he speaks it--set Artaud's intellectual trajectory. It deflected his energies away from the sustained production of literary texts to a fragmented speculation on a linguistic and existential crisis perceived as the primordial fact of the human condition. L'Ombilic des Limbes and Le Pèse-Nerfs , Artaud's first significant poetic collections, worry away at this question of language and being. Published within a week of one another, these twin works coincide with Artaud's burst of writing for La Révolution Surréaliste. These much-neglected texts, which were collected with other works as "Textes Surréalistes" (Surrealist Texts) in the supplement to volume one of OEuvres complètes, are crucial to a proper understanding of Artaud. Their fragmentary prose texts are jagged shards of artfully frustrated writing barely sustained beyond the status of literary debris.
L'Ombilic des Limbes opens with a brief manifesto declaring the ideal inseparability of text and self and railing against the violence done to the experiential world in its passage into consciousness. This opening sets the tone, and there follow four prose analyses of bodily pain and hiatuses in consciousness (these texts are derived from Artaud's experience of narcotic dependency, but this origin is incidental to their presentation of suffering as a metaphysical phenomenon), three brief verse texts, three polemical open letters (two relating to narcotics), and a Surrealist one-act play of apocalyptic violence and sexuality. Le Pèse-Nerfs is composed of eight pairs of texts, a first of one or two paragraphs and a second of a few sentences, and two more-sustained pieces of two and three pages, including the well-known antiliterary manifesto "Toute l'écriture est de la cochonnerie" (All Writing Is Pigshit). Self-analytic studies of pain, of his sense of the insubstantiality of consciousness, and of ontological thinness are counterbalanced by oracular texts invoking a state of plenitude and intense yet fleeting mental pleasure. The collection closes with three letters to Athanasiou, venting Artaud's exasperation at the impossibility of communication. In a second edition of 1927, Le Pèse-Nerfs was supplemented by Fragments d'un Journal d'Enfer, a bleak homage to Rimbaud composed of texts of greater poetic condensation that directly address the reader with commentary on the failures of consciousness and language.
Artaud's corrosive early writing denies reflexive consciousness its traditional ontological preeminence, promoting in its place his sense of painful fleshly existence. Thus, Fragments d'un Journal d'Enfer, however bleak an exposé of the dispersal of the subject, affirms the possibility of a new, bodily-rooted consciousness that would allow for a recuperation of the self and a new order of truth. Similarly, Artaud presents his acute awareness of alienation within language as potentially generative of greater existential authenticity. Together the two lead to the idea of an "esprit dans la chair" (mind in the flesh), as Artaud put it in "Position de la Chair" (translated as "Situation of the Flesh," 1976), a piece first published in Nouvelle Revue Française (December 1925) and collected in OEuvres complètes as part of "Textes Surréalistes." In the "Textes Surréalistes" Artaud writes repeatedly of a form of rudimentary awareness of the functioning, sentient body-in-the- world, an awareness occurring at a level prior to linguistic self-consciousness and in which the subject would be wholly self-present. However much Artaud's first phase of writing might be concerned with an existential and ontological void and denaturation of experience by discourse, this awareness is revelatory of the loss of an originary, prediscursive self-presence. The idea of a homeopathic inner archaeology of suffering and dissolution, offering a way out of a flawed creation, is common to all his subsequent writing.
Artaud's early texts are clearly already situated on the limits of literature. But however direct and apparently guileless a voice these texts articulate they are sophisticated literary constructs. The reiterated claim to write beyond the boundaries of literature and against the limits of language is a rhetoric of antirhetoric. Pretending to reveal Artaud's naked being uncloaked by literary artifice, it actually enacts his self-analyses. Failures and frustrations are things of which they speak, not qualities of the texts themselves. Fragmentation is managed. Artaud's texts are the space for a frenzied mise-en-scène of a rhetoric of failure and suffering, for a metaphysical performance and not a simple presentation of experience.
Artaud was expelled from the Surrealist group in November 1926. The Surrealists could not approve of his acting in commercial movies (Artaud's main yet meager source of income) and had hampered his plans for a Théâtre Alfred Jarry (named after the French avant-garde writer whose cycle of Ubu plays subvert realistic theater and traditional forms of sense). Artaud, together with the poet Roger Vitrac (already expelled by the Surrealists in 1924) and the essayist Raymond Aron, had envisioned an existentially charged theatrical activity in which dreamscapes and oneiric thought modes would be realized on stage. This vision was a direct transposition of Surrealist ideas to the theater, but for Breton's movement, now embarking on its alliance with communism, all theater was capitalist. These frictions culminated in Au grand jour (In the Light of Day, 1927), a pamphlet by Breton, Aragon, Paul Eluard , Benjamin Péret, and Pierre Unik proclaiming the adherence of the movement to the French Communist Party and denouncing Artaud for his so-called counterrevolutionary obsession with negativity and his supposedly imminent conversion to Catholicism. Artaud's acrimonious retort, privately printed as A la grande nuit, ou Le Bluff surréaliste (In the Dark of Night, or the Surrealist Bluff, 1927) and collected with "Textes Surréalistes" in the supplement to the revised volume one of the OEuvres complètes, while arguing strongly for the merits of Surrealist textual practice, condemns the movement for contenting itself with being a merely literary experiment when sufficient daring would have made it a regenerative vision of reality.
At stake is a different conception of the true Surrealist revolution. For Breton and his followers, artistic revolution was a prelude to sociopolitical revolution. For Artaud revolution was fundamentally spiritual, and sociopolitical change was wholly irrelevant, for it left the individual's constitution as a culturally constituted, Judeo-Christian, post-Enlightenment humanist subject--as Western man--untouched. All Artaud's writing is informed by the idea of what he calls in A la grande nuit, ou Le Bluff surréaliste an "incendie à la base de toute réalité" (a conflagration at the base of all reality) that would "désaxer le fondement actuel des choses" (unbalance the fundamental state of things). Revolution, to be worthy of the name, had to be a quasi-epiphanic inner experience of a radical mental and existential shift: "Que chaque homme ne veuille rien considérer au delà de sa sensibilité profonde, de son moi intime, voilà pour moi le point de vue de la Révolution intégrale" (For me the stance of the integral Revolution is that each individual should consider nothing outside his deep sensibility, his intimate self). As in Correspondance avec Jacques Rivière, the arena of true artistic and intellectual revolutionary endeavor is ontological.
Artaud's dismissal from the Surrealist movement coincided with the eclipse of his poetic energies. A third slim volume of poetic prose writings, L'Art et la Mort , appeared in 1929. A post hoc collection of texts written during his adherence, it is less powerful and bold in its ideas than the earlier collections and follows more closely Surrealist practice in its tone of fractured lyricism. But the period from 1927 to 1931 was one of fervent experimentation for Artaud, who attempted to translate the principles developed during his alliance with Surrealism to theater and cinema. Although now generally seen as a secondary part of his career, Artaud's period of cinematic activity ran from 1924 to 1935. He worked as actor, critic, and scriptwriter, and he sought to produce motion-picture sets and to direct. Despite his fierce attachment to the cinematic avant- garde, financial imperatives led him to act in all sorts of movies, increasingly of dubious quality, in secondary and frequently minor parts. He is remembered for his exaggeratedly gestural acting, best displayed in his roles as Marat in Abel Gance's Napoléon (1927) and as the monk Jean Massieu in Carl Theodor Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928; released in the United States as The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928). Artaud's significant contribution to cinema is his scenario for La Coquille et le Clergyman (The Seashell and the Clergyman, 1927), one of the key pieces of Surrealist cinema (Artaud wrote more than a dozen scenarios, but only this one was filmed). The director, Germaine Dulac, minimized the involvement of Artaud, who had wanted to codirect and act. Despite Artaud's dissatisfaction with the motion picture (he enlisted the Surrealists to disrupt the premiere), by 1932 he was claiming that such definitive Surrealist works as Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1928) and Jean Cocteau 's Le Sang d'un Poète (The Blood of a Poet, 1932) had borrowed heavily from the hallucinatory and displacement techniques used in La Coquille et le Clergyman.
Although nowhere fully elaborated into a theory of cinema, Artaud's ideas are clearly inscribed within his search for a Surrealist poetic able to rewrite in renewed epic terms the modern condition of man. His letters and fragmentary scenarios evoke an art form of isolated, jarring elements somehow capable of acting directly on the bodies of those attending the performance (his late poetry has an identical aspiration). His scenarios work the brute stuff of psychic drives and mythic thought-modes--eroticism, cruelty, perversity, and violence. But unlike other Surrealist cinema, Artaud's scenarios seek not to convey dreamscapes but to expose the modalities of psychic drives, enacting "la vérité sombre de l'esprit" (the dark truth of the mind), as he puts it in "Cinéma et Realité" (translated as "Cinema and Reality," 1976), a piece originally published in Nouvelle Revue Française in 1927 and collected in volume three (1961; revised and enlarged, 1978) of the OEuvres complètes. Artaud writes in this piece of cinema as the only truly poetic and revolutionary art form, alone capable of expressing the deep grammar of the mind. For Artaud, motion pictures might transpose "la sensation physique de la vie pure . . . les convulsions et les sursauts d'une réalité qui semble se détruire elle-même avec une ironie où l'on entend crier les extrémités de l'esprit" (the physical sensation of pure life . . . the convulsions and the starts of a reality which seems to destroy itself with an irony in which you hear the extremities of the mind screaming).
Artaud sought to disarticulate cinematic language to the point where it shed intellectually recognizable syntax. Hermetic image sequences would operate as a "langage inorganique qui émeut l'esprit par osmose" (an inorganic language operating on the mind by osmosis), with the interplay of disarticulated images generating "une synthèse objective plus pénétrante que n'importe quelle abstraction" (an objective synthesis of greater penetration than any abstraction). In "Cinéma et réalité" he even speaks of an antirepresentational language of archaic forcefulness that would "faire oublier l'essence même du langage" (make us forget the very essence of language). Artaud's opposition to spoken cinema is thus invincible. But this nonlinguistic language of naked, primal images is ultimately tainted in the same way as the language of text and speech. All languages proceed by the dissection of a continuum, and by 1932 Artaud realized that cinema could not convey the flows of thought and its desire-driven grammar, only halt flux according to an altered syntax. As he writes in a piece published in a 1933 issue of Les Cahiers Jaunes and collected in volume three of the OEuvres complètes, "La Viellesse précoce du Cinéma" (translated as "The Premature Old Age of the Cinema," 1976), even filmic languages offer "une prise de possession fragmentaire. . . . stratifiée et glacée . . . un monde de vibrations clos" (a stratified, frozen and fragmentary laying hold. . . . a world of circumscribed vibrations) unable to "restitue les Mythes de l'homme et de la vie" (reinstate the Myths of man and life).
Concurrent with these cinematic projects were Artaud's projects for the Théâtre Alfred Jarry , relaunched in 1927 (after abortive attempts in 1925 and 1926). Here, too, he sought to put the basic thought-modes and framework of existence on stage. The company suffered from financial difficulties, no rehearsals, increasingly stormy relations between its codirectors, and the uniform incomprehension of critics and the public. After four programs--the first consisting of three pieces by the three codirectors (Artaud had hoped for a collaborative manifesto-play), including Artaud's musical comedy sketch, Ventre Brûlé ou La Mère Folle (Burnt Belly, or, The Insane Mother), the second program comprising the screening of a movie by Vsevolod Pudovkin that had been banned by the French government and the deliberately derisive performance of part of a Paul Claudel play, the third a production of a play by the Swedish dramatist August Strindberg , and the last of a play by Vitrac--the company collapsed in recriminations in 1929. Its performances were marked by disruptions by Breton and his followers, which Artaud addressed in the pamphlet--co-authored with Vitrac--Le Théâtre Alfred Jarry et l'Hostilité Publique (The Alfred Jarry Theater and Public Hostility, 1930), first published in Nouvelle Revue française in 1926 and collected in volume two (1961; revised and enlarged, 1980) of the OEuvres complètes. Yet, through its destructive humor and emphasis on provocative, experimental performance, the Théâtre Alfred Jarry amounted to a Dada-Surrealist theater of the purest tradition. It was a theater of poets, and, although not explicitly theorized, the moving spirit was the annihilation of a Western dramaturgy of illusion in favor of a theater described by Artaud in his pamphlet as effecting "la formation d'une réalité, l'irruption inédite d'un monde . . . ce monde tangent au réel" (the formation of a reality, the original bursting forth of a world . . . this world which is tangential to the real). It sought to give the performance space over to the pure brutality of dream and hallucination. There were no sets, and Artaud planned to use loudspeakers during performance intervals, he writes in Le Théâtre Alfred Jarry et l'Hostilité Publique, to intensify the atmosphere "jusqu'à l'obsession" (to the point of obsession). Like his mental cinema, the theater as conceived by Artaud was to operate directly on each audience member's body and to reveal the primal metaphysical underpinnings of existence. For instance, in a piece collected in volume two of the OEuvres complètes, "La Pierre Philosophale" (The Philosopher's Stone), an actor on stage silently mouths the words spoken offstage, revealing the actor's body as a "double" of a real presence existing beyond it.
But the Théâtre Alfred Jarry was a failure. Approaching thirty-five, Artaud was nearly destitute and increasingly struggling with his drug addiction. He was isolated from any artistic groups, had abandoned poetry, and his attempts to produce a theater and cinema of poetic archetype had met with incomprehension. In a state of acute nervous depression Artaud began to study ancient civilizations and esoteric systems and accepted a commission for a free translation of Matthew Gregory Lewis 's English Gothic novel The Monk (1796). While following closely Léon de Wailly's 1840 literal translation into French, Artaud's Le Moine (1931) accentuates the violent dichotomy of good and evil structuring the novel to the point of axiological dissolution, although as he explained to Jean Paulhan in a letter of 13 January 1931, he still had to restrain his "mouvement personnel qui m'aurait induit à introduire dans toutes ces histoires une anarchie intellectuelle qui les auraient rendues imperméables au Grand Public" (natural inclination that would have induced me to inject into all these stories an intellectual anarchy that would have rendered them impenetrable to the General Public). Artaud was in part ashamed at this derivative production, implicitly admitting it in a letter of late November 1930 to be "très inférieur à mes autres ouvres" (far inferior to my other works). He nevertheless included it in the list he drew up for his OEuvres complètes, considering it to be his work, neither a translation nor an adaptation, as he explained in his preface, but "une sorte de 'copie' en français du texte original" (a sort of "copy" in French of the original text). In a letter dated 21 March 1931, written to Paulhan shortly after the publication of Le Moine, Artaud insists that the work is significant since "c'est la première fois que je fais d'une traite un gros livre destiné au grand public" (it is the first time I write straight off a big book for the general public). It is true that the comparatively traditional Le Moine is something of an oddity in Artaud's body of work. His other novel, Héliogabale, is more intellectually adventurous and complex, and his later works supposedly written for a general public, Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société (1947; translated as "Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society," 1959) and Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, remain highly abstruse. Le Moine simply lacks the generic, stylistic, and intellectual originality of his better writings.
In August 1931 Artaud saw a performance of Balinese dance theater, which evokes supernatural and metaphysical forces through gestural performance. He saw in this performative mode a move away from the representation inherent to textual theater toward an orchestrated spontaneity, and he grafted this idea of nonrepresentationality onto his earlier theatrical and filmic principles. The result was the series of articles that became Le Théâtre et son double. Initially Artaud hoped to receive the backing of the prestigious Nouvelle Revue Française, but an overhasty press announcement scuttled this arrangement. Nevertheless, through the support of its editor, Jean Paulhan (one of his staunchest friends), Artaud published several articles in Nouvelle Revue Française and gave public readings of his tracts at the Sorbonne. In 1936 he started organizing his material for collection, supplementing it with further texts and open letters. Le Théâtre et son double appeared in 1938, when Artaud had already been confined to an asylum for a year.
Artaud offers no program of practical precepts for his Theatre of Cruelty but an inspired, unclear vision. It is in fact an impossible vision, seeking to jump clear outside the logic of representation and signifying processes. The stage is conceived as a space of metaphysical immediacy where the unsayable nature of things is realized in virtual form. At the heart of this vision is the idea of a nonrepresentational language of physical and spatial configuration. By means of a controlled anarchy and dissonance Artaudian theater is to decompose traditional signifying patterns, and by the rigorous deployment of multiple planes of sound, light, materiality, and movement, to generate a new world of signs hewn out of the very stuff of life. The Theatre of Cruelty is thus wholly removed from the realm of narrative and psychology. It is, as were the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece, positioned at an intersection of myth, metaphysics, and magic.
In the dozen essays, open letters, and manifestos of Le Théâtre et son double, Artaud develops his ideas through extended metaphors. As in all of his 1930s writings, he employs a range of esoteric and mythic lexicons as discursive frameworks for exploring his sense of alienation from reality. The opening essay, "Le théâtre et la peste" ("The Theater and the Plague"), deploys plague imagery both to evoke the violence and viscerality of Artaudian performance and also to suggest the devastating conceptual transformations a Theatre of Cruelty would unleash, resulting (on a virtual level), like the plague, in either the death or fortification of Western man. A secondary automythographic line of reading identifies Artaud with both poetry and plague: he becomes the scapegoat of Western culture, effecting its magical recovery of true meaning at the cost of his own existence. Taking its lesson from the "poésie dans l'espace" (spatialized poetry) of Lucas van Leyden's painting Lot and His Daughters (circa 1520), "La mise en scène et la métaphysique" (translated as "Mise en scène and Metaphysics") calls for a theater that would replace spoken language with a "langage physique . . . matériel et solide" (physical . . . material, solid language). "Le Théâtre alchimique" ("The Alchemical Theater") develops this idea of a regeneration of language, suggesting that as the alchemist seeks to dissolve base matter to reconstitute it as gold, so true theater seeks the purification of base human language.
Behind these explicit images and narratives is a structuring Gnostic sensibility. The Gnostic heresy tells how the world is the work of an evil Demiurge, with the true ontological principle remaining unrevealed in a fundamentally vitiated creation. Cruelty, Artaud's key notion, does not refer to "sadisme" (sadism) and "sang" (blood) but to the far larger idea of implacable necessities eternally operating at all levels of a reality of conflicting, primordial cosmic forces. Human existence is literally cruelty incarnate, fundamentally marked by self-division. Le Théâtre et son double responds by prescribing a dramatic orgy of self-alienation. A Theatre of Cruelty would vicariously live out the warring principles of the ontological order of cruelty, thus reuniting them in an apocalyptic dissolution of being. The function of theater is to be a virtual, apocalyptic enactment of the dynamics of metaphysical rupture.
Given Artaud's emphasis on a physical language spontaneously enacting anarchic forces, the Theatre of Cruelty cannot be textual, and "En finir avec les chefs-d'ouvres" (translated as "An End to Masterpieces") rejects the entire language-based Western dramatic tradition. More radically, "Lettres sur le langage" ("Letters on Language") evokes a "Parole d'avant les mots" (Speech prior to words). This speech is not an ineffable original language but a signifying process in which poetry, no longer confined to words, is realized in the flesh of the performer (thus reworking Artaud's idea of an "esprit dans la chair"). In the famous image of his preface the actor's body is to become a dynamic hieroglyph burning with metaphysical forces. Human existence is no longer represented on stage: instead its prime metaphysical energies would be made real and organized in bodies and space. Such ideas assault the primacy of language, a cornerstone of the Western tradition. Derrida, in "Le Théâtre de la cruauté et la clôture de la représentation" (The Theater of Cruelty and the Closure of Representation), an essay included in his L'Ecriture et la différence (Writing and Difference, 1967), identified this desired shift away from representation toward generative performance as the most subversive aspect of Artaud's theories. In this context it is worth remembering that the French critic Maurice Blanchot , in an article collected in his 1969 book L'Entretien infini (The Infinite Conversation), suggested Artaud's theories of a Theatre of Cruelty were primarily an exposition of a larger ars poetica. This desire to exceed representation reappears in his late poetry, which claims to dissolve the order of reality and re-create the body of the poet from the primal flux of words.
While working on Le Théâtre et son double, Artaud wrote Héliogabale ou l'Anarchiste couronné , collected in volume seven (1967; revised and enlarged, 1982) of the OEuvres complètes. This fiction retells the story of the anarchic, violent reign of Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus--known as Heliogabalus or Elogabalus--the third-century A.D. Roman emperor and priest of the sun god Baal, in a discursive framework drawn from alchemy and ancient solar religions. Despite extensive historical and mythological research, Artaud's account is primarily a poetic projection of the view that had so heavily marked Le Théâtre et son double, of existence as a metaphysical drama. Key moments in Héliogabale's career, particularly his coronation and death, are excessively dramatized, and some critics see Héliogabale as the best approximation (certainly during this period) of the ideals of Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty.
Artaud's text delights in detailing the sexual and social anarchy unleashed by Héliogabale. He disguises himself as a woman and lends his orifices to sexual penetration; dignitaries are appointed for the size of their members; and for his triumphal arrival in Rome, Héliogabale walks backward, his buttocks exposed, being symbolically sodomized by the city. Artaud departs from historical sources, however, in interpreting such transgressions as obeying a larger ordering ideal. The prose of Héliogabale is remarkable for its incantatory cadence, hypnotic litanies, and complex rhythmic patterning. The deep respiration of this formalized prose is what enables the text to integrate great fluxes of transgressive disorder and to present Héliogabale's activity as a "désordre qui n'est que l'apparition d'une idée métaphysique et supérieure de l'ordre" (disorder which is only the apparition of a superior, metaphysical idea of order). Héliogabale operates on a virtual level, directing a carnival that would reunify the warring principles of Male and Female. The torrential flows of blood, sperm, and feces circulating at Héliogabale's birth and brutal death illustrate how he issues from, embodies, and returns to an anarchic unity transcending life. He is both masculine and feminine, anarchist and emperor, and more importantly both victim and celebrant of a dramatized ritual of dissolution, transgression, and dispersal. As such, some see Héliogabale as a prophetic announcement of the course Artaud was to follow.
Héliogabale extends a process at work in Artaud's 1920s writings, in which he had developed parallels and fusions between his writing self and historical figures such as Abelard and Uccello. In a letter of 20 August 1934 to Paulhan, collected in volume seven of OEuvres complètes, Artaud explicitly identified himself with the title character of Héliogabale, described in that work as a "mythomane dans le sens littéral . . . il voit les mythes qui sont, et . . . il les applique" (mythomaniac in the literal sense of the term . . . he sees the myths that exist and . . . he applies them). More significantly, the oralization of Artaud's prose, which dominates his later writing, is a technique of incorporating and identifying with his text and his textual alter ego. Increasingly Artaud sought to embody his metaphysics in textual alter egos, and Héliogabale projects this concern with self-writing onto a larger and more complex plane.
In 1935 Artaud staged the only production of his Theatre of Cruelty. He adapted Percy Bysshe Shelley 's tragedy The Cenci (1819), a tale of a sixteenth-century Italian count (played by Artaud in his version) who rapes his daughter before being gruesomely murdered by his servants; in Artaud's version the daughter is tortured and executed for her part in the murder. Artaud sought to depersonalize the tale, making the characters forces of violence incarnate. Incest in particular (already present in Héliogabale and in the inspirational painting Lot and His Daughters) was an anarchic metaphysical force for Artaud, annihilating the differential systems that constitute human culture and returning it to a primary state of chaos. Nevertheless, he lamented that as a textual play Les Cenci was far removed from his projected theater of metaphysically-laden gesture; in a commentary on the play, collected in volume five (1964; revised and enlarged, 1979) of the OEuvres complètes, Artaud describes the difference as that between a tempest and its recorded sound. Furthermore, financial imperatives obliged Artaud to distribute parts to wealthy amateurs. Despite his efforts, the production closed amid hostile reviews after seventeen performances. This performance was Artaud's last involvement with a theatrical production.
Resolved against all further collaborative ventures, Artaud came to conceive of his bodily self as the site for his Theatre of Cruelty. In 1936 he left France for Mexico; before leaving Paris he wrote Paulhan in a 19 July 1935 letter--collected in volume eight (1971; revised and enlarged, 1980) of the OEuvres complètes--that he hoped that in Mexico "le théâtre que j'imagine, que je contiens peut-être, s'exprime directement" (the theater that I imagine, and perhaps carry within me, is directly expressed). This trip was the first of three that Artaud made in 1936 and 1937. Artaud had been preoccupied with esoteric and primitive modes of knowledge since his rupture with the Surrealists (who shared this enthusiasm). An obsessive interest in apocalyptic prophecy now rapidly distanced his from any shared view of reality. In Mexico he hoped to discover a society alive to pre-Conquest myths, and his presence was to inflame these revolutionary forces. This hope was disappointed, but he gave a series of public lectures later collected in a Spanish version as México (1962) and subsequently published in French as Messages révolutionnaires (Revolutionary Messages), first in 1971 as part of volume eight of the OEuvres complètes and then separately in 1979. While varying widely in content, his lectures enjoined the overthrow of European values, identified with a stifling humanism and rationalism, and a return to a culture of magical primitivism. The original French manuscripts were lost, and these texts only exist as translations back from Spanish, which lack the verve of Artaud's best writing.
Artaud's second purpose was to visit the Tarahumara, a North Mexican Indian tribe whose culture he saw as exemplary of the organic primitivism necessary for a return to the metaphysical sources of existence. His writings about his visit, originally published as D'un voyage au pays des Tarahumaras and later enlarged with the shorter title Les Tarahumaras , tell the story of a frustrated odyssey in a landscape alive with forces. Written mostly in 1937, first published in 1945 and enlarged in 1955, this work was collected in volume nine (1971; revised and enlarged, 1979) of the OEuvres complètes. Artaud presents Tarahumara culture as a perpetual reading and writing of a metaphysical dialogue with nature. They treat the landscape and their movement as inscriptions, answering the semiotic forms of their environment with engraved signs. The opposition of cosmic forces, already disclosed in the landscape, is heightened by the "arbres brûlés volontairement en forme de croix, ou en forme d'êtres, et souvent ces êtres sont doublés et ils se font face, comme pour manifester la dualité essentielle des choses" (trees deliberately burnt into the form of crosses or the form of beings, and often these beings are doubled and face to face, as though to portray the essential duality of things). The landscape enacts "une histoire d'enfantement dans la guerre, une histoire de genèse et de chaos" (a story of childbearing in war, a story of genesis and chaos). Artaud depicts the Sierra Tarahumara as the concrete manifestation of a Theatre of Cruelty.
Until the end of his life, Artaud reworked his Tarahumara texts in the light of his fluctuating religious and metaphysical dispositions. The earlier texts interpret the Mexican rites as part of a universal esotericism (linking Atlantis to the Holy Grail to the Rosicrucians to the Bible). Those written in the early 1940s develop a mystical Christian interpretation. A text written just before Artaud's death describes the Tarahumara rite as an act of provocation against a perverse God and homeopathic passage through abjection, resulting in the emergence of scarred yet autonomous man. The most important text is "Le rite du peyotl chez les tarahumaras" (The Peyote Ritual of the Tarahumaras), which describes rituals involving the ingestion of a powerful hallucinogenic, peyote. Artaud expected this peyote rite to amount to a rebirth (others of his generation, such as Aldous Huxley and Henri Michaux , wrote of the existential qualities of hallucinogens). He describes how the dancers' feet trace the letters S, U, and J (the first three letters of the French word for subject) suggesting imminent self-presence. But the inscriptions end on the letters J and what Artaud calls a sad E (the two letters of the French for I). As in the 1920s texts, he is caught within the linguistically constituted self.
On his return to France, Artaud traveled to Brussels to give a public lecture and to meet the family of Cecile Schramme, to whom he had improbably become engaged. He had met her in 1935 in a detoxification clinic, and after his return from Mexico a volatile affair had developed. His lecture, like previous public performances of his Theatre of Cruelty articles and a famous final performance at the Vieux-Colombier in 1947, became a confrontation with his audience. Each time Artaud used his text as a starting point for an improvised performance of the subject in hand. The marriage was called off, and Artaud returned to Paris where, over the summer months, he was effectively reduced to mendicancy.
After the failure of the controlled self-dissolution in the rites of the Theatre of Cruelty and of the Tarahumara Indians, the tempo of Artaud's work quickened. In a state of eerie lucidity engendered by the advanced disintegration of his sense of reality Artaud wrote Les Nouvelles Révélations de l'Être , a short, fragmented oracular text of anguished self-interrogation. First published in 1937, the work was collected in volume seven of the OEuvres complètes. Explicitly it is an apocalyptic reading of the Tarot cards, announcing a fiery destruction of the world in which Male will triumph over Female, overseen by a king who is mistaken by all for a madman. Through this vision Artaud announces a cognitive epiphany coinciding with the paroxysmal destruction of self and world. The text does not bear Artaud's name but is signed "Le Revelé" (The Revealed), thus implicitly claiming that in revealing "Being," the author has become "Being." But such a claim can only be made at the price of losing any separate, nameable identity. (Artaud was concerned during this period that the Tarahumara texts, likewise, should appear anonymously, although in fact only the article that appeared in Nouvelle Revue Française in 1937 was unsigned). And despite the hammering, visionary refrain--"Qu'est-ce que cela veut dire? / Cela veut dire que. . . ." (What does that mean / That means that. . . . )--which punctuates nearly every page of the text, the closing words of the preface belie this forced note of epistemological triumphalism: "Je ne suis pas mort" (I am not dead), the text records in a diminuendo, "mais je suis séparé" (but I am separated).
In August 1937--in a state of severe confusion--Artaud departed for Ireland on a mission to return to the Irish people what he maintained to the end of his life was St. Patrick's cane (actually an unusually carved cane given to him by a friend). The precise events of the trip are unclear; however, it is clear that Artaud had increasingly been seeing himself as a Christic prince of the Apocalypse and sacrificial scapegoat. In a postcard sent from Ireland to Anne Manson, later published in volume seven of the OEuvres complètes, he pushed the parallel to the point of demanding that she publicly betray him (in the famous Deux Magots literary café) and reveal his true identity. In September Artaud was expelled from Ireland. In the boat back he had to be forcibly restrained, and on his arrival in Le Havre he was placed in a straitjacket and taken to the asylum there, before being moved to Sotteville-lès-Rouen. At his mother's request he was moved to Sainte-Anne, a Parisian asylum, in 1938 and thence to Ville-Evrard. In wartime France asylum conditions were extremely severe, and Artaud, untreated and undernourished, was physically transformed into the emaciated, toothless figure known from photographs of the late 1940s.
In 1943 his friends and family had Artaud transferred to the asylum of Rodez in Vichy French. Conditions were far better. He was treated by doctors who were aware of his work, but they administered three courses of unanesthetized electroshock therapy (inducing fifty-one comas), against which Artaud vociferates so violently in his writings that the polemic over his treatment still continues. On arriving at Rodez, Artaud had written nothing, with the exception of a handful of letters, for six years. During this period he had undergone a profound religious conversion and decided to call himself Nalpas (his mother's maiden name). Within months after his arrival at Rodez he had reverted to calling himself Artaud and had begun to write. From this point on in his writing he repeatedly reworks the great narratives of Western religious and philosophical thought. These rewritings of conceptuo-mythic narratives generate a rapidly mutating imaginary textual universe. If they resist schematic summary, this resistance is less because of their extravagance than because the functioning of any one narrative segment depends partially on reworkings performed elsewhere on other segments. The only way for a reader to enter into the late Artaudian textual system is to proceed patiently through the details.
At first Artaud only wrote letters to a few intimates detailing the idiosyncrasies of an apocalyptic mysticism coinciding extensively with gnostic thought. These letters set out a vision, derived from his 1930s writings, of his bodily existence as a battleground of warring cosmic principles. At times he figures as a body-sieve, a demonic sexual carcass awash with abject fluids, at others as a pure angelic body of energy. In particular he insists his daily movements are surrounded by occult forces unleashed by sexual rites of hostile "envoûteurs" (bewitchers), and that human reproduction occurs asexually. Whereas the post-1945 texts (written after his relinquishment of Christianity) are, despite their difficulty, clearly an exciting aesthetic and intellectual challenge, these letters of 1943-1944 seem fuzzy-headed and monotonous, the dull and deluded outpourings of a fanatical heretic. The writing is of disappointingly inferior caliber, veering toward a tired pastiche of evangelic and mystic tropes. But these earlier Rodez writings set out many elements of the mythic narratives of the final creative phase: the well-known notion of the "corps sans organes" (body without organs), for example, that will resist divine interference, issues from theological ideas expounded during this period.
In late 1943 Artaud had produced five short translations, including part of Lewis Carroll 's "Jabberwocky" (1855). These works were published as "Cinq adaptations de textes anglais" (Five Adaptations of English Texts) in volume nine of OEuvres complètes. Artaud's "Jabberwocky" dissolves the original so fully that the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in his influential Logique du sens (The Logic of Meaning, 1969), presented it as exemplarily schizophrenic language. For example, in his rendering of "Did gyre and gimble in the wabe" Artaud adds a line that has no correlate in the English and that threatens the text with linguistic anarchy: "Allaient en gilroyant et en brimbulkdriquant / Jusque-là où la rourghe est a rouarghe a rangmbde et rangmbde a rouarghambde." A major concern of Artaud's, however, was to challenge normal patterns of discourse. This drive toward discursive autonomy is central to the first unguided literary fragments written at Rodez. His letters of 1943-1944 had portrayed God as the origin of meaning and the poet, though at the top of the epistemic hierarchy of human expression, as the mere scribe or double of a Divine Word. In a few opaque fragments known as "Révolte contre la poésie" (Revolt against poetry), collected as part of "Trois textes écrits en 1944 a Rodez" (Three Texts Written in 1944 at Rodez) in volume nine of the OEuvres complètes, the alienating incapabilities of language are now attributed to "le Verbe" (the Word). God is thus found at the very center of language and the (linguistically constituted) subject: "Le poète qui écrit s'adresse au Verbe et le Verbe a ses lois. Il est dans l'inconscient du poète de croire automatiquement à ces lois. Il se croit libre et il ne l'est pas" (The poet who writes appeals to the Word and the Word has its laws. It is in the poet's unconscious to believe automatically in these laws. He believes himself to be free but he is not).
These fragments are the unlikely beginning of Artaud's celebrated flamboyant anti-God narratives. If God is present in language it follows that true poetry be an anti-Logos, written against the inaugural Divine Word and the habitual patterning of language. And yet, Artaud's theorizings imitate the original Word, for they are to become true by the fact of their formulation. Such self-validation marks all of Artaud's late writings. Equally, the tendency to indict conceptual systems for harboring alienating forces and yet reenact their structures is characteristic of Artaud's late writing, which depends symbiotically on the discursive systems it excoriates.
By 1945 the tensions in Artaud's Gnostic worldview had become uncontainable. The resultant violent disillusionment with religious thought modes provoked a creative outpouring. He produced heavily scoured, disturbing drawings of dissected, perforated bodies as well as a torrent of writing that took to the fullness of their power the ideas and strategies of his gnostically influenced productions. In the three years to his death Artaud wrote more than twice as much as he had in the preceding twenty-five, filling more than four thousand pages of exercise books with notes and producing six collections unlike anything else in modern letters.
Artaud's writings in his cahiers (notebooks) are an integral and major part of his late work. Volumes fifteen through twenty-five (1981-1990) of the OEuvres complètes comprise 232 of these cahiers, corresponding to the period from 1945 to January 1947. An additional volume (twenty-six) includes notes for a lecture Artaud gave in January 1947 at the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier. The contents of these volumes are fragmented, discontinuous, unstructured shards of diatribe. Surrealist- inspired slippage, erasure, overwriting, and a battery of sophisticated wordplays and word-ploys are used to subvert the received conceptual order and the entire ethic of Western thought by what he calls in Suppôts et suppliciations a "humour absolu concret mais de l'humour" (absolute concrete humor but still humor). But playfulness shades alarmingly toward unreadability. Artaud's writing repeatedly and insistently enacts violent sexual dramas between members of the divine family and himself that are inscrutable to an outside reader-spectator. Acts of vampirism, rape, incest, defecation, and demonic possession of the sexual organs figure prominently. Phantasmagoric choreographies of maimed bodily parts recur in which Artaud's skeleton and organism are repeatedly broken down and reconstituted. More radically (and following from "Révolte contre la poésie") the goal of Artaud's post-1945 writing is to create an autonomous and especially God-free self through a textual practice purged of all traces of the alienating thought structures of Western ontology and theology. Artaud's writing has therefore passed beyond the idea of text as medium of self-representation to text as means of self-dissolution and self-creation. The private space of the cahiers is where Artaud gives freest reign to this phantasmagoric self-generating writing. The notebook texts equally claim to generate his "filles de cour à naître," a fluctuating mythical group with which the textual father maintains violent, erotically charged relationships. Independently of any problematic content, such a radical repositioning and transformation of writing compromises its intelligibility. While all Artaud's best writing challenges the limits of literature, many critics believe the notebooks to exceed those limits.
In late 1945 Artaud wrote a series of letters to Henri Parisot, the publisher of his Tarahumara texts. These five texts, published as Lettres de Rodez (Letters from Rodez--not to be confused with Artaud's correspondence collected in volumes ten and eleven of the OEuvres complètes as "Lettres écrites de Rodez"), turn around questions of automythography and socially consecrated "envoûtement" (bewitchment). They reformulate the story of Artaud's life as a series of aggressions, starting with an imagined attack by a pimp in Marseilles in 1917 and culminating in mass acts of sexual black magic directed against the confined Artaud from the streets of Paris. He writes with particular violence against his internment and electroshock treatment. The terms used prefigure his idea of a "suicidé de la société" (societal suicide victim), an artist who is the victim of violent repression for the threat that his works pose to the social order. This idea is developed in a later open letter written at Rodez and included in Suppots et suppliciations, on the Comte de Lautréamont (pseudonymn of Isidore Lucien Ducasse ), the pre-Surrealist prose poet. It is taken to its heights in the final collections, where Artaud identifies with Gerard de Nerval , the French Romantic poet and story writer, with Edgar Allan Poe , the American poet of the macabre, and with Vincent Van Gogh, the archetypal "suicidé de la société." In Lettres de Rodez Artaud claims that the reason behind the attempts to circumscribe his activity is because his writing reveals the true nature of reality, and in particular the fecality of existence.
What is truly remarkable about Artaud's late textual performances, including the Lettres de Rodez, is not the extravagant ideas but the thrusting linguistic forcefulness these ideas inspire. It is possible to trace the intercrossings of his mythemes (myth units), but the fullest explications still fail to dispel the dominant impression, which is not of abstruse metaphoricity but of a writing given over to unchecked jouissance (intense yet fleeting gratification) in its own antisensical linguistic performances. An uncharitable view might consider taboo-flouting rant as Artaud's habitual mode of discourse. A celebrated sentence from Lettres de Rodez, on fecal poetry, conveys the feel of late Artaudian textuality:
Ce siècle ne comprend plus la poésie fécale, l'intestine malheur de celle, Madame Morte, qui depuis le siècle des siècles sonde sa colonne de mort, sa colonne anale de morte, dans l'excrément d'une survie abolie, cadavre aussi de ses mois abolis, et qui pour le crime de n'avoir pu être, de jamais n'avoir pu être un être, a dû tomber pour se sonder mieux être, dans ce gouffre de la matière immonde et d'ailleurs si gentiment immonde où le cadavre de Madame Morte, de madame utérine fécale, madame anus, géhenne d'excrément par géhenne, dans l'opium de son excrément, fomente fama, le destin fécal de son âme, dans l'utérus de son propre foyer.
(This century no longer understands fecal poetry, the intestinal misfortune of her, Madame Death, who from the century of centuries plumbs her column of death, her anal column of death, in the excrement of an abolished afterlife, corpse likewise of her abolished selves, and who for the crime of not having been able to be, of never having been able to be a being, had to fall, the better to plumb her being, into this chasm of unspeakable and furthermore in the nicest possible way unspeakable matter where the corpse of Madame Death, of madame uterine fecal, madame anus, Gehenna of excrement by Gehenna, in the opium of her excrement, foments fama, the fecal destiny of her soul, in the uterus of her own heart).
The densely interwoven phonic patterning and reprises are integral to the signifying processes of such slippery, multilayered poetic prose. Whereas rant is predicated on semantic fixity, Artaud's riotously exuberant late writing works hard on the linguistic medium to endow it with maximal fluidity.
A related striking feature of all Artaud's late writing is the incorporation of extended passages of linguistic debris. The first significant instance is in Lettres de Rodez, where he claims to have written an entire lost work, "Letura d'Eprahi Falli Tetar Fendi Photia o Fotre Indi," in such a language, giving as an example "ratara ratara ratara / atara tatara rana / otara otara katara / otara ratara kana." This legend of a lost work follows the logic that Artaud uses in his lineage of artistic brethren. Both are a way of inventing for himself a poetic as opposed to biological origin. He claimed his invented syllables, derived from the French, Greek, and Italian to which he was exposed when a child, were part of a universal tongue that operated directly on the psyche. These glossolalia have been shown to yield meanings when subjected to close philological study; however, within the overall scheme of Artaud's writing their greater importance lies in their being essentially performative, with implicit claims to emulate the "Divine Word" and act magically on reality.
In May 1946, following a few trial sorties, Artaud was released. His doctor felt him to be deranged but stable. He had spent eight years and eight months of internment, a period that Artaud, increasingly working with his idea of poetic practice as self-generation, interpreted as a gestation culminating in his self-birth as "Artaud le Mômo." Two conditions of Artaud's release were that his financial security be assured and that he reside in a nursing home. Many paintings and manuscripts were donated (by such writers and artists as Jean-Paul Sartre , Simone de Beauvoir , Bataille, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Alberto Giacometti) and auctioned shortly after his release. The proceeds were handsome, although Artaud was not given direct control of the money. A young medical student named Paule Thévenin was asked to find Artaud a clinic, and she found a place at Ivry-sur-Seine, in the Parisian suburbs. She became Artaud's secretary, friend, and literary executor.
Subsequent to the Lettres de Rodez Artaud thought more than ever of the text as an abject double of the poet. In his final works he therefore sought to maximize the orality of his writing, orality involving a shift from text as representation (as double, to his mind) to text as performance (as self-present meaning). At Ivry he famously dictated his works while pounding a wooden block sliced from a tree trunk with a hammer (which he did with such violence that various secretaries who had come to take dictation were apparently terrorized, and the blocks rapidly destroyed). According to various memoirs he also practiced screaming, accompanying his cries with knife blows on surrounding furniture. (Screams came to represent the most authentic form of expression for Artaud, and those recorded for Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu eerily evoke an alternative discursive order.) His texts claim to be empowered with just this kind of direct violence and to wield language as a physical weapon, as he writes in Suppôts et suppliciations: "Les mots que nous employons on me les a passés et je les / emploie, mais pas pour me faire comprendre . . . / alors pourquoi? / C'est que justement je ne les emploie pas, / en réalité je ne fais pas autre chose que de me taire/ et de cogner" (They have given me the words that we use and I use them, but not to make myself understood . . . / so why? / The truth is I do not use them, / in reality I do nothing other than keep quiet / and hit out). In the final collections, language usage is no longer an ideational act for Artaud: it is as physically real and destructive as his blows pulverizing blocks of wood as he declaims his poems.
In Artaud le Mômo, Ci-gît (Here Lies, 1947), Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, and Suppôts et suppliciations , all written after his release, the self-mythologization commenced in the Rodez texts is carried to new levels. These collections interpret Artaud's life history in the light of an originary act of divine aggression that determines the structures of existence. They enact the mutating narratives of two overarching metaphysical myths. On the one hand, an epic conflict opposes Artaud and "god" (deprived, by Artaud, of his capital letter), who, with his henchmen, takes possession of Artaud's body. Further, the negative theology has permeated Artaud's entire worldview, leading him to denounce all inherited discursive structures. Artaud decides that the reason he has never been able to write the self is because god and divinely infected discourse prevent self-identity by an act of ontological parasitism. And so, on the other hand, a parallel epic narrative announces the explosive future appearance of a transformed body (his image of a "corps sans organes") that would eject god and act as the locus of pure self-identity. "Artaud" has become a mythologized textual figure, defined by his resistance to a libidinous, fecal, vampiric, thieving god. As part of this extravagant automythographizing Artaud subjects his name to extensive onomastic play ("Totaud," "tarto," "outo," "arto," and so on). Concurrently his writing proclaims its power to overthrow the biological and ontological order of the Père-Mère (Father-Mother) and to write a new bodily self. Artaud's poetic word is thus to effect a new Genesis and to generate a new existential order.
Artaud most fully works out these epic narratives in the two-volume Suppôts et suppliciations. Shortly before leaving Rodez he had started to plan a work paralleling the power of his body and writing to that of a dormant Mexican volcano, under the title Pour le Pauvre Popocatepel la charité esse vé pé. He expanded this work into the inflammatory Suppôts et suppliciations. By far the longest of Artaud's works, it is composed of "Fragmentations," thirty-three nonsensical fragments and eight brief prose texts drawn from the cahiers, thirty-five letters written from Rodez, and "Interjections," seventy-five pieces of highly vocalized prose poetry dictated in late 1946 and early 1947. Its explicit aim is to act as an overstructure for Artaud's life story, yet he playfully describes it in a notebook entry dated 31 January 1947 as a "livre emmerdant absolument impossible à lire"(shitty absolutely impossible to read book). Although modern readers might find the blasphemy of Suppots et suppliciations more puzzling than shocking, Louis Broder, who had initially agreed to publish the work, underwent a religious crisis upon reading the manuscript and refused to print it.
The "Interjections" include some of Artaud's most powerful late writing, inspired by denouncing a divine presence living his life in his place: "Au-dessus de la psychologie d'Antonin Artaud il y a la psychologie d'un autre / qui vit, boit, mange, dort, pense et rêve dans mon corps" (Above the psychology of Antonin Artaud there is the psychology of an other / who lives, drinks, eats, sleeps, thinks and dreams in my body). "Je n'admets pas . . ." (I Don't Admit . . .), an uncollected text of the same period, published in 84 (1948), adapts the Gnostic idea of a catastrophic origin, telling how Artaud lost his bodily place at birth. The drama of Artaud's birth is "celle de ce corps / qui poursuivait (et ne suivait pas) le mien / et qui pour passer premier et naître / se projeta à travers mon corps / et / naquit / par l'éventration de mon corps / dont il garda un morceau sur lui / afin / de se faire passer / pour moi-même" (that of this body / that pursued [and did not follow] mine / and which to pass first and be born / projected itself through my body / and / was born / by the disembowelment of my body, / of which it kept a piece on itself / in order / to pass itself off / as myself). Most frequently in "Interjections" Artaud's god appears not just a thieving other but a libidinous vampire reveling in a brutish, crapulent sexual possession of Artaud's body: "dieu a dit: / Et moi je suis une bonne bête en face de tout ce corps / d'Antonin Artaud, / et non de l'homme: / Antonin Artaud / qui n'en occupe qu'une petite partie, et qui s'en ira / et je trouverai bien . . . le moyen de resurgir à la place de son cour, et d'en éliminer l'homme en humant . . . après avoir bité, glotté, / luthé, limé" (god said: And I am a dumb animal in front of all this body / of Antonin Artaud, / and not of the man: / Antonin Artaud / who occupies only a little part of it, and who shall go away / and I will certainly find . . . the way to reappear in his heart's place, and to eliminate the man by sniffing him up . . . after having dicked [or duped], tongued, / struggled, and ground). This divine possession is imitated by unspecified hordes who gleefully displace Artaud and tell of his dispossession through his pen: "Que fais-tu là, Antonin Artaud? / Oui, que fais-tu là? Tu nous gênes. / Et à la fin sors de ton corps, c'est à nous à tenir ta place . . . " (What are you doing there, Antonin Artaud? / Yes, what are you doing there? You're in our way. / And in the end get out of your body, it's for us to have your place . . . ).
Many "Interjections" weave these narrative strands together. An ejaculatory, insurgent, oralized poetry of resounding affirmatory power details how god exists vicariously through cavorting with his henchmen in Artaud's lower bodily organs: "[dieu] ne vit, que d'être / boulotté au milieu d'Artaud, masturbé au milieu d'Artaud, rappelé en esprit dans Artaud, / par la pensée abdominale et le coït, / drainé le long de la colonne osophagique d'Artaud, / ravivé par l'orgasme et l'expulsion excrémentielle anale des aliments d'Artaud / rendu présent par l'acte de pulation à deux appelé la co-pulation, / non d'Artaud, / mais d'un et de l'autre, / du microbe un et de l'autre / au milieu du sexe d'Artaud" ([god] only lives by being / eaten in the middle of Artaud, masturbated in the middle of Artaud, spiritually recalled in Artaud, / by abdominal thought and coitus, / siphoned along the oesophageal column of Artaud, / reanimated by orgasm and the excremental expulsion of Artaud's foods, / made present by the double act of pulation called co-pulation, / not of Artaud, / but of one and of the other, / of microbe number one and of the other, / in the middle of Artaud's sex). This "hideuse histoire du Démiurge" (hideous story of the Demiurge), as Artaud calls it in "Je n'admets pas . . . ," affords him the ideal topic to be as indecorous as possible when, for example, he claims that god inhabits his rectum, or that his "suppôts" (henchmen) feed off his hemorrhoidal discharges. The flitting between a high conceptualizing mode and abject profanity challenges the ethos of Western thinking. Yet, despite the rhetoric of abject sexuality and fecality, the final texts obey an unnerving coherence of thrust. Such texts work in an interzone between the theorizing of a conceptual system and the writing of a univers imaginaire.
Artaud's late writing is famous for its vilifying descriptions of the human body, described in Suppôts et suppliciations as a "viandasse de carne grayasse [sic]" (rubbishy meat of greashy flesh), equivalent to the descriptions in Artaud le Mômo "la barbaque / bien crottée et mirée / dans le cu d'une poule / morte et désirée" (the stinking meat, / thoroughly shat and gazed upon, / in the ass of a hooker / dead and desired), reduced to holes and tumescences, "Cette langue entre quatre gencives, / cette viande entre deux genoux, / ce morceau de trou" (This tongue between four gums, / this meat between two knees, / this piece of hole). These descriptions are shock writing of the first order, writing the sexual, digestory, death-bound body back into literary discourse. But this orifice-ridden, libidinous lump of putrid flesh awash with abject fluids is the defiling god-given and parent-given biological anatomy. Artaud's attempt to write an ending to this story of ontological vampirism leads him to imagine a new body, a hardened, desiccated, and organless block immune to the sexual and vampiric incursions of God and Other.
Artaud's image of the "corps sans organes"--like his anti-God narratives--takes on a life of its own. It is stripped down to its bones, as he writes in the cahier entry published in volume sixteen (1981) of the OEuvres complètes under the title "La Recherche du Nouveau Simple" (Search for a New Simple Being): "je suis . . . un cliquetis d'os particuliers sans viande" (I am . . . a rattling of specific bones without meat). In the closing "Interjections" the last vestiges of the corporeal are lost as the body becomes a wooden structure with ever-fewer chinks: "je suis un morceau de bois . . . reprenant les morceaux du corps tombé pour les reclouer l'un sur l'autre toujours plus étroitement et de plus près" (I am a piece of wood . . . picking up the pieces of fallen body to nail them back on again on one another ever more tightly and closely). By the final texts the new bodily self is pure energy: "Je suis un bloc de feu plus dur et plus dense que tout corps et qui ramènera les choses au crible de sa densité" (I am a block of fire harder and denser than any body and will return things to the perforations of their density). Artaud's new body becomes a massive, incandescent new space of will and energy that engulfs his textual world.
The most adventurous of Artaud's final poems were written alongside Suppôts et suppliciations in autumn 1946 and collected under the title Artaud le Mômo (though not part of this collection, Ci-gît is part of the same creative upsurge). These slender texts represent a peak of linguistic experimentation. Artaud creates densely interwoven, mesmeric sound-textures that combine standard words with a language halfway between neologism and glossolalia: "C'est la toile d'araignée pentrale, / la poile onoure / d'ou-ou la voile, / la plaque anale d'anavou" (It's the penetral spider web, / the female onour hair, / from whe-whence the female veil, / the anal patch of anayou"). Phonic patterning privileges the performative dimension, while the asignificatory elements prevent the text from being referred back to any originary meaning that could "double" the performance and enmesh it in a representational textuality.
The ambition of Artaud's ideas exceeds even his linguistic inventiveness, as his narrativized theorizings on body-theft and self-closing swell in these few texts to a fullness of amplitude surpassing the voluminous Suppôts et suppliciations. In Artaud le Mômo the new body bursts forth in its irrepressible linguistic autonomy:
Artaud lives up to his new self-given name as Artaud the idiot-god and rails mockingly against all genealogies: "ni de mère, ni / de père inné, / n'étant pas / la viande minette / qu'on copule / à patron-minet" (neither mother nor / father innate, / not being / the pussy meat / they copulate / at boss-puss [or at the crack of dawn]). This reviling does not just overturn his biological genealogy; parents and god blur into one, for "qui est donc Patron-Minet? / C'est dieu" (who then is Boss-Puss? / It's god). The textual Artaud transcends distinctions, being male and female, creator and progeny: "Moi, Antonin Artaud, je suis mon fils, mon père, ma mère, / et moi" (I, Antonin Artaud, I am my son, my father, my mother, / and myself), enclosing the new "Antonin Artaud" in a loop of self-identity between "Moi" and "moi." Textual style and bodily realities fuse. "Le style c'est l'homme," Artaud notes in a Rodez cahier, collected in volume twenty-one (1985) of the OEuvres complètes, "et c'est son corps" (The style is the man, / and it is his body).
In the final year of his life Artaud was concerned with reaching the widest possible audience and wrote two comparatively more accessible works. Part essay, part poem, part open letter, Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société , for which Artaud received his only literary prize (the modest Prix Sainte-Beuve), was written in early 1947. He wrote it after visiting an exhibition of the paintings of the Dutch artist Van Gogh and in response to a newspaper article offering a psychiatric diagnosis of the painter resembling that which Artaud's doctors had offered of his own mental condition. Artaud tells how Van Gogh, Nerval, Baudelaire, and Poe were covertly murdered by a collective social will. His imprecatory poem is a counterattack on society. It sets out Artaud's idea of the "aliéné authentique" (authentic madman) who is "un homme qui a préféré devenir fou, dans le sens ou socialement on l'entend, que de forfaire à une certaine idée supérieure de l'honneur humain" (a man who preferred to become mad, in the social meaning of the term, than to be false to a certain superior idea of human honor). It is in this spirit that the text opens with an extraordinary sentence of gleeful "absolute, concrete humor": "On peut parler de la bonne santé mentale de Van Gogh qui, dans toute sa vie, ne s'est fait cuire qu'une main et n'a pas fait plus, pour le reste, que de se trancher une fois l'oreille gauche, / dans un monde où on mange chaque jour du vagin cuit à la sauce verte ou du sexe du nouveau-né flagellé et mis en rage, / tel que cueilli à sa sortie du sexe maternel. / Et ceci n'est pas un image" (One may talk of Van Gogh's sound mental health, who, in all his life, only cooked himself one hand and did no more, as for the rest, than once to cut off his left ear, / in a world where every day people eat vagina cooked in green sauce or flagellated, enraged newly-born genitals, / as picked on emerging from the maternal sex. And this is not an image). As part of this inversion of the hierarchy of sanity, Artaud's text fulminates bitterly against his psychiatrists, indicting them of hypocritical erotomania, thus interweaving the two life stories of Van Gogh and Artaud.
Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société is not just an arena for imprecation and anger. Artaud displays great verve in his envisioning of Van Gogh's paintings. His writing shifts powerfully and smoothly between astonishingly rapid and sure evocations of Van Gogh's work and imagery fusing Van Gogh's vision and his own vision of the human body: "Le corps sous la peau est une usine surchauffée, / et, dehors / le malade brille, / il luit, / de tous ses pores / éclatés. / Ainsi un paysage / de Van Gogh / à midi." (The body beneath the skin is an overheated factory, / and outside / the sick man blazes / he glows / with all his pores / burst open. / Like a landscape / by Van Gogh / at noon). The paintings are described in terms of an apocalypse revealing the natural world in its true colors. By the "coups de massue" (club blows) of his brush strokes Van Gogh effected a quasi-alchemical transformation of the "sordide simplicité" (sordid simplicity) of things. A "mouvement de régression violente" (violent regressive movement) leads to "la porte occulte . . . d'un énigmatique et sinistre au-délà" (the open door . . . onto an enigmatic and sinister beyond). Associating his approach to that of Van Gogh, Artaud compares two different modes of investing reality with value: the traditional Western mode of elevation, and a truer mode of descending so far into physical objects that their metaphysical dimension is intuited. "Gaugin pensait que l'artiste doit chercher le symbole, . . . agrandir les choses de la vie jusqu'au mythe, / alors que Van Gogh pensait qu'il faut savoir déduire le mythe des choses les plus terre-à-terre de la vie. / En quoi je pense, moi, qu'il avait foutrement raison" (Gaugin thought that the artist should seek the symbol, . . . aggrandize the things of life to the point of myth, / whereas Van Gogh thought that you have to know how to deduce myth from the most down-to-earth things. / Wherein I personally think he was fucking right). The "corps sans organes," which appears in the sister work Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, is just such an instance of earthy myth, brute metaphysics, and violently anti-intellectual language.
Through Thévenin, Artaud was asked to write and read material for a radio broadcast. This request resulted in his best-known late text, Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu , written in October and November 1947, which Artaud recorded but which was banned just before its planned broadcast in February 1948 as too blasphemous. It is part of the same creative phase as Van Gogh, le suicidé de la société and presents the mythemes of Artaud's final collections for a wider audience. The most accessible of his late works, it is composed of five short poetic texts (a sixth, "Le Théâtre de cruauté," was excluded from the projected radio broadcast because of time constraints). The opening, mischievous text mocks the politico-moral soul- searching and trauma of the postwar world, by recounting the fiction of a United States fabricating cannon fodder through a clandestine program of mass artificial insemination. This culturally sterile West is implicitly compared to the Tarahumara culture of spatial inscription in a second text that describes the peyote dance as a virtual redrawing of the human body. The remaining texts retell God's possession of the human body and the bankruptcy of ideational processes, before a conclusion insists on the superiority of Artaud's metaphysics of folly and its emblematic "corps sans organes."
The major concern of Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu is the superiority of Artaud's metaphysical mythologizing to rationalistic thought. He parodies syllogistic thinking, for example, when, having defined existence as fecal, he asks, "Dieu est-il un être? / S'il en est un c'est de la merde. / S'il n'en est pas un / il n'est pas. / Or il n'est pas" (Is God a being? / If he is one it's shit / If he isn't one / he is not. / Thus he is not). And a celebrated passage rails against what Artaud sees as the deep meaninglessness of abstract terms:
As this passage makes clear, for Artaud the fact that meaning is caught in a perpetual round of deferral is catastrophic. His is the crisis of modern consciousness, and for all his actuality he must be seen as an iconoclast working at the death of a phase of intellectual history, not as the herald of postmodern thought modes.
Artaud's late writing seeks to escape the prison house of the sayable and accede to what he calls, in Suppôts et suppliciations, the "ordre de non-détermination totale, / irrévocable / et absolue" (order of total non-determination, / irrevocable / and absolute). Existing free from all determination, however, leads to being undefined to the point of being nothing. The conceptual and linguistic game of a new bodily self is by definition irrepresentable, as Artaud writes in a June 1946 cahier collected in volume twenty-two of the OEuves complètes: "Je suis un être indéfinissable dans un état, étatifier, c'est me détruire" (I am a being undefinable in any state, statifying amounts to destroying me). He writes of his textual universe as having left language and existence far behind. Ideation is banished. Only physical bodies exist. Artaud loudly affirms how simple his textual world is, but at the same time it attains such convoluted abstractions that it shades toward the incomprehensible. Artaud's textual journey ends in the outer reaches of language and the conceivable, amid the detritus of the mother tongue that, as he wrote of the body, he compacted ever tighter together.
Antonin Artaud died of a tardily diagnosed cancer of the rectum on 4 March 1948. In the last weeks of his life he had been claiming he had nothing further to write. Two days before his death he had drawn up a testament for Thévenin to be his literary executor. Despite a high level of chloral in his blood (which he had been taking in the final stages of his illness) there is no evidence for the popular misconception that he purposely committed suicide. He is buried in Marseilles.
Since the 1990s Artaud's tortured drawings of dismembered bodies, dating from the end of his life, have figured in major exhibitions of outsider art in Paris and New York. His name is bandied as evidence of progressive cultural and intellectual credentials, but the Artaud legends, all emphasizing his liminality, have overshadowed his works and prevented its being read, or read with sufficient attention. The standard Gallimard edition of his OEuvres complètes--expansion of which was suspended upon the death of Artaud's literary executor, Thévenin, in 1993--runs to twenty-six volumes and includes the quasi-totality of his texts and the larger part of his notebooks. With the majority of his texts now in the public domain a balanced appraisal of his work has begun. Attentive global readings present a vision of Artaud which goes beyond seeing him as a "case" to appreciating his significance as a leading figure of twentieth-century European letters and a wordsmith of the first order.
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Claude-Jean Rameil, "Bibliographie," Obliques, nos. 10-11 (1976): 257-283.
- Otto Hahn, Portrait d'Antonin Artaud (Paris: Le Soleil Noir, 1968).
- Jacques Prevel, En compagnie d'Antonin Artaud, edited by Bernard Noël (Paris: Flammarion, 1974).
- Thomas Maeder, Antonin Artaud (Paris: Plon, 1978).
- Stephen Barber, Antonin Artaud: Blows and Bombs (London: Faber & Faber, 1993).
- André Roumieux, Artaud et l'asile, 2 volumes (Paris: Séguier, 1996).
- Leo Bersani, "Artaud, defecation and birth," in his A Future for Astyanax: Character and Desire in Literature (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976), pp. 259-272.
- Maurice Blanchot, "La Cruelle raison poétique," in his L'Entretien infini (Paris: Gallimard, 1969), pp. 432-438.
- Blanchot, "Recherches: Artaud," Nouvelle Revue Française, 8 (1956): 873-881.
- Cahiers de la Compagnie Renaud-Barrault, special Artaud issue, 22-23 (1958).
- Mary Ann Caws, The Inner Theatre of Recent French Poetry: Cendrars, Tzara, Péret, Artaud, Bonnefoy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972).
- Georges Charbonnier, Essai sur Antonin Artaud (Paris: Seghers, 1959).
- Julia F. Costich, Antonin Artaud, Twayne's World Authors Series, no. 492 (Boston: Twayne, 1978).
- Gilles Deleuze, "Le Schizophrène et le mot," in his Logique du sens (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1969), pp. 101-114.
- Jacques Derrida and Paule Thévenin, Antonin Artaud: Dessins et portraits (Paris: Gallimard, 1986); translated, with a preface, by Caws as The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1998).
- Derrida, "La Parole soufflée," "Le Théâtre de la cruauté et la clôture de la représentation," in his L'Ecriture et la différence (Paris: Seuil, 1967), pp. 253-292, 341-368.
- Camille Dumoulié, Antonin Artaud, Les Contemporains, no. 19 (Paris: Seuil, 1996).
- Dumoulié, Nietzsche et Artaud: Pour une éthique de la cruauté (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992).
- Dumoulié, ed., Les Théâtres de la cruauté: Hommage à Antonin Artaud (Paris: Desjonquères, 2000).
- Gérard Durozoi, Artaud, l'aliénation et la folie (Paris: Larousse, 1972).
- Europe, special Artaud issue, nos. 667-668 (1984).
- Katell Floc'h, Antonin Artaud et la conquête du corps (Paris: Découvrir, 1995).
- Jacques Garelli, Artaud et la question du lieu (Paris: J. Corti, 1982).
- Rodolphe Gasché, "Self-Engendering as a Verbal Body," Modern Language Notes, 93 (1978): 677-694.
- Xavière Gauthier and others, Artaud: Communications et Interventions du colloque Cérisy, juin-juillet 1972, edited by Philippe Sollers (Paris: Union Générale d'Editions, 1973).
- Jane Goodall, Artaud and the Gnostic Drama (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994).
- Henri Gouhier, Antonin Artaud et l'essence du théâtre (Paris: Vrin, 1974).
- Evelyne Grossman, Artaud/Joyce: Le Corps et le texte (Paris: Nathan, 1996).
- Simon Harel, Vies et morts d'Antonin Artaud: Le Séjour à Rodez (Longueuil, Quebec: Editions Le Préambule, 1990).
- Jean Hort, Antonin Artaud: Le suicidé de la société (Geneva: Editions Connaître, 1960).
- Carol Jacob, "The Assimilating Harmony: A Reading of Antonin Artaud's Héliogabale," Sub-Stance, no. 17 (1977): 115-138.
- Laurent Jenny, La Terreur et les signes: Poétiques de rupture (Paris: Gallimard, 1982), pp. 209-267.
- Vincent Kaufmann, Post Scripts: The Writer's Workshop, translated by Deborah Triesman (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 96-106, 141-146.
- David Kelley, "Antonin Artaud: 'Madness' and Self-Expression," in Modernism and the European Unconscious, edited by Peter Collier and Judy Davies (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), pp. 230-245.
- Bettina L. Knapp, "Mexico: The Myth of Renovatio," Sub-Stance, no. 50 (1986): 61-68.
- Florence de Mèredieu, Antonin Artaud: Les Couilles de l'Ange (Paris: Blusson, 1992).
- Obliques, special Artaud issue, nos. 10-11 (1976).
- Michel Pierssens, Savoirs à l'ouvre: Essais d'epistémocritique (Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1990), pp. 109-119.
- Gene A. Plunka, ed., Antonin Artaud and the Modern Theater (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press / London & Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1994).
- Jean-Michel Rey, La Naissance de la poésie: Antonin Artaud (Paris: Editions Métailié, 1991).
- Guy Scarpetta, "Artaud écrit ou La canne de Saint Patrick," Tel Quel, no. 81 (1979) 66-85.
- Eric Sellin, The Dramatic Concepts of Antonin Artaud (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1968).
- Roger Shattuck, "Artaud Possessed," in his The Innocent Eye (Toronto: Collins, 1984), pp. 169-186.
- Brian Singleton, Artaud: Le Théâtre et son Double, Critical Guides to French Texts, no. 118 (London: Grant & Cutler, 1998).
- Philippe Sollers, "La Pensée émet des signes," in his L'Ecriture et l'expérience des limites (Paris: Gallimard, 1971), pp. 88-104.
- Susan Sontag, "Approaching Artaud," in Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, translated by Helen Weaver (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976), pp. xvii-lix.
- Jean-Luc Steinmetz, "Hapax," in his Signets: Essais critiques sur la poésie du XVIIIe au XXe siècle (Paris: J. Corti, 1995), pp. 275-288.
- John C. Stout, Antonin Artaud's Alternate Genealogies: Self-Portraits and Family Romances (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996).
- Thévenin, Antonin Artaud, ce désespéré qui vous parle (Paris: Seuil, 1993).
- Thévenin, "L'Automatisme en question," in Folie et psychanalyse dans l'expérience surréaliste, edited by Fabienne Hulak (Nice: Z'Editions, 1992), pp. 35-73.
- La Tour de Feu, special Artaud issue, nos. 63-64 (1959).
- Alain Virmaux and Odette Virmaux, Antonin Artaud: Qui êtes-vous? (Lyon: La Manufacture, 1989).
- Virmaux and Virmaux, Artaud, un bilan critique (Paris: Belfond, 1979).
- Kenneth White, Le Monde d'Antonin Artaud, Le Regard Littéraire, no. 29 (Brussels: Editions Complexe, 1989).