Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Les Essif

Committee Members

John Romeiser, Sébastien Dubreil, Stanton B. Garner Jr.

Abstract

The American Far West is, perhaps, one of the foremost images of the United States, one that has influenced many authors, especially during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is a place of vast, empty spaces, of adventure and danger, of heroes and villains. It is a space that excites the imagination in its grandeur and possibility. Writers such as Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco have written of this grandeur, of the space of the American Dream. There they find the hyperreality of America, the constant drive to re-create aspects of European history and culture to fill the cultural void. Yet it is a place that promises the fulfillment of one’s dreams, and this is what makes the space so alluring.

Between 1965 and 2003 five plays written in French attempted to place this cinematic space on the stage: Obaldia’s Du vent dans les branches de sassafras, Arrabal’s Sur le fil ou ballade du train fantôme, Fenwick’s Calamity Jane, Duparfait’s Idylle à Oklahoma: Une offre d’emploi, and Anne’s Le Bonheur du vent. In these five plays the American Far West is presented, not on the stage, but in the virtual space—the space of the imagination, beyond the confines of the stage. This is done in part because the Far West is difficult to represent in the theater due to the sheer size associated with it; it is a cinematographic space. However, America itself is an imagined space, a space that not only physically overwhelming, but also one that is void of culture as the French perceive it. These five plays, in a variety of styles, portray the hyperreality and emptiness of the virtual space that is America.

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