Date of Award

5-2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Modern Foreign Languages

Major Professor

Les Essif

Committee Members

Mary McAlpin, Euridice Silva-Filho, Stanton B. Garner Jr.

Abstract

Yasmina Reza is a contemporary French playwright who is not indifferent to the richness of humor. Her award-winning plays are portfolios of humorous situations that have attracted the attention of crowds composed of the general public and of academics. Reza turns discussions of art, parenting, existentialism, solitude and tragedy into comedies that distill a feminine humor. The public loves it, laughs and applauds. Inspired by Hélène Cixous’s call to laugh as ‘medusas’ (« A feminine text cannot fail to. . . break up the truth with laughter », and « laughs at the very idea of pronouncing the word silence »), I elaborate on the subtle presence of a feminine voice in Reza’s humor. I also consider the fact that Reza has inherited a Jewish humor. The combination of this ancient humor with a feminine voice contributes to Reza’s original imprint upon French theater. Applying selected theories of humor (mainly Bergson and Freud), to the textual analysis of five of her plays, I provide examples of how Reza’s humor transcends the old dichotomies of masculine/feminine and superior/inferior to inscribe a laughter that is particularly feminine. This project is organized in three chapters. The first chapter provides an introduction to the discussion of feminine humor, setting forth Cixous’s, among others, theoretical framework. Selected passages from the play « Art » provide examples of specific strategies of Reza’s feminine humor. The second chapter analyzes passages from the plays Le dieu du carnage and Trois versions de la vie. In the third chapter, the discussion is enlarged to include a short study of Jewish humor and its traces in the plays La traversée de l’hiver and Conversations après un enterrement. The conclusion takes a brief look at how the play L’homme du hazard also contributes to Reza’s feminine manifestation of humor. Reza’s theater is a fun, thought provoking, reenergizing experience that can shed new light on our daily struggles in life and in relationships. Reza’s feminine humor introduces a new way of relating to reality. This project reflects my desire to share this with the readers. Have fun!

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