Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Mary K. McAlpin

Committee Members

Adrian Del Caro, Gina M. Di Salvo


This project examines the influence of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche on French theatre visionary Antonin Artaud with a specific focus on the Dionysian as established in Nietzsche’s inaugural work, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), and further developed throughout Nietzsche’s career. With an insistence upon an appropriate treatment of, first, the types of texts being examined as well as, of course, their larger goals and implications, we can see where overlaps exist between them and, just as importantly, where they don’t. The overlaps primarily occur (and don’t occur) in the context of the Dionysian, a complex and multifaceted philosophical concept that is theatricalized in both ancient Greek theatre, and, to a large extent, in Artaud’s theatre of cruelty. A comprehensive and holistic understanding of the Dionysian – defined throughout Nietzsche’s work by a preservation of ancient pessimistic wisdom, a facilitation of depersonalization in artistic production, and a doctrine of passionate life-affirmation – will subsequently allow a more developed and accurate understanding of Artaud’s goals in The Theatre and its Double (1938). This inquiry will reveal that Artaud applies selected elements of the Dionysian to his theory while neglecting or even purposefully rejecting others. Artaud utilizes Nietzsche’s conceptualization of the Dionysian to the extent that it requires relinquishing individual subjectivity in theatrical practice, but he does not accept the dimension of life-affirmation, characterized by a constructive/creative response to pessimism, that the Dionysian represents.

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