paper 4 english - Meyer 1 Professor Cecilia Ready ENG 1050 9 December 2015 The Theatre of the Absurd and The Beats The Theatre of the Absurd is a term

paper 4 english - Meyer 1 Professor Cecilia Ready ENG 1050...

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Meyer 1Professor Cecilia ReadyENG 10509 December 2015‘The Theatre of the Absurd’ and The Beats‘The Theatre of the Absurd’ is a term coined by the critic Martin Esslin for the work of a number of playwrights, mostly written in the 1950s and 1960s. The term was first developed in 1942 from an essay, ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, written by the French philosopher Albert Camus. He first defined the human situation as meaningless and absurd. The ‘absurd’ plays all share the view that man inhabits a universe in which he is out of place. Its meaning is indecipherable and his place within it is without purpose. He is “bewildered, troubled, and obscurely threatened” (Ahmed). The origins of the Theatre of the Absurd are embedded in the abstract avant-garde experiments found in art of the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, it was undoubtedly influenced by the traumatic experiences and horrors of World War II, “which showed the total insubstantiality of any values and shook the validity of any conventions”(Ahmed). These events sparked the beginning of a literary counter-culture movement that gave birth to Absurdist Theatreand the Beat Generation, both highlighting the precariousness of human life and the idea that it isfundamentally meaningless and uncertain. One writer who adopted this style of theatre was Amiri Baraka. Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He “attended Rutgers University and Howard University, spent three years in the U.S. Air Force, and then returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research” (Poets.org). Baraka waswell known for his strident social criticism, often writing in an “incendiary style” that made it difficult for some audiences and critics to respond with objectivity to his works (Poets.org). Throughout most of his career his method in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays was
Meyer 2confrontational, “calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of black Americans” (Poets.org). For decades,Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature. Baraka’s own political stance changed several times, thus dividing his legacy into periods: “as a member of the avant-garde during the 1950s, Baraka, writing as Leroi Jones, was associated with Beat poets likeAllen Ginsbergand Jack Kerouac; in the ‘60s, he moved to Harlem and became a Black Nationalist; in the ‘70s, he was involved in third-world liberation movements and identified as a Marxist Baraka did not always identify with radical politics, nor did his writing always court controversy” (Poetry Foundation). During the 1950s Baraka lived in Greenwich Village, befriending Beat poetsAllen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, andGilbert Sorrentino. Baraka believed in poetry as a “process of discovery” rather than an exercise in “fulfilling traditional expectations” parallel to the beliefs of the Beats (Poetry Foundation).

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