Comic Machine, the Narrative Machine, and the Political Machine in the Works of MoliÈre

Author: Polsky, Zachary
Year:2003
Pages:220
ISBN:0-7734-6606-1
978-0-7734-6606-7
Price:199.95
This study examines in depth the nature of comedy itself, as well as the way that comedy was practiced in 17th-century France, and applies these ideas to close readings of six seminal Molière plays (L’école des femmes; Tartuffe; Dom Juan; Le misanthrope; George Dandin; Le bourgeois gentilhomme). The result is a new understanding of the complexity inherent in the textual and political devices created and used by the playwright on the stage as well as in print, uncovering nuances and contexts which have remained hidden until now.

Reviews

“Proceeding from well-known often contradictory theories of comedy and humor as postulated by Aristotle, Bergson, Baudelaire, Freud, and others, Dr. Polsky’s study develops an original model that employs the concept of the machine as a hermeneutic tool for talking about comedy, insofar as comedy lies at the juncture of the living and the mechanical, the moral and the physical. Compellingly demonstrating the particular usefulness of this model for illuminating the comic drama of Molière, Polsky not only discusses characters and actors (Molière notably included) but also provocatively suggests how the theater as a whole, King Louis XIV, and his subjects can be viewed in relation to the metaphor of the machine. The study shows Zack Polsky to have sovereign command of the oeuvre of Molière, both intensively and extensively, as well as of seventeenth-century French cultural history….a fresh and creative contribution to the abundant literature on this figure so crucial to the history of theater.” – Gail Finney, University of California, Davis

“…a remarkably fresh and highly suggestive approach to Molière….There are many keen insights in this text that will benefit not only scholars of the French seventeenth century, but also those in the field of dramatic theory.” – Jean-Vincent Blanchard, Swarthmore College

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Foreword; Preface
Part One: The Comic and the Narrative – From Absentmindedness to Trickery
· Introduction: Molière’s place in the history and nature of comedy
· Moliéresque moralism: comic certainties, socio-textual ambiguities
· More moralism: familiar foibles, fresh new characters
· Moliéresque theatrical chaos
· Speech, voice, and body in the Moliéresque narrative
· Tartuffe; Dom Juan; Le misanthrope; George Dandin; Le bourgeois gentilhomme
· More on the mechanics of Moliéresque comedy
Part Two: The Political Machine and the Machinery of Absolutist Politics
· On the political context of Louis’s rulership
· Power performance/performance power: Louis and Molière on stage
· The Pascalian faith-act
· Art (and comedy) as instruction
· L’école des femmes; Tartuffe; Dom Juan; Le misanthrope; George Dandin; Le bourgeois gentilhomme
Conclusion: Of kings, comedians, and performing machines
Bibliography; Index