This course takes as its point of departure the analysis of the correspondence between Antonin Artaud and Jacques Rivière, written when Artaud was a young unknown poet and while Rivière was the director of the prestigious literary journal Nouvelle Revue Française. Over the course of four sessions we will study the relation between thought and pain and between thought and life in the work of Artaud. After presenting his concept of "unpower," we will consider the link that this concept paradoxically maintains with the idea of rebellion. From this reflection we will attempt a global reading based on his biography, taking up his surrealist phase, his theatrical phase and his final trajectory.

Antonin Artaud was a great French poet, theorist of the theatre and film actor. His immense body of work and his excessive personality are not suitable for framing within the context of any one academic discipline. In order to begin to understand the "Artaud case" in its radical exceptionality, one must keep in mind that he was committed to an insane asylum for nine years during which he was submitted to electroshock for two years, and he was only released from the asylum thanks to the intervention of his friends. From this experience of suffering Artaud developed his incorruptible rebellion against all forms of power and outdated thinking that subvert shared meaning.

Within these terms, Artaud's life has something exemplary. It is not difficult to imagine that his life has been the subject of numerous biographies, always insufficient. In order to know Artaud's life one must first read his writings—those poetic and violent writings, which include a number of unpublished letters, proclamations, and books and constitute an authentic philosophy of the scream. Yet, unlike Andre Breton, Artaud did not adhere to revolutionary practices; instead he did something much more difficult: he politicized his existence until constructing his life as a wholly political life, even as this assumes remaking the body and even as it involves having a broken life. Artaud demonstrates that resisting power entails maintaining a broken life. Only a broken life can escape prison. A broken life is a victorious one.

Course offered by Santiago López Petit, Professor of the History of Philosophy at the Universitat de Barcelona

With the collaboration of:


The correspondence between Artaud and Riviere. The question of "unpower."

Artaud and surrealism

Artaud and theatre

Artaud's final trajectory

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