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The Naked Prompt: A Semiotic Study of Pirandello's Plays

Stone, Jennifer; (1982) The Naked Prompt: A Semiotic Study of Pirandello's Plays. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

My study examines the nature of Pirandello's so-called "revolutionary" drama and its links with the historical avant-garde. This involves principally a discussion of the way Pirandello's work is influenced by Cubism and Futurism. and there is a re-assessment of the critical tradition regarding Pirandello. I pay attention to theories of the stage in order to draw out the influences of Pirandello's precursors and to discuss the problems of modernist drama. The use of semiotic methodology. I argue, is justified in terms of the specific metalinguistic and metatheatrical concerns of both Pirandello's plays and his theoretical writings. In the Prologue, I describe how his work is particularly suited to the deconstructive procedures of psychoanalytic and post-structuralist literary theory: for instance, his concepts of "az ione parlata" and of "umorismo"; and his use of theatrical repetition,·deferred action and acting out of an "original" scenario. In chapter I, I consider Pirandello in terms of the historical moment: I investigate his relation to fascism and to the discourses of the avantgarde. 1 undertake a discussion of the position of women in the new industrial society, by giving special attention to the way Pirandello deals with lithe woman questionll [his essay, IIFeminismo ll]. There is also an effort to account for the consumption of his cultural artefacts in an expanding mass-society. In chapter II, "Mirror-image/Collage", I examine Pirandello's renovation of the naturalist stage. This discussion is set in the context of Cubist and Futurist theory. By means of an intertextual analysis, I argue that Pirandello's shift to the dramatic genre is determined by the crisis in signification at the turn of the century: mimetic naturalism is inadequate to express Pirandello's complex perception of the problems of representation in language and in the aesthetic sign. I demonstrate how the linear strategies of narrative are temporarily relinquished for the contradictory simultaneities available to drama. I also anticipate how he wi11 1ater restore "coherent" mythic fabulati on and retreat from the subversive effects of his "revolutionary" phase. In the subsequent chapters III and IV, I provide readings of the dramatic texts and the performance texts respectively. By analysing the theories of "l'azione parlata" and "parole in liberta", I show the discursive ruptures Pirandello effects, and I assess the innovative aspects of his rendering of female speech. I argue that dissidence, verbal lunacy, repetition and sexual confession accompany silence and laughter in his texts, and that his writing vacillates between danger and desire. My interest in non-verbal means of communication leads, in chapter IV, to my giving relief to the function of the performance, and in particular, to the use of Futurist scenography. In order to produce a model of reading not limited to the playscript, this chapter involves a discussion of the roles of the audience, disguise and landscape. I submit that the revolutionary adventures of social fascism are eclipsed by the apocalyptic visions in Pirandello's last oneiric texts. Theatre semiotics thus allows me to establish the multiple workings between the dramatic texts and the stage spectacles. It assists in accounting for the web of meanings which bind audiences, authors, actors, direc- . tors, texts and readers. In the Epilogue, I sum up my argument by suggesting an explanation for Pirandello's enigmatic title to the collections of plays, Masohere nude. The oxymoron, the "naked prompt" [a pun on Marinetti's It suggeritore nudol permits me to forward the idea that in effect superficial words are all, and "free speech" but an illusion. This echoes Pirandello's repeated stance that words cannot be stripped of irrelevant clothing, or be made bare and transparent to "truth". A semiotic analysis reveals that behind the plenitude of the social mask, there is nothing but a mirroring void. Pirandello's plays are poised at this signal edge of a catastrophic abyss.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Naked Prompt: A Semiotic Study of Pirandello's Plays
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: This thesis was digitised by the British Library's EThOS service.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10062739
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