Jean Genet pp 149-166 | Cite as

The Spectator’s Response to Genet

  • Jeannette L. Savona
Part of the Macmillan Modern Dramatists book series (MD)


In the course of this book, I have isolated Genet’s plays from his biographical legend and novels in order to concentrate on their specific features. Viewed from this perspective, the imaginary world of Genet’s theatre appears to be informed by two major structures — political and aesthetic — which sometimes clash, especially when reflected in different sets of sexual images. As this study has illustrated, each of these two structural components can be seen in the light of twentieth-century models of thought developed by such political thinkers as Sartre, Foucault and Fanon and such theorists of theatre as Artaud, Brecht and Brook. My argument has also emphasised the sexual pattern of Genet’s political and aesthetic images. In the conclusion which follows, I shall try to summarise the characteristics of Genet’s theatre and define their implications in terms of the spectator’s response.


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  1. 1.
    The words ‘a kind of uneasiness’ (‘une sorte de malaise’) appear in Comment jouerLes Bonnes’; the longer quotation comes from Genet’s ‘Avertissement‘ preceding the French text of The Balcony in Oeuvres complètes, IV, p. 35.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Antonin Artaud, The Theater and its Double, p. 71.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ibid., p. 71.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, p. 153. See also ‘The Subject and the Other: Alienation’, pp. 203–15.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Philip Thody, Jean Genet: A Study of His Novels and Plays, p. 218.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid., p. 49.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Odette Asian, ‘Les mises en scène des Paravents‘, in Les Voies de la création théâtrale, III, pp. 32–107.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    The word ‘connerie’ derived from ‘con’ — which can mean ‘vagina’ in slang — usually signifies ‘damned rubbish’. In Genet’s terminology, ‘con’, ‘déconner’, ‘connerie’ can be synonymous with ‘singer’, ‘to sing’, ‘the song’, all associated with creativity (Le Bal/con). Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, discussed in Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Richard N. Coe, ‘Unbalanced Opinions: A Study of Jean Genet and the French Critics Followed by a Checklist of Criticism in French’, Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, 14, 2 (June 1970), p. 59.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid., p. 60.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mark Weinberg, ‘The Maids by Jean Genet. University of Madison, 2 May 1980’, Theatre Journal, 33, 2 (May 1981), p. 253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    For the importance of Genet in ‘postmodernist’ literature, see Ihab Hassan, The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    See the special issue of Masques, Revue des homosexualités devoted to Genet, 12 (Winter 1981/82). See also Serge Leclaire, ‘Sexuality: A Fact of Discourse’; Félix Guattari, ‘A Liberation of Desire’; Hélène Cixous, ‘Rethinking Differences’; in George Stambolian and Elaine Marks (eds.), Homosexualities and French Literature (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    This is how French feminists perceive the problem of a ‘language in the feminine’. See Josette Féral, ‘Antigone and the Irony of the Tribe’, Diacritics (Sept. 1978), p. 12.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    The political relevance of Genet is well illustrated by Patrice Chéreau’s choice to begin his directorship of the Théâtre des Amamdiers in Nanterre with a production of Les Paravents. Chéreau’s production of Genet’s last play opened on 31 May 1983.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jeannette L. Savona 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeannette L. Savona
    • 1
  1. 1.Trinity CollegeTorontoCanada

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