'Lucid reason noting its limits' I: The Past, Present and Future of the Absurd (Panel)

Comparative Literature / Global Anglophone

Eyal Handelsman Katz (University of Virginia)

For a time, the Absurd was one of the chief literary movements of the day. When Martin Esslin published The Theatre of the Absurd he would frame various emerging playwrights such as Ionesco, Beckett and Pinter under one label. Though they would reject the term, the notion of the Absurd stuck and would invite a flurry of criticism from the academic world. Interest in the Absurd, however, was like a match, burning with intensity before fizzling out just as suddenly. Why was this the case? Did new trends push the Absurd to the side? Were all of its possible avenues explored? Was the Absurd limited to its temporal context? Or perhaps it evolved into novel concepts such as post-humanism?

To mark the 75th anniversary of The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus’ philosophical treatise that established the Absurd as we know it today, this panel will look to tackle these questions and more, inviting papers that examine the history of the Absurd, as well as its present and predictions for future developments. Submissions are encouraged to approach the topic in novel ways, such as Lavery and Finburgh’s Rethinking the Theatre of the Absurd (2015) which considers the Absurd in light of ecology and environmental studies or Bennett’s Reassessing the Theatre of the Absurd (2011), which attempts to reclassify the term. Other possible examples include approaching the Absurd through case study analysis (examining canonically Absurd texts in new lights or evaluating new texts - especially non-Western texts - through the Absurd lens) or through interdisciplinary approaches to the Absurd (e.g. cultural studies, gender studies, etc.).

By looking to centralize the study on the topic, to delineate its contents and limitations and reinvigorate it through new approaches, we can begin to consider the Absurd, as it rightly deserves to be, as a literary field of its own.

The concept of the Absurd (and the subsequent Theatre of the Absurd) was one of the most discussed topics in the second half of the 20th century. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus’ seminal treatise on the topic, this panel looks to examine the impact of the movement on modern literature and academia and accepts submissions that deal with studies into its past, present and future, as well as new perspectives on the topic and interdisciplinary approaches to the field.