Castellucci's Theatre of the ‘Abject/Sublime’: or, The Theatre of Failed Transcendence

Fisher, Tony (2013) Castellucci's Theatre of the ‘Abject/Sublime’: or, The Theatre of Failed Transcendence. Somatechnics, 3 (1). pp. 31-49. ISSN 2044-0138


In this paper I look at Castellucci's On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God as a means to sketch out what I would like to call a theatre of the ‘abject/sublime’. In contrast to the Kantian notion of the sublime, which requires nothing less than the acknowledgment of the moral law by the subject, I will situate Castellucci's work within a reading of the ‘sublime’ that embraces the failure of the subject to achieve transcendence. By this I mean the subject fails to achieve the kind of ethical autonomy that Kant's radical sublime demands. Instead, I propose to interpret Castellucci's work in two ‘heteronymous’ ways: firstly, in light of Kristeva's dictum that the ‘abject is edged with the sublime’, and secondly, in terms of Levinas' claim that the face is nothing less than the ‘infinite which blinks’ (OB: 93). What results, I argue, is a theatre of ‘failed transcendence’, in which Castellucci's ‘face’ of God, returned to the abject condition of its own corporeality, marks the traumatic site of the ethical demand.


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