Upon reading Ngai's Ugly Feelings, an explanation of what Stein accomplishes through her unique use of language in The Making of Americans, I couldn't help but be reminded of Artaud. Ngai says the language Stein uses "...is language that threatens the limits of the self by challenging its ability to respond--temporarily immobilizing the addressee as in situations of extreme shock or boredom" (254). Artaud argues in his essay that theater must have a similar effect on its viewers in order for the theater to regain its popularity in the masses. His "theater of cruelty" calls for performances that cause the viewer to wonder if what they are watching is real life or part of the play. Furthermore, Artaud thinks that the audience needs to experience shock in the sense that they aren't merely observers, but feel as though they are part of the performance.
Artaud touches on language in the first part of his essay. He basically says that one of the reasons theater has become unpopular is because the languages that the plays are presented in are outdated and not representative of the present time. I don't think Artaud would approve of Stein's language being used in theater because it isn't language that people can understand. Stein's language is more advanced that the language of today in some ways. I think that Artaud would argue that Stein's language, like the unfamilar languages of the past used in classic plays, wouldn't affect the reader or audience the way that theater should. Even Ngai says, "The mind struggles to find a connection..." (254). All of this makes me wonder if Stein's language really can result in shock or "a conviction" like Ngai experienced after discovering what Stein was doing with language. Honestly, when I read "As a Wife Has a Cow: A Love Story" the first time, I had no idea what was trying to be expressed. It seemed pointless to try to understand because the repetitiveness made the entire work seem illogical and random. But that's just my take on it, and I think Artaud would question how Stein's use of language affects a reader as well.
2 years ago