In their disparate dramatizations of the legend of the sixteenth-century Cenci family, Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and avant-garde dramatist Antonin Artaud simulate the transmission of a trauma. With reference to trauma theorists Ruth Leys and Cathy Caruth, among others, this essay traces the structures of trauma across Shelley's and Artaud's Cenci plays, showing that, like a trauma, what resists representation in Shelley's nineteenth-century drama recurs embodied on Artaud's twentieth-century stage. In so doing, the essay illuminates less a straightforward shift than a complex interplay between diegesis and mimesis at the heart of the plays. Shelley and Artaud might then be seen to co-opt the trauma scenario as an epistemological paradigm whereby their theaters assume revolutionary potential.
Skip Nav Destination
Aileen Forbes; Return of the Cenci: Theaters of Trauma in Shelley and Artaud. Comparative Literature 1 December 2015; 67 (4): 394–414. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-3327503
Download citation file: