Artificial, animal, machinal: Body, desire, and intimacy in modernist and postmodernist theatre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exactly one hundred years separate two notorious dramatic aristocrats: Alfred Jarry's wild Ubu and Sarah Kane's apathetic Hippolytus. Ubu is iconic of Jarry's surreal reaction to nineteenth-century positivism and, at the same time, a criticism of modernism's abstract poetics and will-less aesthetic experience. Kane's Hippolytus is a witty and macabre response to the late twentieth-century 'logic' of capitalism. Nevertheless, these seemingly diametrically opposed characters share one trait that binds them-spending desire. In this article Dror Harari considers these figures as conspicuous waypoints along a broader spectrum of indispensable relations between body and desire in modern theatre. He tracks certain dramaturgies of desire, as theorized and/or realized by theatre practitioners and philosophers. Starting with modernist attempts to overcome desire by likening the performer's body to a machine, he closes with the indifferent Hippolytus becoming a desiring machine. Dror Harari is senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts, Tel Aviv University. His recent articles have appeared in The Drama Review, Samuel Beckett Today/Aujourd'hui, Theatre Research International, and Theatre Annual. His study Self-Performance: Performance Art and the Representation of Self is forthcoming in Hebrew from Resling Publications, an Israeli academic publishing house.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-320
Number of pages10
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Alfred Jarry
  • Key terms desiring machine
  • Phaedra's Love
  • Sarah Kane
  • Ubu Roi
  • modernist dehumanization


Dive into the research topics of 'Artificial, animal, machinal: Body, desire, and intimacy in modernist and postmodernist theatre'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this