The idea of mediation in Handke’s Kaspar

Part of : Γράμμα : περιοδικό θεωρίας και κριτικής ; Vol.2, No.1, 1994, pages 127-140

How is the self to be defined? How does it interact with the world? These questions certainly “bear no gifts to Athens.” They have been central to world drama since the time of Aeschylus. Starting with the hypothesis that characters are coherent subjects, psychologically grounded in perceptual reality, playwrights throughout the ages have repeatedly tried to elaborate a system of stable oppositions (self/other, slave/master, inside/outside, I/you, signifier/signified) to theatricalize the plight of their characters vis-à-vis culture and its institutions, to create the illusion that theater is composed of spontaneous speech. Recently, however, in the theater and in theories of the modem, there has been profound unrest over the image of the unified self that freely chooses his/her channels of communication with the world. Many contemporary artists have increasingly questioned the humanist, self-centered significations and promoted instead a new notion of the self where the pure entity, the uncontaminated sign and the undivided origin come forth as fiction. People, according to these artists, work in a linguistic and cultural system which they can never dominate or avoid. By virtue of their “already-thereness” language and culture constitute people’s limits and possibilities. In Kaspar Peter Handke exposes the system of semiology ’s binary logic (either/or) to make us see the cultural forces that shape the self and determine its position vis-à-vis culture.
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