O’Brien, Pirandello, and the Abyss of Subjectivity in Modernism

Corina David

University of Alba Iulia

 Volume III, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF


In his biography, Pericles Lewis locates Brecht’s innovative contribution to  the twentieth-century drama in the construction of character. More precisely, he speaks of the “death of character”: “The movement away from stable character entailed an increasing psychological distance between the audience and the characters on stage; it broke with the illusion that characters in a play are real people and therefore defeated the earlier goal of identification between the audience members and the characters”. One gets the same feeling reading or watching Pirandello’s plays or O’Brien’s fiction and drama. Abyssmal psychology had revealed the stable and unitary Cartesian self to be a sham, the locus of contradictory impulses and uncontrollable drives. Characters in the two authors are left unfinished, their behaviour is erratic, their ontological status is uncertain (ambitioned to compete with their … author), etc.

Keywords: Flann O’Brien, Luigi Purandello, modernist subjectivity, modernist drama