Pinter and Foucault: Duologues as Discourse

Michael Lynch


An absolute reality does not play a part in Pinter's plays. There is not a reality to be found under the words and actions of the characters after these words have been stripped away (as there is presumed to be in a play like Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf). As Pinter explained in a programme note to a 1960 performance of The Room and The Dumb Waiter:

The desire for verification is understandable but cannot always be satisfied. There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. The thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false. The assumption that to verify what has happened and what is happening presents few problems I take to be inaccurate.

The language of a Pinter play functions rather in terms of a discourse, as described by Foucault in The Archaeology of Knowledge. Discourses, according to Foucault, are largely self-determining, the prevailing discourse developing from the previous discourse and that discourse from the one before it and so on. The acceptance or otherwise of statements is determined by the discursive formation itself and the laws which govern it. This article attempts an analysis of the Pinter duologues3 in terms of a Foucauldian discourse.

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