Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


E. Allen McCormick

Committee Members

Mary Ann Caws

Burton Pike

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature


This dissertation asserts that the gest is the benchmark of Brecht's theater and is a basic element of the Beckettian vision. Part one defines the gest for Brecht's work. Chapter one of part one distinguishes gestic drama from other forms. The gest, understood as a historically significant comportment, proves incompatible with traditional plot and character structures. Chapter two suggests that gestic comportments loosen drama's connection to topics. Mother Courage is not about the horrors of war, but about how society chooses war. Chapter four contrasts the gestic, "typical"-event drama to events-of-character dramas. The distinction is then developed to explain Brecht's attempts to recover the classics by re-emphasizing the telling of stories.

Chapter five explains the central notion of the "Gesamtgestus" in terms of the sceptical "readiness" of the scientific attitude. Chapters six and seven discuss the role of the "Gesamtgestus" as a kind of "scientific" principle in Brecht's Model Books. The final chapter of part one discusses the capacity of gestic drama to incorporate other literary genres into the drama.

Part two presents what I have found of the gest in the works of Samuel Beckett. While Brecht used failure, the mess, to explore alternative dramatic structures, Beckett mines it to explore gests of survival. Chapters survey the gest of Beckett's plays and playlets. The final three chapters offer a detailed gestic interpretation of a Schiller-theater production of Endgame directed by Beckett.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.