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A Name for Me: Reading Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre? as a Haggadah


A Name for Me: Reading Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre? as a Haggadah

Stride, Shannon (2022) A Name for Me: Reading Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre? as a Haggadah. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis explores how an understanding of the Haggadah—the ritual Passover script commemorating the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt—illuminates otherwise hidden facets of Charlotte Salomon’s Leben? oder Theater? (Life? or Theatre?). In the epigraph to her work, Salomon writes that in 1941 she receded from all people and from the war raging on around her to paint and in doing so, to find “what I had to find: namely myself: a name for me.” This hidden exploration of the self resulted in thousands of semiautobiographical gouaches that she would later organize into her magnum opus, a silent opera titled Life? or Theatre?. A feat beyond comparison, scholars have long debated how we can categorize this play and in recent years, have asked what role Salomon’s Judaism played in her creation of Life? or Theatre?. Taking this question as a point of departure, this thesis examines how reading Life? or Theatre? in relationship with the Haggadah provides us with a new perspective on Salomon’s search for a name. Both Life? or Theatre? and the Haggadah share a number of narratological commonalities: they mix image, text, and music, employ similar visual conventions, and tell the story of a people subject to the bitterness of oppression. Salomon’s play, however, does not end with the parting of seas, but instead diverges from the familiar order of the Haggadah to tell a new story focused on the abuses of patriarchy and women’s subsequent despair. In understanding the Haggadah—its history and iconography—scholars can recognize Salomon’s allusions to the ritual text, but more significantly, can also recognize how she differences the Haggadah to tell women’s stories. Ultimately, I conclude that Salomon engages with and departs from the images and stories of the Haggadah in order to tell a story centring her own life and subjectivity, as well as that of the women she loved, thereby revealing their exclusion from the traditional text and from the promises of salvation found within it. In painting Life? or Theatre?, Salomon resists her exclusion from the Haggadah, creating her own freedom, situating herself as a subject in her play, and naming herself as an artist.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Stride, Shannon
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:1 February 2022
Thesis Supervisor(s):Huneault, Kristina
ID Code:990495
Deposited By: Shannon Stride
Deposited On:16 Jun 2022 15:15
Last Modified:16 Jun 2022 15:15
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