Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Comparative Literature


English (en)

Date of Award

Spring 3-11-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Nancy Berg


My dissertation investigates plays written and directed by Jalila Baccar and Fadhel Jaïbi--recognized as two of the most influential actor-director-playwright pair in contemporary Tunisian theater. This is the first research that addresses the drama of Baccar and Jaïbi, a partnership that spans almost forty years, and is arguably the most significant force in North African Theater. My study analyzes the evolution of Familia Productions, discovering how the role of Familia has changed in accordance with changing political situation, and how political changes have influenced the aesthetics of the theater, and has shifted the style from heavily symbolic to much more direct. In analyzing the ways in which Baccar and Jaïbi stage the resistance to oppression through plays, this study attempts to understand the thematic and aesthetic changes from the 1970s to the present time. This thesis demonstrates how all the Familia plays are political and Brechtian in the sense that these plays force the viewer to react to strangeness and metatheatricality. This dissertation asserts that studying Baccar and Jaïbi's theater is useful to understand the interconnections between politics and theater in Tunisia. Even while the subject of this study is specifically--national Tunisian theater--and emphasizes the national (political, social, cultural) contexts of the drama, it also demonstrates the importance of a comparative approach, the permeability of national borders, and the interconnections with other literatures, especially the ways in which influence flows in both directions. Chapter 3, for example, suggests how writers and film as well as theater makers to represent overarching themes of political and societal oppression have long used mental disease. The dissertation is supplemented with eight appendices, including interviews I am fortunate to have been able to conduct with both playwright/actress Baccar and her husband, theater director Jaïbi. I also included an appendix that illustrates the presentation of historical plays during the colonial rule, portraying Abd-ar-Rahman an-Nasser (1944). This figure shows the interest of the Tunisian troupe al-Kawkab at-Tamthili in portraying a great historical figure of the Islamic civilization during their time in Andalusia. Further appendices are included to provide a better understanding of the Lettre d'un comédien (Letter of a comedian, 1741), which is an important document that tells a remarkable anecdote about the early initiation of the Ottoman ruler of Tunisia and his court into French theater when a French troupe was captured by Tunisian pirates. Another appendix considers an adaptation of Molière, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The Bourgeois Gentleman, 1670) by the Tunisian theater director Ali Ben `Ayed who directed The Marshal Ammar in 1969. Although Ben `Ayed's play is an adaptation of Molière's Le Bourgeios gentilhomme, it is original in the sense that it portrays--within a local Tunisian context--social satire in a rural community where the inhabitants aspire to hold titles and ranks similar to those of the urban elite. This play opposes the contrived divisions between social classes. The last two appendices--a chart and a photo--offer a summary of key Theater troupes that contributed to the evolution of Baccar and Jaïbi's theater and a photo that depicts a scene in Tsunami (2013), Baccar and Jaïbi's latest play.


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