Pantomime in Diderot's Drama

Denis Diderot published a series of theatrical works that were followed by theatrical theories in the late 1750s; The Natural Son and Conversations on The Natural Son in 1757, as well as The Father of the family and Discourse on Dramatic Poetry in 1758. In place of the word, which had been predominant in Classical drama, Diderot introduced several pantomimes into these works and authorized them as the new medium of drama in these linguistic function. This theory is key to revealing the concept of narrative by body language in this era, for it greatly influenced the movement for dramatic ballet, or 'ballet d'action'. Diderot includes not only the visual elements such as body movement, but also auditory elements such as the accent of voice in the pantomime and sums them up as aspects of the sensible language in contrast with the intellectual language of words. This sensible language rejects the 'analysis' of 'the sagacity of philosophers' and accepts the variety in the theatrical communication between the actor and audience, which is the linguistic function proper to pantomime, while the word aims at university. By using this characteristic, Diderot reformed drama from its previous state to an interactive experience. 

Keiko Kawano
Author affiliation
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3