A devilish script: The struggle for “oneness” in Gertrude Stein's “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights”
In Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, the two main characters obsess over their inability either to be “the only ones who know” or to access a singularity in meaning itself. While the characters rely anxiously on deductive logic, repetition and social consensus to secure both meaning and “self”-hood, the play suggests that the attempt to permanently stabilize meaning cannot succeed. Doctor Faustus participates in the cultural reproduction of Faust as a canonical narrative, but simultaneously critiques the processes by which humans attempt to determine linguistically indeterminable categories of existence and meaning, especially in the dramatic form. In particular, the script's abandonment of linguistic and theatrical conventions emphasizes the inherent multiplicity of scripts, performances, and language itself. Confidently masochistic, Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights encourages a theater that bursts from the confines of the script, embracing ambiguity and possibility instead of mimesis and stasis.