Language and Consciousness: Brecht's Language Strategy and Confucius's “Rectification of Names”



This essay focuses on Bertolt Brecht's ideas of language and consciousness with reference to his understanding of Confucius's teaching of the “Rectification of Names” and to his commitment to Marxist theories of ideology and consciousness. The study suggests that Brecht's dramatic innovations of the Verfremdungseffekt and the Gestus are in accordance with his language strategies. While Brecht embraces Marx's ideological positioning of the individual, it is Confucius's meditation on language that provides Brecht a concrete method to interrogate the connection between ideology and the subject and to “demystify” (to borrow Louis Althusser's term) those representations which maintain the illusion of individual consciousness. Accordingly, emphasis will be placed upon the ways in which Brecht integrates his understanding of Confucius's use of language with the Marxist notion of language in order to “restore the truth” of the human subject.