Productions of the body: Embodiment in contemporary drama and performance
Thompson, Deborah Ann
Snow, Edward A.
Doctor of Philosophy
"Productions of the body" refers both to produced plays which are "about" the body and to the ideological production of "the body" and of bodies (as well as to the bodily production of ideologies). Embodied performance can be the ideal place to study constructions of the body. The charismatic, live body onstage seems to promise a full presence--a promise it cannot fulfill, because the body onstage is inherently other than/to itself. The plays I examine--Othello, The Blacks, Funnyhouse of a Negro, spell #7, M. Butterfly, and the performance pieces of Karen Finley--exploit the otherness inherent in live performance to (re-)present the social construction and performative re-creation inherent in all body-identities. In particular, I discuss the ways in which these plays show race and gender to be fashioned, performed, and "made up," not only onstage, but in "real" life as well. Yet these plays also insist on the need to invoke "real," "present," and "natural" bodies in the political arena. All of these plays, even as they make explicit the theatricality and textuality which produce the body-as-other, still residually promise of a body prior to and directing its production. This promise of a body which cannot be represented and perhaps cannot be "had" at all, remains, for me, a promise as well as an object of suspicion. This dissertation aims to make the ideologies and occlusions which underwrite this promise as explicit as possible, and yet to preserve and clarify its necessity.
Theater; Sociology; Ethnic studies; Women's studies