Somebody sings : Brechtian epic devices in the plays of Caryl Churchill
Morelli, Henriette Marguerite
While in recent years Caryl Churchill's drama has engendered substantial critical inquiry, there has been no sustained or comprehensive examination of her work in the context of one of this century's most influential dramatic forms, what has been known as Brechtian epic theatre. Epic theatre's counter-discursive, counter-hegemonic elements have appealed to a new generation of women playwrights, among them Caryl Churchill, who finds its politics invaluable to her socialist feminist dramaturgy. A detailed exploration and analysis of several of Churchill's explicitly socialist feminist plays, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (1976), Vinegar Tom (1976), Cloud Nine (1978), Top Girls (1982), Fen (1983), and A Mouthful of Birds (1986), enable us to determine the extent to which her plays can usefully be considered within the context of Brechtian epic theatre and to understand Churchill's unique application of epic techniques to a politic that moves beyond class concerns to incorporate concerns of gender, race, sexual orientation, and age. The theoretical framework of this dissertation will address subjectivity, power, and discourse in an attempt to demonstrate how Churchill's plays, like all literary texts, construct meaning and subject positions for the reader and for the audience. This dissertation privileges socialist and/or feminist theories that stress the social construction of subjectivity and recognize the need for historical specificity. Such a critical methodology not only clarifies how Churchill's epic drama, with its strong socialist feminist politic, constructs fictive representations of women and men that contest norms of patriarchal gender relations and the implicit hierarchies of value at work within them, but also reveals how Churchill moves beyond Brecht to present complex female and male characters whose subjectivities are constructed in the experience of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and age.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Copyright DateApril 1998
women and literature
Socialism and theater