Uniform TitleRedefining political theatre: masochism and the problem of identity
NameMustamäki, Piia J. (author), Diamond, Elin (chair), Eng, David (internal member), Edwards, Brent (internal member), Reinelt, Janelle (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectEnglish, Literatures in,
Masochism in literature,
Minority women in literature,
Minority women--Social conditions
DescriptionThis dissertation proposes that the psychoanalytic concept of masochism is indispensable in interpreting race and gender politics in contemporary American theatre by women of color. The plays I examine -- Suzan-Lori Parks's Venus, Adrienne Kennedy's The Ohio State Murders and Alice Tuan's Hit -- use race and gender to expose the manner in which the democratic principles of modernity are not fulfilled, despite the appearance of equality. They do this, paradoxically, by staging the ways in which social factors might produce political conformity rather than defiance. Masochism, I argue, offers a compelling critical lens into the failures of liberal democracy as experienced by women of color. These failures surface as crises in the idealized concept of the autonomous, free-willing subject, a concept on which the democratic principles are based. Unlike much political theatre, the plays in this study do not represent efforts to achieve such an idealized subject position. Instead they depict masochistic subjects for whom such positions are unavailable, delineating the inadequacies of liberal democracy as they pertain to racialized and gendered subjects in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
I proceed from the recognition that masochism, an inherently cultural phenomenon, is an acted-out symptom of the discrepancy between modernity's ideals of sovereignty and equality and a differently experienced reality. More than merely serving as a mechanism of sexual gratification, masochism is a complex psychic and social matrix, always both adaptive and defensive. It is in fact a paradoxical act of resistance, a defense mechanism for those for whom autonomy is out of reach. Through close readings of the three plays, I provide an example of masochism's usefulness in interpreting the politics in dramas that represent women of color whose masochistic behavior perpetuates rather than defies their oppression. Formally and thematically closer to the theatre of Jean Genet than to that of the Black Arts Movement or feminist groups, these plays foreground a new way of representing race and gender-based social criticism in the theatre.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 197-202).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.