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Journal of Contemporary Drama in English

Editor-in-Chief: Middeke, Martin

Ed. by Berns, Ute / Wallace, Clare / Wald, Christina

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Caryl Churchill’s 21st Century Poetics: Theatre Form and Feminism from Far Away to Ding Dong the Wicked

Harry Derbyshire
Published Online: 2016-11-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcde-2016-0021


This article considers the six plays written by Caryl Churchill between 2000 and 2012 (Far Away, A Number, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, Seven Jewish Children, Love and Information and Ding Dong the Wicked) in relation to the vision of feminist theatre offered in Sue-Ellen Case’s “Towards a New Poetics,” the final chapter of her 1988 study Feminism and Theatre. It thereby offers an assessment of how far Churchill’s work in the ‘post-feminist’ period accords with or deviates from an earlier feminist agenda, one that proposed to decouple theatre form from patriarchy by re-making it from scratch. It is argued that Churchill’s work during this period, while no longer explicitly feminist in intent, nonetheless contains and expresses – both in its thematic concerns and its formal properties – the feminist “residue” that has been described by Janelle Reinelt. The body of the discussion offers a consideration of the plays in relation to the four main tenets of feminist theatre as envisaged by Case: breaking with realism; constructing woman as subject; deviating from linearity; and offering multiple and ambiguous meanings. The argument concludes by suggesting that Churchill’s widespread influence on contemporary British playwriting can be seen in part as the influence of the kind of feminist thinking exemplified by Case’s “new poetics.”

Keywords: Caryl Churchill; Sue-Ellen Case; feminism; playwriting; dramaturgy

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About the article

Published Online: 2016-11-04

Published in Print: 2016-11-01

Citation Information: Journal of Contemporary Drama in English, Volume 4, Issue 2, Pages 367–384, ISSN (Online) 2195-0164, ISSN (Print) 2195-0156, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jcde-2016-0021.

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