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Title: Theatre, medical identities, and ethics, 1983-2008
Author: Harpin, A. R.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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Arthur W. Frank’s notion of a ‘diagnostic identity’ provided the departure point for my study. The thesis examines contemporary British drama that stages the cultural movement towards post-diagnostic identity. Four groups form the focus of the discussion: the mentally ill, the sexually abused, older people, and those with learning disabilities. I contend that these groups are particularly stigmatised with both health and cultural milieus as untrustworthy speaking subjects. Their voices are invalidated on the basis of their health identities and consequently it is vital to examine theatre work that seeks to re-shape lay and cultural perspectives of those deemed, mad, damaged, old, or stupid. Chapter one charts the movement from madness as dramatic metaphor to the staging of mental ill health. This section explores how these dramatics disturb the material of theatre in order to articulate experience that is inherently resistant to language. Chapter two is concerned with the theatrical representation of child sexual abuse, and explores the translation of sexual violence into theatre aesthetics. By examining issues of pornography, torture, fetish, comedy, and gender politics, this chapter questions the representational possibilities of ‘unspeakable’ stories. The third chapter discusses ageing in contemporary drama. While the social narrative of ageing is one of inevitable decline, this section demonstrates how dramatists place ageing in a state of flux. Further, the relationship between acting, illness roles, and stereotype is explored in order to demonstrate the resistive practices of these dramatists. Chapter four draws together works that represent those with mental or learning impairment, and examines plural strategies of representation from positive imagery to normalisation to social realism to farce and finally to tragedy. This chapter anatomises the debate about equality activism and politically radical work that seeks to alter structures of feeling and models of engagement. The final chapter juxtaposes the recent work of Peter Brook with a Bristol-based mental health service user collective – Stepping Out Theatre Company.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available