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Title: Performing subjectivities : feminism, postmodernism and the practice of identity
Author: Marney, Julie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 2359
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis analyses contemporary understandings of identity formation as investigated by discursive and artistic practices. In order to develop an awareness of how performance and language construct identity, the thesis explores theories of performativity. Identity is shaped in accordance with ideas about the body, as the body is the means by which we achieve material existence. In masculinist discourse the body is constructed as a bound entity, and this contains identity in a singular and fixed space. This limits identity to unified and centred understandings. The contemporary feminist works explored in this thesis critique this masculinist approach to the body, and seek to assert a feminist identity based on fragmentation and multiplicity. The creative works researched in this thesis operate performatively, revealing that performative enactment is not only linked to drama but also engages different genres. As such, this thesis focuses on performativity in both performance art and works of literature, in an attempt to study the performative act in both language and performance. The work of the performance artist Orlan literally enacts ideological interpellation, exploring the ritualistic exchange of the body for a cathartic experience of identity, as do works by Karen Finley, Annie Sprinkle and Franko B. Similarly, Fools, by Pat Cadigan and Borderlands/La Frontera, by Gloria Anzaldüa question ideology and control by presenting fragmentation performatively. Through considering catharsis and technology such authors and performers attempt to construct and redefine ritual in a way which investigates the social relationship with the body and attempts to establish feminist agency in identity fragmentation. For this reason feminist practitioners often locate subversion in the examination of the boundaries between subjectivity and objectivity. As the body of the artist as object becomes increasingly central, inquiry into objectification and voyeurism may, indeed, empower female subjectivities. The use of catharsis to ground a materiality of ritualistic exchange thus becomes the means through which the processes of identity are transformed. In challenging ideological inscription many contemporary artists align themselves with a tradition of artistic `madness', thus contemplating issues around rationality and control. In fragmenting the body, the last refuge of a whole space outside of fragmentation, these textual enactments release this fragmentary `madness'. Positioned as the wild, untameable and threatening body, the `hysterical' body, women have challenged the construction of the `natural', using the ideology of technology to `reterritorialise' the female body. As the gendered female body takes control of the `hysterical', so contemporary artists enact female empowerment in response to a perceived crisis in identity formation. The assertive language and performance styles used by the discursive and artistic practices focused on in this thesis reveal a commonality which refuses gender stereotyping and negotiates new ways forward for feminist agency
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available