Subversion, Refusal, and Contingency: The Transgression of Liberal-Humanist Subjectivity and Characterization in Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, Crave, and 4.48 Psychosis

Cristina Delgado-Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Drawing on Judith Butler’s writings on performativity, this article investigates the critique of the liberal-humanist understanding of selfhood offered in Sarah Kane’s last three plays. It argues that Cleansed subversively deploys conventional dramatic character to disfigure the subject as it is understood by liberal humanism. The motif of the wound activates this subversive characterization, with the supposed self-sameness or coherence of selfhood being dismembered on the page. Subjectivity emerges in this playtext as discursively produced, defined by the body, and processual. Conversely, Crave and 4.48 Psychosis reject the terms through which such liberal-humanist subjectivity is represented. Through uncountable and opaque characters, subjectivity is formulated as queer, foreclosing the equation of body morphology with the sense of the self and dismantling fixed and unified notions of identity. Finally, the article interrogates to what extent the staging of the plays inevitably reproduces stable characters and normative subjectivities. Desire and recognition are considered here as key to maintaining the plays’ critique of liberal humanism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-250
JournalModern Drama
Volume55
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Sarah Kane
  • Cleansed
  • Crave
  • 4.48 Psychosis
  • subjectivity
  • character
  • Judith Butler

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