The Vulnerable Body on Stage: Reading Interpersonal Violence in Rape as Metaphor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

This essay sets out to explore the representation of rape and of the body’s subjection to sexual violence in two plays that use rape as a metaphor for colonization, drawing upon Bal’s theory that such texts lose the experience of the victim. It also explores the ethical implications of staging violence and corporeal vulnerability. The plays are Howard Brenton’s Romans in Britain, and Bill Morrison’s The Marriage from his Love Song for Ulster trilogy, both of which perform a representation of rape in view of the audience, and use the violence as a metaphor for colonial domination. Slavoj Žižek’s analysis of violence has been useful here: he identifies two categories of violence, subjective – the most visible kind, with an identifiable agent – and objective, which appears to operate outside of agency. He further divides objective violence into systemic and symbolic modes. Symbolic violence is embedded in language but, crucially, is not simply a matter of hate speech or incitement; it is concerned, rather, with ‘the imposition of a certain universe of meaning’. Systemic violence is described as ‘the often catastrophic consequences of the smooth functioning of our economic and political systems’. This form of violence crucially has no real perpetrator: the perpetrator is the system, with the compliance (or wilful ignorance) of the majority population. Symbolic violence, meanwhile, is the means by which dissenting elements come to be identified and understood as aberrant or destructive, a threat to the well-being of the community. In these plays, the systemic violence of colonialism is rendered visible through its representation as interpersonal or subjective sexual violence; but I will argue that there is also a point at which the interpersonal violence requires to be read on its own terms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Body in Pain in Irish Literature and Culture
EditorsEmilie Pine, Naomi McAreavey, Fionnuala Dillane
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages183-198
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-31388-7
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2016

Bibliographical note

Reference text: Bal, Mieke Reading Rembrandt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)
Michael Billington, The Guardian, 17 October 1980; qtd. Howard Brenton The Romans in Britain (London: Bloomsbury, 2015)
Bort, Eberhard "The Irish Border Play" in The Irish Border: History, Politics, Culture ed. Malcolm Anderson & Eberhard Bort (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999).
Brenton, Howard Romans in Britain (London: Methuen, 1982),p.xi.
Brenton, Howard ‘Look Back in Anger’, The Guardian 28th January 2006. Available online at http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2006/jan/28/theatre.stage. Accessed 11 Dec. 2015
Butler, Judith Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2010)
Cavarero, Adriana Horrorism(New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)
Cullingford, Elizabeth Ireland's Others (Cork: Cork University Press & Field Day, 2001)
Curtis, L.P. Apes and Angels: Irishman in Victorian Caricature (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1971)
Gernon, Luke A Discourse on Ireland, 1620; available online at
http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/E620001/index.html
Gilson, Erinn ‘Vulnerability, Ignorance, and Oppression’,Hypatia, 26:2 (Spring 2011), 308-332.
Harrington, John Politics and Performance in Contemporary Northern Ireland ed. John Harrington & Elizabeth Mitchell (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999).
Highway, Tomson "Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing" in The Harcourt Anthology of Drama ed. W.B. Worthen (Boston: Thomson Heinle, 2002) pp.880-903.
Kane, Sarah Blasted (London: Methuen, 2002).
Kiberd, Declan The Irish Writer and the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Lewes, Darby ‘The Female Landscape’ Mercator’s World 1(January/February 1999), pp.35-41.
Marcus, Sharon "Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention" in Judith Butler & J.W. Scott (eds) Feminists Theorize the Political, London and New York: Routledge: 385-403
Mardorossian, Carine ‘Towards a new feminist theory of rape’, Signs, 27(3) (2002): 743-777.
Meaney, Gerardine Gender, Ireland and Cultural Change: Race, Sex and Nation (London: Routledge, 2010).
Morley, Sheridan Punch, 29 October 1980.
Morrison, Bill Lovesong for Ulster (London: Nick Hern Books, 1994).
Sharkey, Sabine ‘Ireland and the Iconography of Rape’ in Irish Studies Centre Occasional Papers (London: University of North London Press, 1994).
Young, B.A. Financial Times, 18 October 1980.
Weiner, Bernard ‘“The Romans in Britain” Controversy’, The Drama Review 25:1 (1981), 57-68.

Keywords

  • Gender
  • Affect
  • Violence
  • Vulnerability
  • Rape
  • Performance

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The Vulnerable Body on Stage: Reading Interpersonal Violence in Rape as Metaphor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this