A gender-oriented approach towards Brechtian theatre: functionality, performativity, and affect in mother courage and her chidren and the good person of Szechwan
Coşkun, Saadet Bilge (2015) A gender-oriented approach towards Brechtian theatre: functionality, performativity, and affect in mother courage and her chidren and the good person of Szechwan. [Thesis]
This thesis presents a gender-oriented critique of Bertolt Brecht’s theory of epic theatre and his two plays: Mother Courage and Her Children and, The Good Person of Szechwan. Feminist theatre scholars often criticize Brecht’s plays for not paying enough attention to gender issues and merely focusing on a class-based agenda. The main issues that these scholars highlight regarding Brecht’s plays and theory include the manipulation of female figures through functionalizing them in order to achieve certain political goals. Other criticisms focus on how female characters are desubjectified and/or desexualized through this instrumentalism. On the other hand, feminist critics also consider epic theater techniques to be useful in feminist performances. Considering all these earlier criticisms, this thesis aims to offer new perspectives for the genderfocused analysis of epic theatre and Brecht’s later plays. Similar to many other criticisms, I conclude that the embedded instrumentalism of epic theater techniques such as materializing and functionalizing the issues as well as the characters, in most cases leads to stereotyping the female characters. In order to apprehend the impact of Brechtian gestus on such results, I utilize Judith Butler’s theory of performativity. Additionally, I also utilize affect theory in order to investigate the total effect of the lack of emotional intensities or “affect”, and the grotesque use of emotions on the female figures. After closely examining the two plays of Brecht, I argue that the marginalization of emotions or the complete lack of them encourages essentialist normative judgments towards female characters. Lastly, I conclude that the overall impact of the certain epic theatre techniques runs the risk of rendering, even the otherwise strong, unconventional and independent female characters stereotyped and objectified.
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