Women Writing Women: Histories and Dramaturgies

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale (2013), Scuttlers by Rona Munro (2015), and The Sweet Science of Bruising by June Wilkinson (2018) each uses the method of giving voice to marginalized women, about whom there are few documentary records, by inventing them. All three plays also focus on an imagined group of female characters, connected by occupation, rather than on an individual. On the other hand, Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks (1996) and Marys Seacole by Jackie Sibblies Drury (2019) use the approach of dramatizing a factual nineteenth-century woman, about whom large volumes of documentation survive, perhaps including personal testimonies and autobiographical accounts.

For either of these approaches there are ethical questions about how we use history to speak to the present. In the case of absent voices, archival silences are being filled by fiction in order to try to capture the historical reality experienced by these women; in cases where documentary material exists in abundance, contemporary playwrights are shaping and remediating that material for their own purposes. Moreover, it can be easy to forget that this is not a two-way conversation between the nineteenth century and the present, but that the very form of these plays is in conversation with the innovations in feminist dramaturgy of the last half-century. In offering a dramaturgical reading of the plays named above, I will consider what is gained and lost by various analytical configurations. How does grouping these plays as cycles, or in dialogue, or reading them in a networked relationship, help us to see different aspects of the theatrical history of women writing women?

Period20 Oct 2023
Event titleWomen Staging and Restaging the Nineteenth Century II
Event typeConference
LocationValencia, SpainShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational