Solga 2004 Violence

Title Information

Author: Kimberley Ann Solga

Title: Invisible Acts

Subtitle: Performing Violence Against Women in Early Modern and Contemporary Drama in English

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Toronto

Year: 2004

Pages: v + 303pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 16th Century, 17th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century | English History | Representations: Literature

Full Text

Link: Library and Archives Canada (Free Access)

Additional Information

Author: Kim Solga, Department of Drama, Queen Mary University of London


»This thesis develops a theory and practice for the critical representation of violence against women in performance based on the premise that such violence--be it rape violence or what I define as non-sexual "punitive" violence--has historically been elided, translated into a matter between and about men. Taking "effacement" as the representational norm for women's violence in the drama as well as in the culture of early modern England, I posit a theory of representation that stages elision with difference. I focus on acts of violence left "offstage" or otherwise unrepresented in texts both Early Modern and contemporary, and explore in turn their potential to stage the very process and consequences of effacement itself. The "invisible act" of my title is the theatrical gesture that confronts audiences with the image of violence missed, with their failure to see; it argues that the deliberate refusal of representation is the condition of possibility of a critical, historicized performance of violence againstwomen on the stage.
Theoretically, I build this argument in a gap within feminist performance theory. This body of scholarship has been essential in furthering our understanding of the gendered dynamics of performance, but it has curiously never turned its attention to the vexed problem of the woman's body 'in violence' on stage. I break into this critical lacuna with a new reading of Freud's work on femininity, arguing that Freud's always-already castrated female implies a prior, brutal, and utterly disavowed act of sexualized physical violence against women's bodies. Because feminist performance theory is deeply indebted to--though also productively critical of--Freud's philosophy of subjectivity, it is unable fully to recognize or successfully to countermand the unseen violence at its theoretical core. I then bring Jacques Lacan's writings on vision into this equation, arguing that we may articulate on stage the philosophical and cultural problem of violence's effacement by exploring the performative value of "anamorphosis"--that moment when we realize we operate within an incomplete visual field, when we confront the unsettling feeling that something has been missed, is missing.« (Source: Thesis)


  Preface: Oedipus, Freud, and the Other Primal Scene (p. 1)
  Chapter One: Violence and the Crisis of Vision (p. 8)
    1. Violence against women in contemporary feminist theatre scholarship (p. 21)
    2. Reversal of vision: Lacan's offstage optics (p. 44)
    3. Offstage spaces, in/visible acts (p. 53)
  Chapter Two: The Full Eye and the Impoverished Eve: Rape's Residual Bodies (p. 68)
    1. The Politics of "hue and cry" (p. 68)
    2. Page to stage: recasting Titus Andronicus (p. 79)
    3. Glorianamorphosis (p. 92)
    4. Kane: Performing (at) the edge of the eye (p. 107)
    5. Kemp: The ambiguous metatheatre (p. 116)
    6. Wagner: Monumentalizing loss (p. 121)
  Chapter Three: The Punitive Scene and the Performance of Salvation: Violence, the Flesh, and the Word (p. 131)
    1. The Optics of martyrdom (p. 131)
    2. Correction, salvation, and the companionate negotiation (p. 138)
    3. The Jacobean punitive scene and the performance of salvation (p. 147)
    4. Making a spectacle of salvation: A Woman Killed With Kindness (p. 152)
    5. Performing despair: The Duchess of Malfi (p. 166)
    6. Echoing hope: the new ordeal artists (p. 183)
    Marina Abramovic: Staging Intervention (p. 189)
    Orlan: The Witness Revolts (p. 193)
  Chapter Four: Veils That Connect: The In/visible Act and the Feminist Witness to Violence (p. 204)
    1. Through the wound to the space between (p. 210)
    2. The architecture of in/visibility: veils that connect (p. 218)
    3. Hot materiality (p. 223)
    4. Spaces of hope (p. 244)
  Conclusion: "Escape from the Oedipal Eye" (p. 270)
  Works Cited (p. 277)

Added: November 16, 2013 – Last updated: October 11, 2014