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The Cultural Logic of Eugenics in 'night, Mother

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2009, 22(3), pp.5-30
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

김영덕 1

1경북대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

While a plethora of studies on Marsha Norman’s ’night, Mother emphasize Jessie's suicide as an act of emancipation and triumph that brings desired autonomy, Sarah Reuning’s recent article claims that depression, an “undiagnosed” disability, plays a crucial role in Jessie’s decision to kill herself and that her suicide is not a gaining of control, but a “relinquishing” of it. This paper similarly puts the play in the context of the right-to-die discourse of the 70s and discusses Jessie as a disabled person trying to negotiate her disability, and in so doing analyzes the ways in which the cultural logic of eugenics influences her choice. Based on what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson calls “the cultural logic of euthanasia,” this paper argues that Jessie internalizes a eugenic, “cure-or-kill” principle that disabled bodies are to be eliminated and “controlled.” Jessie's decision to die derives from her notion that her life is “worthless” even when her epileptic symptoms are under control. Her apparently logical reasoning conforms to this eugenic principle while her (epileptic) body, competently carrying out her will to death, belies its presumed worthlessness. Norman’s play shows that her heroine's choice is already in and of the dominant culture, especially because the choice is the result of the ever-present social ostracization of disabled bodies.

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