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Adrienne Kennedy’s A Lesson in Dead Language: A Narrative Battle over the Meaning of Women’s Bleeding.

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2012, 25(2), pp.215-242
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Lee,Insoo 1

1한국예술종합학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This essay analyzes Adrienne Kennedy’s A Lesson in Dead Language focusing on women’s embodied experience of bleeding as dramatized in the play. While other scholars of Kennedy have interpreted the blood stains on the girl pupils’ dresses as a sign of “internalized guilt”, I argue that it is the very notion that Kennedy attempts to thwart. By intentionally juxtaposing ambiguous narratives, Kennedy discloses the arbitrariness of the narrative of guilt, demanding the audience to rethink the meaning of bleeding. Using narrative theory, and Julia Kristeva’s and Hélène Cixous’ feminist approaches to language and discourse, I analyze the White’s Dog’s and the girl pupils’ narrative attempts to give meaning to the phenomenon of bleeding. I observe that while the White Dog tries to construct a narrative of bleeding as a sign of guilt and punishment, the girls attempt to subvert it and to create alternative contexts from which to read the meaning of bleeding on their own terms. I argue that the blood stains on the girls’ organdy dresses are a powerful manifestation of their resistance to the institutional enforcement of the meaning of women’s bodily experiences. Kennedy’s remarkable dramaturgic skill is demonstrated as she deconstructs the dominant narrative of women’s bleeding without attempting to define and fix any other meaning in its place. Instead she acknowledges the embodied experience itself and leaves it unnamed, thus allowing for ongoing production of meaning.

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