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“A revolution that didn’t happen”: Strategic Essentialism in Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2019, 32(1), pp.305-325
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Published : April 30, 2019

Yeoniee Cho 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Hinted at by the Subaltern Studies collective’s appropriation of the term, this paper engages the subaltern as represented in Caryl Churchill’s Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (1976). Although one might not locate the play’s engagement with the subaltern in terms of postcolonial dynamics, this paper argues Light Shining’s analogies to the Subaltern Studies are still valid especially in light of the critique of the legitimate history and engagement with historiography both share. As the Subaltern Studies historians are primarily concerned with “the corresponding social revolution in the class system” post-independence India dispenses with, so Churchill is interested in staging “a revolution that didn’t happen” within the English civil war —the revolution of the Ranters, Levellers, and Diggers. Drawing on Gayatri Spivak’s critical reading of the Subaltern Studies group’s strategic essentialism, this paper locates an analogy between Churchill’s Light Shining and the Subaltern Studies not just in their revisionist historiography but in an ambivalent take on essentialism lurking in their Marxist approaches. Ultimately, this paper aims to show how Light Shining resorts to the presence of actors and the materiality of production to envision theatre as a space supplementing the absence of the subaltern in the history while keeping this Subalternist historiography from being vulnerable to its essentialist loophole.

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