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Beyond Modernity: The Ethics of Witnessing in Caryl Churchill’s Far Away

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2019, 32(3), pp.5-30
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Published : December 31, 2019

Yungduk Kim 1

1경북대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Caryl Churchill’s Far Away dramatizes an apocalyptic war of all against all in which all the creatures on the Earth fight each other, and is thus considered a trenchant response to the atrocities and wars we witnessed at the turn of the millennium. A committed political playwright, Churchill critiques modernity’s discourse of exclusion and progress as a force driving the human species to its irrevocable self-annihilation. In doing so, she focuses, echoing the recent ethical turn, on the question of ‘What should we do.’ This essay explores the theme of response ethics, especially with regard to the characters’ indifference, or lack of response, to the suffering of the other, which leads to the holocaust and, ultimately, to the destruction of the world. Joan, the main character inculcated with modernity’s value of justice, becomes complicit in state violence when she turns a blind eye to what she witnesses. She shuns the responsibility of “witnessing” because she does not realize that as an embodied vulnerable being, she is already interconnected with, and open to, the world, but her failure to respond to the address of the other takes its toll on the entire world in an ironic way, causing the devastation of nature and the extinction of the humanity. Churchill’s fable-like narrative delivers a warning that we humans are ethically responsible for all the living beings, both human and nonhuman, as well as for our home, the Earth.

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