- “Knowledge and taste go together”:Postdramatic Theatre, Écriture Féminine, and Feminist Politics
Although there has been a lively debate on the politics of postdramatic theatre forms following the publication of Hans-Thies Lehmann’s book Postdramatisches Theater in 1999, specifically feminist perspectives have been slow to emerge. While publications offering feminist views on the postdramatic turn, such as Karen Jürs-Munby’s contribution to her coedited volume Postdramatic Theatre and the Political and a collection of essays in German entitled Spielräume des Anderen: Geschlecht und Alterität im Postdramatischen Theater, edited by Nina Birkner, Andrea Geier, and Ute Helduser, are now appearing, the majority of the current research focuses on the configurations of gender and feminist politics in relation to postdramatic plays rather than the aesthetics of live performance.1 Moreover, the rise of postdramatic styles has been met with less positive reactions by other feminists. Since postdramatic theatre abandons the representation of a fictive cosmos, instead emphasizing the sensual and energetic properties of the signifier, it “leaves behind the political style” of Brechtian theatre favored by such scholars as Janelle Reinelt, Jill Dolan, Elin Diamond, and Birgit Haas in the 1980s and beyond.2 Reinelt, for example, has expressed her doubts toward the political value of the “elliptical, affective” style of postdramatic theatres because they evade “direct engagement” with issues of the political sphere.3
As much as the politics of postdramatic aesthetics only appears, according to Lehmann, “indirectly, from an oblique angle, modo obliquo,” this does not mean that these aesthetics lack political efficacy.4 Rather, I suggest that a feminist politics of postdramatic theatre can be uncovered by taking Hélène Cixous’s écriture féminine—an experimental, deconstructive writing practice that she associates with femininity—as a starting point. This means shifting the debate from the representation of characters and narrative—in a feminist context this suggests representing women and their lives—to concerns of postdramatic poetics. That is, I believe that the political concerns of postdramatic theatre are found not in what is represented on stage but in the nature of the aesthetic experience that is created or performed, signaling a departure from Brecht-inspired feminist theatres that typically reveal and critique normative gender roles. [End Page 39]
This article then aims to contribute to the emerging field of feminism and postdramatic theatre by suggesting that there exists a structural analogy between Cixous’s écriture féminine and postdramatic theatre aesthetics in relation to how both reformulate traditional paradigms of knowledge. Kathleen Gough defines working by way of analogies as a method for determining forms of kinship that “[do] not elide difference,” while at the same time “does not become a way to curtail the possibility of seeking ‘both/and’ in place of ‘either/or.’”5 In navigating this tension, I will necessarily focus on points of overlap—the both/and—at the expense of moments of division between the two. I unfold the analogic relationship between postdramatic theatre and écriture féminine by reflecting on my practice-as-research performance Rings: Sang, Souffle, Signe, Sein, Sens, showing how postdramatic theatre aesthetics might contain the potential for producing “feminine” knowledge. As a result of this, I argue, postdramatic practices may have a particular appeal for feminist theatremakers and scholars.
In making this argument, I acknowledge that the outcomes of a practice-as-research investigation cannot be easily abstracted and generalized. This may be especially true when working within the heterogeneous field of postdramatic theatre practices that present, in Lehmann’s words, “a new wealth of possibilities” of theatre beyond drama that must be understood as “concrete and unique.”6 Nonetheless, I would like to suggest that some identifiable tendencies, present in many postdramatic practices, resonate strongly with Cixous’s écriture féminine and that because of this a tentative analogy may be drawn between the two even if not all postdramatic theatres produce what I identify as feminine knowledge.7
My hunch that an analogic relationship exists between écriture féminine and postdramatic theatre was tested in my practice-led research. Over a series of three performances—ENCIRCLED BY THE IRON GRATING. INSIDE (May 2012...