The performance of sexual and economic politics in the plays of Aphra Behn.
AuthorSnook, Lorrie Jean
KeywordsFeminism and theater -- Great Britain -- History -- 17th century.
Theater -- Great Britain -- History -- 17th century.
Committee ChairCanfield, J. Douglas
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractSince her work as a professional playwright in the 1670s and 1680s, critics have sought to equate Aphra Behn and her plays, to fix and stabilize the body of the writer and of her work. She has been marked as a prostitute, a feminist, and a masculinist hack, in each case her gender determining the value of and audience for her writing. This dissertation argues that Behn's plays--and Behn--should be read in terms of her controlling tropes and forms of performance and intrigue. Her plays and her presence use these tropes and forms to decenter the idea of identity and manipulate conventions of gender roles in the patriarchal Restoration theater. In doing so, she recasts and reconstitutes the structure of the patriarchal theater and economy. Chapter 1 introduces my argument and presents an overview of critical and feminist responses to Behn. I use this overview to present my own view of identity as performance, opposing such essentialist theorists as Helene Cixous. Chapter 2 develops the historical and metaphorical associations of intrigue and performance, beginning with her Preface to The Dutch Lover; in reading two of her lesser-known intrigue-comedies, The Dutch Lover and The Feign'd Curtezans, or a Night's Intrigue, I then argue that performance and intrigue challenge the conventional engendering of roles such as the rake and the courtesan. Chapter 3 expands these associations and reads her economic metaphors, as I look at Behn's most famous intrigue-comedy, The Rover, and its sequel; as well as challenging conventional roles and economic valuations, however, The Rover, Part II emphasizes the ultimate inescapability of these roles and valuations in the patriarchal theater. Chapter 4 moves to her town-comedies; I argue that Behn adapts the intrigue-form to her comedies of manners, working out the characters' struggle between convention and nature to define public and private selves. Sir Patient Fancy sets up the power that the manipulation of convention offers; The City Heiress emphasizes the limits of such manipulation; The Lucky Chance offers magic and ambiguity as new theatrical possibility to subvert convention and recast role.