Female subjects in selected dramatic comedies by Canadian women




Derksen, Céleste Daphne Anne

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This dissertation examines five dramatic comedies by Canadian women and the female subject positions they provide. Through these analyses, it examines how constructions of female subjectivity are both constrained and enabled by comedic discourse. The Introduction argues that traditional patterns and formalist conceptions of comedy have not made a place for female subjects and that, while feminist critics have begun to examine women's comedies and the female subjects they construct, those studies need to be complicated in order to make space for the variety and complexity of female subject positions elicited by the plays under consideration. In dialogue with contemporary theories regarding gender performance, language, and subjectivity (with particular reference to theorists Judith Butler and Catherine Belsey), this study goes on to examine the entangled and indeterminate qualities of female subjects in a selection of Canadian women's comedies. Chapter One discusses the didactic and hidden subject positions within Sarah Anne Curzon's The Sweet Girl Graduate, a nineteenth-century revision of the comedy of manners. Chapter Two discusses the gender anxiety inscribed in Erika Ritter's Automatic Pilot, a comedy about a female stand-up comic. Chapter Three considers the Jungian feminist conception of subjectivity dramatized in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Chapter Four proposes that Margaret Hollingsworth's The House that Jack Built constructs a feminist and absurdist subject position. Chapter Five examines gender parody and play in Karen Hines' Pochsy's Lips, and argues that this bouffon performance piece conceives of female subjectivity as a playful and critical realm. Chapter analyses focus on variances in how these comedies represent and understand women's capacities to intervene in genre and gender formations, and in social and psychic realms, which in turn reflect their different conceptions of female subjectivity. In conclusion, this study advocates the benefits of reading women's comedies not only in terms of patterns of genre or gender revisions, but also as destabilizing forms of linguistic, psychic, and bodily performance. Its feminist appeal lies in the assertion that change is effected not only by overt alterations of comedic or social patterns, but also by the issue of multiple and potentially new subject positions, which are produced by different forms of comedic and comic practice.



Women authors, Women in literature, Feminism and literature