Attempts on (writing) her life: ethics and ontology in pro-feminist playwriting

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Does a feminist dramaturgy exist for male playwrights? The post-1990s work of British playwrights Simon Stephens, Tim Crouch and Martin Crimp variously enact an attrition between female protagonists and male writers. Appraising these "attempts on (writing) her life" requires a feminist criticality that can incorporate the unique, intersubjective relation of playwright and character. What is the gendered relationship of these actors? In the manner of Performance/Philosophy, this essay finds that Levinasian fecundity answers this call – finding a crucial space for continental philosophy in the pro-feminist movement. Drawing on the philosophical significance of “objectification”, this essay argues that ethical portrayals of gender - in Peggy Phelan’s notion of the ‘representational economy’ - bestow a responsibility upon male playwrights to explore the potential to contribute to feminist critical writing. Whether this is a matter of ontology – and the essentialism of sexual difference that accompanies such a position – is weighed against the ethics of men-writing-women.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPerformance Philosophy
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)268-298
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • phenomenology
  • performativity
  • feminism

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