Beyond Character: A Post/Humanist Approach to Modern Theatre

Louise LePage

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis explores what it means to be human; specifically, what characters in drama and theatre reveal about what it means to be human. It also explores what it means to talk about dramatic character; specifically, what the human’s various forms reveal about dramatic character and how such forms interact with critical approaches to character. The thesis, thus, has a dual focus but the human and dramatic character are, in the context of my project, importantly, entwined and mutually enlightening.
One of the aims of this thesis is to rehabilitate dramatic character. In doing so, it works to rehabilitate humanist subjectivity, too, albeit of a sort that is modified by hybrid structures of being and identity which are informed by posthumanist discourse. Such a structure, I argue, enables humans to be conceived simultaneously as creators and creations. I name this structure post/humanist.
The first three chapters consist of theoretically engaged discussions which present the post/humanist framework underpinning this thesis’s arguments for identity, subjectivity, and modern dramatic character. Chapter One claims it is a mistake to view the modern human being in exclusively liberal humanist terms and employs Donna Haraway’s cyborg to reveal and argue for its indeterminate post/humanist form. Chapter Two makes the case for this thesis’s alternative post/humanist account of modern subjectivity by revealing that the representation of liberal humanist subjectivity as the orthodox form of the modern period may have been overstated. Chapter Three argues for a post/humanist method of analysing dramatic character that conceives it as a structure of natural and cultural parts.
Chapters Four, Five, and Six present case studies of the characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (circa 1599-1601), August Strindberg’s Miss Julie (1888), and Sarah Kane’s Blasted (1995). Focusing in these three different versions of modern dramatic characters, detailed analyses reveal forms and identities in process in a world – dramatic and real – that forms character and is, in turn, also formed by character.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Rebellato, Dan, Supervisor
  • Bush-Bailey, Gillian, Advisor
Award date1 Jul 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • dramatic character
  • humanism
  • posthumanism
  • subjectivity
  • modern theatre
  • drama
  • human

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