Thompson's family values : Judith Thompson's rupturing of the traditional family unit

Stowe, Lisa (1996) Thompson's family values : Judith Thompson's rupturing of the traditional family unit. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

From the Ancient Greeks to twentieth century playwrights family dramas have a long tradition in the theatre. This tradition includes playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg and Tennessee Williams. Judith Thompson works out of this tradition and her first three plays, The Crackwalker, White Biting Dog and I am Yours, offer disturbing view of the traditional family unit. Through unique stage signs and unusual linguistic systems, Thompson presents each member of that unit (child, father and mother) as subjects in crisis or as subjects who, because of external societal pressures, are unable to survive in a society not ready to decipher their language codes. -- Psycholinguist Julia Kristeva offers a theory of language which helps to unravel the metaphoric and often bizarre language systems of Thompson's characters. Kristeva's theory suggests that subjectivity begins long before Jacques Lacan's mirror stage; an individual uses bodily and instinctual drives as a basis for subjectivity - drives of basic bodily needs. Kristeva claims that these drives, collected in the semiotic chora, situate the individual in life until the mirror stage, at which point the individual enters the logic of Lacan's Symbolic Order. The chora is repressed at the mirror stage, but Kristeva believes it continues to bubble, rupture and manifest itself through speech patterns, unusual sign systems, music, and pauses. Her subject-on-trial becomes an individual who oscillates between the semiotic and the Symbolic chora. -- Thompson's characters' language codes are based on bodily functions: sex, hunger, and defecation. The linguistic is complemented by the theatrical stage signs that vividly illustrate an individual's internal psyche. They are examples of Kristeva's two spaces, as they struggle to control their rumbling semiotic chora while at the same time trying to negotiate the Symbolic Order. In The Crackwalker, Thompson combines a naturalistic structure with her unusual sign systems to deconstruct children. White Biting Dog attacks the patriarchal middle-class family unit, specifically the paternal member, and illustrates through surreal stage signs and heavily realistic language, that family roles are contrived and superficial. I Am Yours confronts the maternal figure through metaphor and illuminating stage signs, and shows how self-awareness and self-reflexivity during a pregnancy can exorcise daemons created from a negligent maternal relationship. Thompson's theatre exemplifies the Kristevan notion of the subject-on-trial.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/7180
Item ID: 7180
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 113-116.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1996
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Thompson, Judith, 1954---Criticism and interpretation; Kristeva, Julia, 1941-; Psycholinguistics; Families in literature

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