Title

Gender Brechting

Type of Proposal

Oral Presentation

Start Date

22-3-2018 10:55 AM

End Date

22-3-2018 12:15 PM

Location

Alumni Auditorium B

Faculty

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Johanna Frank

Abstract/Description of Original Work

I will examine the way in which Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan (1941) offers a complex understanding of gender that moves beyond the traditional binary paradigm when the role of Shen Te, the play’s female protagonist, is gender bent and played by a non-female actor. In the play, Shen Te is tasked with the challenge to be categorically good; however, she finds such an endeavor impossible under capitalism and, as a solution, she invents a male cousin, Shui Ta, who she herself personifies, in order to protect her own self-interest. Brecht does not specify the sex of the actor to play the role(s). When played by a cisgender female performer, an actor who herself identifies as female, Shen Te merely dresses as a man and she becomes Shui Ta. But Brechtian theatre’s investment in the verfermdungseffeckt (translated as, the distancing effect) allows for the female character to be played by a non-female actor. In this case, when the female character becomes the male character, Shui Ta, he gains autonomy and becomes a distinct character, rather than an impersonation by Shen Te. Through a close reading of the play that is informed by the concepts put forth by queer theorists Judith Butler and Judith Halberstam, and with particular attention to Scene 4a, where Shen Te becomes Shui Ta on stage, I will argue that the perception of the role is different when Shen Te is portrayed by a non-female actor. Moreover, by gender bending Shen Te, the play becomes not just about the difficulty of altruism under capitalism, but about the construction and performance of gender, and depicts the struggle of having to rectify disparate female and male identities. Keywords: gender bending, Bertolt Brecht, The Good Woman of Setzuan, verfermdungeffekt Keywords: gender bending, Bertolt Brecht, The Good Woman of Setzuan, verfermdungeffekt

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Mar 22nd, 10:55 AM Mar 22nd, 12:15 PM

Gender Brechting

Alumni Auditorium B

I will examine the way in which Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan (1941) offers a complex understanding of gender that moves beyond the traditional binary paradigm when the role of Shen Te, the play’s female protagonist, is gender bent and played by a non-female actor. In the play, Shen Te is tasked with the challenge to be categorically good; however, she finds such an endeavor impossible under capitalism and, as a solution, she invents a male cousin, Shui Ta, who she herself personifies, in order to protect her own self-interest. Brecht does not specify the sex of the actor to play the role(s). When played by a cisgender female performer, an actor who herself identifies as female, Shen Te merely dresses as a man and she becomes Shui Ta. But Brechtian theatre’s investment in the verfermdungseffeckt (translated as, the distancing effect) allows for the female character to be played by a non-female actor. In this case, when the female character becomes the male character, Shui Ta, he gains autonomy and becomes a distinct character, rather than an impersonation by Shen Te. Through a close reading of the play that is informed by the concepts put forth by queer theorists Judith Butler and Judith Halberstam, and with particular attention to Scene 4a, where Shen Te becomes Shui Ta on stage, I will argue that the perception of the role is different when Shen Te is portrayed by a non-female actor. Moreover, by gender bending Shen Te, the play becomes not just about the difficulty of altruism under capitalism, but about the construction and performance of gender, and depicts the struggle of having to rectify disparate female and male identities. Keywords: gender bending, Bertolt Brecht, The Good Woman of Setzuan, verfermdungeffekt Keywords: gender bending, Bertolt Brecht, The Good Woman of Setzuan, verfermdungeffekt