Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
This thesis investigates the representation of mothers within contemporary Australian female authored theatre and drama. It does this through the use of feminist dramatic criticism and by engaging with significant ideas drawn from the field of Motherhood Studies. This thesis addresses the question, “what are the repercussions of genres for the representation of mothers in selected Australian theatre and drama?” This thesis argues that Australian female playwrights are writing complex mother characters which challenge commonly held beliefs about motherhood, but that genres can significantly impact upon the representation of mothers in theatre and drama. It presents a careful selection of genres and mother characters to demonstrate this contention. It finds that the mother characters staged in mainstream Australian theatre both reflect and skew the realities of maternal identity, maternal practices and the institution of motherhood. This thesis examines the relationship between genres and the representation of mothers in selected mainstream contemporary Australian female authored play-texts and live performances in the 2000s. It presents a two-pronged analytic approach which incorporates feminist dramatic criticism (Dolan 1988; Fensham and Varney 2005), genre studies (e.g. Wake 2010) and Motherhood Studies (Reimer and Sahagian 2015) as a fruitful combination of fields by which to analyse mother characters in theatre and drama, and particularly in an Australian context. The works selected for analysis have been staged at mainstream theatre venues within Australia and, in some cases, overseas. The mother characters in Australian theatre and drama comprise multiple contradictory figures. These figures reveal the multidimensional process of mothering. The character of the mother in analysis and theatre reception has often been overlooked or framed as a stereotype. By analysing Australian play-texts such as Jane Harrison’s Stolen, Hannie Rayson’s Inheritance, and Joanna Murray-Smith’s The Female of the Species and Pennsylvania Avenue motherhood can be understood in greater depth.
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