Staging Atlantic Slavery: figuring theatricality, performance and resistance in Anglo-Caribbean narratives of slavery and abolition

Chalcraft, Margaret Stewart (2020) Staging Atlantic Slavery: figuring theatricality, performance and resistance in Anglo-Caribbean narratives of slavery and abolition. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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During the period of British abolitionism, there was a marked absence of historically accurate representations of enslaved people on the metropolitan stage. Calls for abolition by the formerly enslaved in the Georgian era nonetheless employed a theatrical idiom, utilising spectacle to enlist support and inspire sympathetic witness in their audiences. Writers such as Mary Prince and Robert Wedderburn dramatized their lived experience in narrative form, deploying performative speech acts and theatricality to press for political change.
This thesis addresses the staging of Atlantic slavery and its legacies through both creative and critical means. It comprises a trilogy of original stage plays, accompanied by critical research interrogating performative, rhetorical and historical constructions and subversions of the discourses of Atlantic slavery and abolition. The first two plays and their concomitant critical work explore how Prince and Wedderburn confronted dominant racialised discourses, forcing acknowledgement of their subjectivity: Prince through linguistic dexterity, encoding and mimicry; Wedderburn through anarchic, carnivalesque theatrics. Working within the prevailing discourses of Christianity and sensibility, both elected to ‘perform the self’, making their own persons central to their work against dehumanizing narratives of enslavement.
Many creative productions and discursive legacies of slavery and abolition in Britain continue to elide the subjectivity of the enslaved. Through the examination of abolition-era historical discourses and contemporary representations, the third stage play explores the ways in which post-colonial narratives of abolition, slavery and reparations continue to impact on British life today. The accompanying critical work offers a reflexive analysis of the discursive, theoretical and imaginative intersections between the creative and critical components of this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing (former - to 2011)
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2021 09:28
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2021 09:28

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