Caryl Churchill’s Artificial and Orificial Bodies: Between Subjective and Non-Subjective Nobody’s Emotion or Affect

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Abstract

This article analyzes the shift from emotion to affect in Caryl Churchill’s writing for the theatre, a process which becomes prominent in the later seventies and culminates in the production of A Mouthful of Birds, a project designed jointly with the choreographer David Lan. The effects of the transformation remain traceable in The Skriker, a complex play taking several years to complete. It is argued that there is a tangible and logical correlation between Churchill’s dismantling of the representational apparatus associated with the tradition of institutional theatre—a process which involves, primarily, a dissolution of its artificially constructed, docile bodies into orificial ones—and her withdrawal from the use of emotional expression in favour of the affective. In the following examination, emotions are conceived as interpretative acts modelled on cognition and mediated through representations while the intensity of affect remains unstructured. Often revealed through violence, pain and suffering, affect enables the theatre to venture into the pre-cognitive and thus beyond the tradition of liberal subject formation.

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