Hunger on the Stage
In his short story “The Hunger Artist,” Kafka imagined the theatrical career of a “professional faster” whose performance consists merely in displaying his own starving body before an avid audience. Kafka thus paradoxically suggested that hunger, mere emptiness working its way through declining bodies, may be a privileged theatrical object. Hunger often signals an anchorage in socio-historical reality, and invites extreme situations on stage, articulating large-scale cataclysms (famines, the devastation of war) with personal tragedies (hunger-strikes, anorexia, etc.) in which characters experience the tenuousness of their own lives. Whether in the comic or in the tragic mode, staged hunger metaphorizes various kinds of starvation – material greed, spiritual, emotional, sexual starvation, and even linguistic insufficiency.
This volume explores the aesthetic and ethical issues raised by hunger on the stage in the English-speaking world. It investigates the paradox of the hypervisibility of the thinning body and shows how, throughout history, hunger has given shape to innovative, powerfully transgressive dramaturgies.
Prof. Elisabeth Angel-Perez is professor of English Literature and drama at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV). Her recent publications include Voyages au bout du possible : Les théâtres du traumatisme de Samuel Beckett à Sarah Kane (Paris: Klincksieck, 2006), Howard Barker et le Théâtre de la Catastrophe (Paris: Théâtrales, 2006), and, with Nicole Boireau, Le Théâtre anglais contemporain 1985-2005 (Paris: Klincksieck, 2007). She is co-editor of the journal Etudes Anglaises. She also translates plays and theoretical writings by Martin Crimp, Caryl Churchill and Howard Barker.
Alexandra Poulain is professor of Irish literature and drama at University Charles de Gaulle - Lille III. She has written extensively on twentieth-century Irish drama. Her current research focuses on the processes of figuration and disfiguration of national identity in the drama of the Irish Literary Revival. She has also translated several Irish playwrights into French. She is the author of Homo Famelicus, Le Théâtre de Tom Murphy (Caen : Presses Universitaires de Caen, 2008).
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