The Punitive Scene and the Performance of Salvation: Violence, the Flesh, and the Word
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The theatricalization of sexual violence works to absent the lived complexities of a survivor’s suffering as it transforms rape into an experience proper to public space. And yet the conventions of rape’s metatheatrical return, as we saw in Chapter 2, are pliable enough to be refashioned into a rebel performance of rape’s constitutive invisibilities, provoking acts of witness ‘beyond recognition’(Oliver, 2001). In this chapter, I turn away from sexual assault and toward the much more legally tricky notion of domestic violence against women in early modern England. Building on the forked logic of the metatheatrical return, I examine the relationship between the battery of wives in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and the acts of domestic theatre designed to keep that battery from appearing in public as anything more than a reasonable, indeed a spiritual, act of household care. What happens, I ask, when the language, tropes, and performance tools used to shape a woman’s body in violence into a body in grace begin to break down? Is the ‘performance of salvation’, like the ‘metatheatrical return’, subject to a queer, unexpected haunting? What kinds of subversive cultural work might the battered female body do in early modern social space, and how can contemporary theatre artists harness its power?
KeywordsBattered Woman Conduct Literature Reasonable Correction Early Modern Physical Correction
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