The Device of the Play Within the Play in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus (79112)

Session Information: Literature/Literary Studies
Session Chair: Yi-Chin Shih

Monday, 27 May 2024 12:45
Session: Session 2
Room: Room C (Live-Stream)
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Centering on the real historical African woman Saartjie Baartman (c.1789-1815), whose stage name is Black Venus, Venus (1996) earns Suzan-Lori Parks (1963-) an OBIE Award for Playwriting for a marvelous representation of a black woman who is silenced and marginalized in history. This paper aims to discuss the device of the play within the play to explore the challenge of representation through three images of Venus in the play. The inner play of Venus is For the Love of the Venus, which is based on the French vaudeville The Hottentot Venus, or The Hatred of French Women (1814). The first part of the paper analyzes this French comedy to examine how Venus is stereotyped as a grotesque freak. Then the paper turns to the inner play of Venus and focuses on the pain of a French woman who disguises herself as Venus to win her husband’s love. The third part of the paper delves into a discussion on the frame play of Venus, which depicts Venus’s journey through Africa, England, and France, based on historical materials such as newspapers and medical reports. Thus, three representations of Venus are presented. Saartjie Baartman is accordingly represented by three different kinds of imaginations. In an attempt to represent Baartman, more interpretations are created, but the authentic Baartman is lost amidst the many versions. The device of the play within the play, therefore, highlights the significance and limitations of representation.

Yi-Chin Shih, National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan

About the Presenter(s)
Dr Yi-chin Shih is a University Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer at National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00