Re-embodying the alienation of exile : feminist subjectivity, spectatorship, politics and performance


Milanovic, Vesna 2006. Re-embodying the alienation of exile : feminist subjectivity, spectatorship, politics and performance. Thesis University of East London
AuthorsMilanovic, Vesna

This thesis maps and performs a new approach to the work of a major twentieth
century artist, and outlines an interpretative framework as a model for a broader
contemporary exploration of the theme of exile as it is lived and experienced in both personal
and political ways at the end of the twentieth and twenty-first century. The main body of the
thesis is a scholarly endeavour of `re-thinking Woyzeck through Marie's gaze', and thereby
seeks to illuminate the major themes of politics, gender and poetics in Nadj's Woyzeck, staged
in 1994, as a significant dance theatre work. The thesis argues that the political turbulence in
`Post- (Berlin) Wall' Europe had a great impact on theatre and dance performance practice. In
this context, Woyzeck is examined from a number of critical perspectives, and is treated as an
influential political and dramatic text which can shed light on the more general process of
`performing exile' that is alienating and re embodying it in a performance context. Beyond
this critical analysis, however, the thesis also offers a performative voice engaging in debate
with itself, and creates a new technology tool for testing its own theories in performance
practice: the PORT (Performance Online in Real Time) application.
The thesis as written, and as performed, is both academic and personal: the journey of
the thesis is the journey of my body, my mind, my critical understanding, as I have worked to
escape the lingering sense of not belonging to my own country (Serbia), my adopted country
(England), and the invisible boundaries, memories and liminal spaces between. The thesis
thus studies Woyzeck's construction of a woman's view of her own not-belonging, and offers
a scholarly analysis from the first person, embodied knowledge of another woman's
understanding: it maps a journey into exile and out again through language (spoken, gestural,
and theoretical) and through the movement of the body as a form of self-reclamation beyond
spoken and written language.
By applying a hybrid feminist and psychoanalytic approach to this intertextual
analysis of `the feminine gaze' in each of the transdiciplinary arguments put forward, the
thesis aims to both challenge and examine the stereotype of the female figure's (Marie's) role
in Nadj's Woyzeck as well as the role of the female spectator and performer. Focus is directed
at important signifying objects and acts in the play: e. g. the significance of the `red necklace',
seen as an apt metaphor for the silenced female voice and the exiled subjectivity of this
female character. Through application of a feminist/ psychoanalytic approach in the
intertextual analysis, the thesis pays particular attention to the spectator's gaze and Marie's
gaze, and to the act of reframing her role and questioning her position as the `objectified
other' in a performative space. In this repositioning of Marie more centrally within the story
of her own exile, the aim is to provide a platform from which she might act as a `speaking
subject' as she writes Her own story, which is also my story, and the story of many exiled
women in theatrical texts.
The main theoretical influence on this work is Helene Cixous' feminist theory, which
though frequently applied to the field of performance studies in general, has not been studied
in relation to this precise theme of exile in performance in an embodied and technologyenhanced
study. By not only rewriting Marie's story but also re-enacting my own, and further
capturing this story of exile in a new technology tool created as part of the research for this
thesis, I see, to challenge the role of the spectator/reader in the performance analysis, inviting
him/her to witness the performance event and to engage as a political and gendered speaking
subject. I also aim to offer a technology tool that other actors, dancers and scholars will find
useful in their own performance experiments in future.
This thesis seeks to make a significant and original contribution to the fields of
knowledge in Performance Studies, Media Studies, Cultural Studies and Digital Media Art,
and draws upon more established fields in Feminist Theory and Cultural Studies for the base
upon which these newer approaches can be positioned.

KeywordsWoyzeck; twentieth century art; performative space; Helene Cixous; feminist theory
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Deposited11 May 2011
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This thesis supplied via ROAR to UEL-registered users is protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights, and duplication of any part of the material is not permitted, except for your personal use for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study in electronic or print form. You must obtain permission from the copyright-holder for any other use. Electronic or print copies may not be offered, for sale or otherwise, to anyone. No quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.

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