Disability and Family in Twenty-First Century American Drama
Başer Özcan, Duygu Beste
xmlui.mirage2.itemSummaryView.MetaDataShow full item record
This dissertation analyzes John Belluso’s Pyretown (2005), The Rules of Charity (2006), A Nervous Smile (2006), David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People (2011), Stephan Karam’s The Humans (2015), Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living (2018), Amy Herzog’s Mary Jane (2018), and Lindsey Ferrentino’s Amy and the Orphans (2019) and scrutinizes the ways contemporary American playwrights employ disability in relation to the myth of the flawless American family. The representation of disability on the American stage has always been a complicated one as disabled bodies were either used as metaphors or presented as freaks, victims, and villains. The plays examined in this dissertation, however, negotiate disability as a multifaceted experience. They portray family dynamics that changed in the twenty-first century while dissociating disability from stereotypical meanings. The playwrights dramatize the lived experience of disability, and they problematize ideologies that ostracize, pathologize, and oppress disabled individuals to initiate social, cultural, and political transformation in the United States. Since they criticize dehumanizing and exploitative social and political institutions using realism and the affective power of theater, these plays are referred to as the social problem plays of the twenty-first century. Each chapter exposes oppressive power relations and portrays the lived experience of disabled individuals without romanticizing or objectifying their bodies. Neoliberalism, class, problems in the healthcare and welfare systems, and the cult of normalcy are presented as the forces that put the family in a dysfunctional state whereas disability is depicted as a social, cultural, and political construction. Therefore, these plays are progressive and subversive with their truthful depictions of families with disabled members, showing that the problem is not disability but constructed normalcy, which forces families and individuals to conform to rigid definitions.