Sarah Kane: Cool Britannia's reluctant feminist
Saunders, G. (2010) Sarah Kane: Cool Britannia's reluctant feminist. In: Hadley, L. and Ho, E. (eds.) Thatcher and after: Margaret Thatcher and her afterlife in contemporary culture. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK, pp. 199-220. ISBN 9780230233317
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Aleks Sierz in his important survey of mid 1990s drama has identified the plays of Sarah Kane as exemplars of what he terms ‘In-Yer Face’ theatre. Sierz argues that Kane and her contemporaries such as Mark Ravenhill and Judy Upton represent a break with the ideological concerns of the previous generation of playwrights such as Doug Lucie and Stephen Lowe, whose work was shaped through recognizable political concerns, often in direct opposition to Thatcherism. In contrast Sarah Kane and her generation have frequently been seen as literary embodiments of ‘Thatcher’s Children’, whereby following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the inertia of the Major years, their drama eschews a recognizable political position, and seems more preoccupied with the plight of individuals cut adrift from society. In the case of Sarah Kane her frequently quoted statement, ‘I have no responsibility as a woman writer because I don’t believe there’s such a thing’, has compounded this perception. Moreover, its dogmatism also echoes the infamous comments attributed to Mrs Thatcher regarding the role of the individual to society. However, this article seeks to reassess Kane’s position as a woman writer and will argue that her drama is positioned somewhere between the female playwrights who emerged after 1979 such as Sarah Daniels, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Clare McIntyre, whose drama was distinguished by overtly feminist concerns, and its subsequent breakdown, best exemplified by the brief cultural moment associated with the newly elected Blair government known as ‘Cool Britannia’. Drawing on a variety of sources, including Kane’s unpublished monologues, written while she was a student just after Mrs Thatcher left office, this paper will argue that far from being an exponent of post-feminism, Kane’s drama frequently revisits and is influenced by the generation of dramatists whose work was forged out the sharp ideological positions that characterized the 1980s and a direct consequence of Thatcherism.
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