Date of Award

1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Robyn McCarron

Abstract

The 'reality' of contemporary Australia is based upon hegemonic perceptions of society, which categorise and classify subjects and groups. These perceptions are based upon dominant ideologies that make sense of and order the world in a particular way. Where 'minority' groups are concerned, their experience, their way of life and their way of 'being' is seen to deviate from the hegemonic perception; they don't fit into the dominant ideology and are therefore constituted as 'different', which through Western polarisation sees them marginalised as the 'Other' seen as somehow more deviant than those who fit the dominant ideology. Noelle Janaczewska's play Historia (1996), presents us with these minority groups, which she juxtaposes with the dominant ideologies. Through an exegesis which questions notions of class, ethnicity, sexuality and gender, this thesis explores the ways in which these groups are justified as being 'Other', how they are not seen and how they are unable to "he" at all. Historia presents four characters, two historical gay men from Poland and two contemporary Australian lesbian women, one of whom is a second-generation immigrant from Poland. Thus, we are endowed with the oppressed and marginalised groups of (if we are to put it in dominant ideological terms) man/woman, heterosexual/homosexual, coloniser/colonised, capitalists/proletarians. These groups therefore share multiple oppressions. Womanhood is an oppression made most obvious through the feminist movement, homosexuality through the gay and now 'queer' liberation movement, the ethnic position through post-colonialism, and the class structures of society through conflict theories such as Marxism. Through each of these discourses, this thesis will position the subject in relation to the foregoing theoretical perspectives. As the characters in the play Historia encounter biases associated with immigration and the White Australia Policy involving assimilation, integration and later multiculturalism; lack of employment or work in devalued sectors of the economy; homosexuality and the classification that makes them 'deviant' and 'superficial' 'Others'; and the accompaniment of womanhood which involves biases in the home, family and economy- we are taken on a journey of oppression to expose the dominant ideologies that maintain the capitalist and patriarchal hegemonies in Australia. Janaczewska alters these perceptions of dominant ideologies. Through the medium of the theatre as a political and an ideological force, she adopts methods of dramaturgy that expose and interrogate the dominant perceptions of society. By placing two women on a patriarchally dominated stage Janaczewska overrides the hegemonic beliefs in society allowing women not only a voice but also a physical space in which to tell of their experiences. Through devices ranging from the deviation of Aristotelian theatricality, to the use of Brecht's alienation effect for feminist purposes, Janaczewska structures and represents the narrative of Historia through an alternative form that deconstructs and exemplifies 'reality' as a construct, capable of change through the space of the theatre. This thesis does not attempt to provide answers or solutions to these oppressions or the mechanisms that function as power relations within any one society but, rather, it exemplifies the complexities society attempts to seal over. In so doing it reveals fragmented and transient identities rather than a unified hegemony within the Australian context.

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