Introduction: Staging the Unknowable, the Unspeakable, the Unrepresentable

  • Miriam Haughton
Part of the Contemporary Performance InterActions book series (CPI)


This introductory chapter addresses the theoretical concepts central to the intersections of trauma, theatre and performance studies. It asks, if trauma is ‘unknowable’, as the discourse concurs, then how can live performance encounters stage it? Unpacking the case studies of performance in this volume which occur in contemporary Ireland, the north of Ireland and Britain, it introduces the staging contexts of traumatic histories drawn from personal testimonies and archival sources as well as those developed by more traditional playwright/director-driven production models. Central to this staging of trauma is a designated focus on female-centred traumas and performances led by female theatre artists. Judith Herman’s powerful finding in Trauma and Recovery, that it took the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s to highlight that the most dominant group suffering from PTSD are not veterans from war but women in civilian life, potently confirms the hostilities dominating the everyday experience for women. It also tells that their experience is largely normalised and dismissed by national priorities, and consequently, becomes marginalised, or indeed ‘shadowed’ as this volume’s subtitle identifies, until a wider state interest intersects, if at all. Finally, this introduction questions and considers what can the staging of trauma do?


Print Sources

  1. Anderson, Patrick, and Jisha Menon, eds. 2009. Violence Performed: Local Roots and Global Routes of Conflict. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Aston, Elaine. 2010. Feeling the Loss of Feminism: Sarah Kane’s “Blasted” and an Experiential Genealogy of Contemporary Women’s Playwriting. Theatre Journal 62 (4): 575–591.Google Scholar
  3. Caruth, Cathy. 1996. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dean, David, Yana Meerzon, and Kathryn Prince, eds. 2015. History, Memory, Performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  5. Dolan, Jill. 2005. Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ———. 2007. Feminist Performance and Utopia: A Manifesto. In Staging International Feminisms, ed. Elaine Aston and Sue-Ellen Case, 212–221. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Duggan, Patrick. 2012. Trauma-Tragedy: Symptoms of Contemporary Performance. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Gluhovic, Milija. 2013. Performing European Memories: Trauma, Ethics, Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harpin, Anna. 2011. Intolerable Acts. Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts 16 (1): 102–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Harvie, Jen. 2013. Fairplay: Art, Performance and Neoliberalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Herman, Judith. 1992. Trauma and Recovery: From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. London: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  13. Hirsch, Marianne. 2012. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Huopainen, Hilka. 2002. Freud’s View of Hysteria in Light of Modern Trauma Research. The Scandinavian Pyschoanalytic Review 25 (2): 92–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. LaCapra, Dominick. 1999. Trauma, Absence, Loss. Critical Inquiry 25 (4): 696–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lonergan, Patrick. 2008. Theatre and Globalization: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  17. Luckhurst, Roger. 2008. The Trauma Question. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Lyotard, Jean-François. 1990. Heidegger and the Jews. Translated by Andreas Michel and Mark Roberts. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Pine, Emilie. 2011. The Politics of Irish Memory: Performing Remembrance in Contemporary Irish Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Solga, Kim. 2016. Theatre and Feminism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sontag, Susan. 2003. Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  22. Taylor, Diana. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tomlin, Liz, ed. 2013. Foreword: Dramatic Developments. In Contemporary British Theatre: Breaking New Ground, ed. Vicky Angelaki, viii–xxvi. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  24. Wallis, Mick, and Patrick Duggan. 2011. Editorial: On Trauma. Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts 16 (1): 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wickstrom, Maurya. 2012. Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism: Thinking the Political Anew. Basingstoke: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miriam Haughton
    • 1
  1. 1.National University of IrelandGalwayIreland

Personalised recommendations