Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Oliver Gerland

Second Advisor

Bertram Coleman

Third Advisor

Jessica Hillman-Mccord

Abstract

This thesis will examine three plays written by three female American playwrights of the early twentieth century and compare their depictions of female characters with mental disorders. I hypothesize that the playwrights used mental disorders as a metaphor for the patriarchal oppression that they experienced in their lives. After the ratification of the nineteenth amendment a backlash occurred; securing the right to vote had overcome one instance of patriarchal oppression but it had not conquered the oppression living within individuals or in societal institutions. I will specifically analyze Everyday (1921) by Rachel Crothers, The Verge (1921) by Susan Glaspell, and Machinal (1928) by Sophie Treadwell. To prove my hypothesis, I examine mental disorders experienced by a leading female character in each play, and prove a connection to the patriarchal oppression present in the 1920s. The basis of my theoretical lens will be Elaine Showalter’s work, especially her 1979 article “Towards a Feminist Poetics.” To define the mental disorders depicted in the characters, I shall use The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition or DSM-V. Not only does the DSM-V provide a clear description of the characters’ mental states, it also suggests the playwrights’ prescience and their work’s continued relevance.

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