Rachel Fensham

Title: Theatre, philosophy and the female archive

Abstract: This paper offers a reflection on the relationship between philosophy and the female archive. It begins with the story of Virginia Woolf and her misidentified manuscript A Room of One’s Own and ends with Derrida’s tender ‘I found myself’ tribute to the Hèléne Cixous archive in the Bibliotheque Nationale. I intend to use these book-ends to reconsider the question of how philosophy, mostly shaped by traditions of the masculine, might respond to and research the female voice and its performative potential. How can philosophy consider archives that are lost, mistreated, misrecognised or unloved? This is pertinent to theatre archives and institutions, including the Victoria & Albert or the National Theatre, that contain female voices. Derrida, I will suggest, makes powerful claims for hearing the female voice as an archive, in theatre, libraries, and research centres. I will thus argue that unless philosophy reads the archive of the feminine, we cannot create a new performance theory.

Bio: Rachel Fensham is Research Professor and Head of the Department of Dance, Film and Theatre at the University of Surrey. Her current research is a study of transnational and cross-cultural choerography in Australian dance. Other publications include work in theatre studies, feminist performance and writing, postcolonial theory and semiotics. Recent publications include: The Dolls' Revolution: Australian Theatre and Cultural Imagination (2005), with Denise Varney, and “Operating Theatres: Body-bits and a Post-apartheid aesthetics”, in Anatomy Live: Performance and the Operating Theatre (2008), edited by Maaike Bleeker.

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