How Timberlake Wertenbaker Constructs New Forms of Gender in Her History Plays

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Despite the confines of traditional notions of history and gender, Timberlake Wertenbaker uses her history plays to argue that history and gender should be reread to radically challenge these traditional notions. She uses her history plays to construct a new vision. This book discusses seven Timberlake plays from this new perspective of gender, focusing on how gender impacts history, showing the unstable power relations that exist between the sexes.


“[The author]’s book is a delight to read because of her in-depth analysis and insightful interpretations of the unsettling formation of history and gender. Her reiterated message of Wertenbaker’s exposition and critique of male-constructed history and gender helps us fully appreciate the radical portrayals of those uncompromising heroines in Wertenbaker’s plays.” – Prof. Tsui-fen Jiang, National Chengchi University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr. Tsui-fen Jiang


Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: History as Narrative: The Possibility of Writing Gender into History

History as a Literary Artifact
Wertenbaker’s Concept of History
The Narrative Element in History
The Right to Narrate History
Dancing with History
Multiplicity of History
Gender as a Useful Category of Historical Analysis
Wertenbaker’s Concept of Gender
A Constitutive Element of World Relationships
The Possibility of Reconstruction of Gender
Reshaping the Traditional Perception of History

Chapter Three: Rewriting History: Gender in Wertenbaker’s History Plays

Cross-Dressing and Identity in New Anatomies
Isabelle as a ‘Weird” Women
Cross-Dressing as Subversion and Submission
Isabelle’s Identity through Cross-Dressing
Crossing the Spatial Division in The Grace of Mary Travers
The Spatial Division Confining Women to a Private Space
Mary in the House
Mary in the City
Mary Returning to the House
Crisis of Imperialism and Colonial Resistance in Our Country’s Good
British People versus Australian Aboriginal Peoples
English Officers versus English Convicts
English Officers: Both Colonizer and the Colonized
Crisis of Masculinity and Evolutionary History in After Darwin
Men’s Studies in the 1990s
Multiple Masculinities
The Bottom of the Gender Hierarchy
Evolutionary History

Chapter Four: Retelling History: Gender in Wertenbaker’s Oral History Plays

The Love of the Nightingale: A Modern Revision of the Philomele Myth
The Meaning of Myth: A Reconsideration
Philomele: A Women Without a Tongue
Procne: A Woman as a Gift
Dianeira: A Revisionary Myth about Anger
Angry Women: Dianeira and Iole
Angry Men: Heracles and Hyllos
The Ash Girl: New Cinderella in the New Millennium
Three Cinderellas
Ashgirl’s Rite of Passage

Chapter Five: Conclusion



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