Staging and Transformation of Gender Archetypes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, M. Butterfly, and Kiss of the Spider Woman

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This study employs Jungian and post-Jungian hermeneutics to address psychological, social and political perspectives in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, M. Butterfly, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. These plays and their Broadway productions contain mythic narratives and dreams that Jung described as visionary drama. Peter Brooks’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream stages Jungian archetypes that bridge modern and postmodern production sensibilities and aesthetics. David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly deconstructs patriarchal personae and stages projection and introjection. Terrence McNally’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, an adaptation of Manuel Puig’s novel, demonstrates the fluidity of meaning in postmodern archetypes. This book will engage theatre scholars and practitioners as well as scholars of popular culture and interdisciplinary studies. It models archetypal hermeneutics as a useful analytical tool for postmodern performance criticism. Illustrated with production photographs.


“Mira Wiegmann writes with remarkable insight and style. Her analysis of my play M. Butterfly illuminated its themes and strategies with impressive clarity and depth, helping even me to understand the work a little better.” – David Henry Hwang

“In this volume, Mira Wiegmann shows how fertile and relevant a Jungian approach to theater and film interpretation is with a keen knowledge of archetypal interpretation, as well as a mastery of the surrounding literary commentary, Ms. Wiegmann perceptively analyzes the development of the characters and plot in three dramas, drawing on the unconscious implications of the writers, the staging and the story. She deftly illustrates why we need a theory of unconscious meanings, one in which insight can be discovered rather than imposed, to enrich our experience of literature and theater. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who studies theater or film, and for those who are special fans of the three dramas she reviews.” – Polly Young-Eisendrath, editor, The Cambridge Companion to Jung

“Wiegmann’s thoroughly-researched and insightful study convincingly demonstrates that Jungian/post-Jungian analysis of drama can not only be compatible with feminist concerns but may be of practical value for theatre artists. Indeed, she mentions in her Introduction an analogy between the Jungian therapist and the collaborative play director, in that both help others to ‘discover connections between their own experience and collective human experience.’” – Suzanne Burgoyne, Professor of Theatre at the University of Missouri-Columbia, former editor of Theatre Topics.

“This book boasts the most complete and coherent hermeneutic exploration of Shakespeare’s Dream that I have seen in one place. It also provides a beautiful account of the evolution of a Kiplingesque story from 1899, “Madame Butterfly,” through Puccini’s kitsch opera masterpiece into the critique of the sexual politics of colonial Orientalism that is M. Butterfly. And it ends with an extended demonstration of how the story of the unlikely love between a drag queen and a leftist revolutionary has served to symbolize, with compelling, mythic force, the inner work needed to confront contemporary realities as different as political repression and the AIDS epidemic. One’s interest is sustained throughout by the ampleness of Wiegmann’s well-chosen descriptions of actual productions. Her limpid style makes it easy to keep her argument in view through even its most detailed elaborations. To read this book is to be rewarded with a vision of how completely a theatrical work of art can be illuminated by the psychological critic who is willing to engage with the cultural, political, and aesthetic history that frame its uncanny significance to us. Wiegmann opens the way to a new kind of drama criticism in which psyche and culture are given similar weight and explored in equal depth. This is a sound approach to the meanings of productions that have advanced our consciousness.” – John Beebe, author of Integrity in Depth

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Introduction: Archetypal Hermeneutics and Postmodern Theatre Performance
1. Male Individuation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2. the Deconstruction of Patriarchal Personae and Orientalist Myths in M. Butterfly
3. Archetypal Pastiche in Kiss of the Spider Woman
4. emended and Enacted Archetypes in Kiss of the Spider Woman
5. Cinematic Archetypal Shifts in Kiss of the Spider Woman
6. Re-Visioning Archetypes in The Kiss of the Spider Woman, the Musical
Bibliography; Index

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