We Neo Victorians: Queer Time in Caryl Churchill's Cloud Nine and Sarah Ruhl's Orlando

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    This paper explores queer time and historiography in Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine(1987) and in Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando(2010). Paying particular attention to what Elizabeth Freeman describes as ‘the centrality of pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, in queer practices of encountering and documenting the past’ (Freeman, 2010, p. xxiii), I will argue that the aforementioned plays are key to understanding how notions of sex and gender are not only formed and constructed in relation to time, but how they might be queried and queered also. Both Woolf and Churchill disrupt linear narrative structure and chronological form in their works, drawing attention to the social construction of gender and sexual identities, highlighting how narrative detours ‘suggest ways of putting the past into meaningful, transformative relation with the present’ (Freeman, 2010). For both writers, the possibilities of queering representations of gender and sexuality emerge from the potential to stop, pause and scramble historical sequence and chronological time. Audiences, in other words, are parachuted from one time to the next without explanation,employing a temporal shift as urgent and abrupt as Churchill’s and Woolf’s investments in confronting the sexual politics of their time. Recognising how our relationship to history very much shapes how we think about gender, sexual pleasure and bodies in mainstream culture, I will show how the possibilities of queer time allow us to reimagine, reinvent, and potentially even reshape our connection to historical narratives of gender and sexual expression. Given the on-going unease, unrest and urgency to confront gender and sexual politics in the West,this paper revisits Churchill’s play and Woolf’s narrative, in order to highlight how theatre’s rupturing of time and logical order can free up space to consider our own experiences in a world of restrictive codes and conventions
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
    EventTroubling Time: Temporality in the Arts - University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
    Duration: 1 Jun 20172 Jun 2017


    ConferenceTroubling Time: Temporality in the Arts
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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