(Post)Modern Subjectivity and the New-Expressionism: Howard Barker, Sarah Kane and Forced Entertainment

K. Gritzner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)


In this article, postmodernism is defined as an extension and problematization of modernist questions to which the problem of subjectivity remains a central concern. The concept of subjectivity is considered a redundant category in much of postmodernist theory; however, this is not the case in contemporary drama, theatre and performance, as is demonstrated in analyses of the work of Howard Barker, Sarah Kane and Forced Entertainment.

The theoretical framework of this discussion is based on the work of Frankfurt School member Theodor W. Adorno who drew attention to the diminishing possibilities of subjective experience in late-capitalist (postmodern) society. For Adorno, resistance to the reification of the self in post-Auschwitz culture can only be found in an encounter with the aesthetic or, as is argued here, in an encounter with the distinctively theatrical. The examples of ‘new-expressionist’ theatre and performance discussed here engage with the crisis of subjectivity (a modernist trope) in a late-capitalist context, using aesthetic approaches which heighten the ‘damaged’ nature of the subject (Adorno). Subjectivity is articulated in a series of confrontations with outer and inner limitations, in experimental theatrical form, and in the particular immediacy of the performance event.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-340
Number of pages13
JournalContemporary Theatre Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2008


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