In this book, Jason B. Dorwart contends that the material presence of visible disability disrupts the framing devices that provide safe distancing for theatre’s fictive nature. Conceptions of disability that place the disabled body into a permanently liminal space between life and death are directly at odds with theatrical performances, which are geared toward moving through liminality into a new point of stasis. Dorwart reveals how this contradiction leads to performance practices that work to marginalize and eliminate the presence of disabled bodies of both character and actor, as disabled characters have historically been written with different character arcs than nondisabled characters and with the assumption that they would be played by nondisabled actors. As more disabled actors gain exposure in film and theatre, the difference in how disabled characters are written is also increasingly affected by whether the role is intended for a disabled or nondisabled actor. These performances are enacting new means to performatively and figuratively reincorporate or eliminate the liminal disabled body. The Incorporeal Corpse demonstrates how recent plays and films try to rectify this tension between the permanence of disability and the transitory nature of performance. Scholars of theatre, disability studies, and performance studies will find this book of particular interest.
Jason B. Dorwart is assistant professor of global theatre studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Framing Disability, Disabling the Frame: The Permeable Aesthetic Distance of The Cripple of Inishmaan
Chapter Two: Controlling Disability: Representations of the Elephant Man
Chapter Three: Eliminating Disability: American Horror Story’s Subtle Preference for Cripping Up
Chapter Four: Reframing Disability: Live Performance and Countering the Incorporeal Corpse
Chapter Five: Reviewing Disability: Public Taste at Play with Disability Studies
About the Author
“The Incorporeal Corpse is a timely intervention into current debates about disabled actors playing disabled roles. Jason Dorwart addresses the question of what difference disability makes in theater and, more specifically, what impact a disabled actor makes on audience expectations when playing a disabled character. Dorwart’s sophisticated treatment of work in theater, television, and performance makes this a vital contribution to both disability and theater studies.”
“With this book, Jason Dorwart goes to the heart of the prejudice against disability in the performing arts. Dorwart demonstrates that since Oedipus’ blinding, performance has always had an uneasy relationship with real disability – often relegating disabled characters, when they are represented at all, to be killed off, and in any case typically having nondisabled actors play characters with disabilities. This, Dorwart argues, is because the liminality of disability, as a body supposedly suspended somewhere between life and death, does not gibe well with the liminality of the theatre, which blends fantasy and reality. This book is an incisive and timely addition to the study of disability in performance.“