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Myth, biography and the female role in the plays of Pam Gems

By Rachael Lucy Turner


In this study, I give some attention to the themes and strategies occurring throughout Pam Gems’s career as a female playwright. However, my main interest lies in five of Gems’s plays that feature historical and mythical female figures: Queen Christina (1977), Piaf (1978), Camille (1984), Marlene (1997) and The Snow Palace (1998).\ud \ud My objective is not to ascertain whether or not the plays I consider capture on accurate image of female myth in history, nor even to determine whether or not there exists an accurate image of the female role in literary history. I am far more interested in the ideological uses of myth and more particularly biography, as a form of myth in relation to gender. Such an interest rests upon the understanding that the reconstruction of a life can never be detached from the source of that reconstruction; in other words, the lenses which filter the telling of a life story become at least as important as the narrative itself. Moreover, as further biographies (lenses) are written on the same subject over time, it is possible to detect a gradual reconstitution of that subject to ultimately generate a pluralist evaluation - where truth and myth are flawlessly fused. It is my aim to analyse the variety of lenses and interpretations which have filtered the lives of Gems’s female protagonists with a view to discovering the contribution Gems makes in her personal and feminist reassessment of their biographical narratives.\ud \ud In the beginning the thesis attempts to unite biographical theory with feminist theory and use this as a framework for investigating Gems’s work. After close examination of the aforementioned plays, the thesis concludes with the assertion that Gems strongly embraces the concept of female plurality as opposed to a restrictive ‘feminist’ label in here revisionary recreation of the female role

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