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Ecoconflict in Caryl Churchill’s Far Away and Escaped Alone

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Title: Ecoconflict in Caryl Churchill’s Far Away and Escaped Alone
Author(s): Ehnström, Elvira
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in English Studies
Specialisation: no specialization
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Caryl Churchill is a renowned playwright whose plays concern a wide range of social and political issues. In her plays Far Away (2000) and Escaped Alone (2016) Churchill brings forth depictions of ecological disaster which complexify the relationship between humans and their nonhuman environment. In this thesis, I argue that the plays in question offer a new perspective on the division between humanity and the nonhuman environment, which prompts the reader to question their own anthropocentric view of human exceptionalism. The plays’ bizarre events and absurdist form criticise the arbitrary division between human and nonhuman animals, underlining the intrinsic value of all beings and the nonanimated environment. It is evident that the plays are part of the Theatre of the Absurd, in their deviation from traditional conventions for narration and plot, as well as in the untraditional depiction of humans and the nonhuman environment. Utilising the typology of animal representation by Greg Garrard (2012) it becomes clear that nonhuman animals are increasingly depicted as anthropomorphic and certain groups of humans as increasingly zoomorphic in Far Away. Furthermore, the importance of the effects of the capitalist economic system in the climate crisis is prevalent in both plays. In Far Away, the characters work under a capitalist government which does not value human wellbeing. Escaped Alone, on the other hand, depicts ecological catastrophes as instigated by entities strongly connected with the capitalist system. Thus, both plays reveal the significance of capitalism as a driving force in ecological destruction, as well as its negative impact on individuals. Escaped Alone emphasises the individual perspective on the climate crisis by offering a female perspective and showing the characters as resilient despite the looming catastrophes. By depicting the ecological crisis as a complex and multifaceted issue, Churchill establishes her plays as works of deep ecology.
Keyword(s): Ecocriticism theatre studies literature animal studies capitalism Theatre of the Absurd Caryl Churchill

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