In the context of the so-called “Great Recession” around the end of the twenty-first century’s first decade, discussions and anxieties about homelessness have gained a new momentum in European countries. My project charts the ways in which plays in Britain from the mid-1990s up to the present day have contributed to raising consciousness about the issue of homelessness by examining and subverting the divide between ‘homeless’ and ‘housed’. The medium of the play is especially well-suited for such reflections. Not only has drama as a genre been a prime medium for engaging with social and political issues, but the stage also offers the opportunity to both perform and question the spatial relations that are at the heart of the ‘homeless/housed’ dichotomy itself. Such relations are staged through the mise-en-scène as well as the characterization and interactions of the characters.
The project will furnish the first sustained and systematic discussion of the representation of the central trope of homelessness in British dramatic texts. It considers a corpus of plays from the 1990s to the present day, spanning a range of dramatic traditions, from in-yer-face to verbatim to variants that have been less frequently associated with political themes, such as metadrama. The close study of the plays’ formal strategies is grounded in a theoretical framework which brings together new concepts from the emerging transdisciplinary fields of studies of home and poverty studies.
Dorothee Birke was a fellow at AIAS from 2015-2018. Today she is Professor of Anglophone Literatures at the University of Innsbruck, after having spent some time at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, as Associate Professor of Modern English Literature. She continues to be interested in the political implications of contemporary British theatre and in the question how literature reflects on home as a social and economic issue. Further interests include studies of reading and readers, media ecologies in the digital age, narrative theory and the history of the novel.