Sarah Kane’s Postmodern Traumatics
It is a will to nothingness, a will running counter to life, a revolt against the most fundamental presuppositions of life: yet it is and remains a will! And, to repeat at the end what I said in the beginning, rather than want nothing, man even wants nothingness.
–Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morals 1887
In Blasted, Kane struggled with presenting the abjection of humanity as not only a byproduct, but also as the stimulus of an increasingly more violent world, culminating in the proliferation of war and the bleak realization that sexual violence is the norm in sexual relations. In Phaedra’s Love (1996), Kane continues her project of enquiry into cultural violence, this time posing questions about the effectiveness of enlightened attempts to subvert violent and other reductive social norms. At stake in Phaedra’s Love are notions of stable identity, the ability to communicate an inner self and the effectiveness of that communication in a degraded world. It is a play of sadistic desire in which desire is transformed, or rather, mangled into violence, culminating in death by violent and public murder and private suicide. Phaedra’s Love also poses questions about the conditions through which sadism and its acceptance exist. As Arthur Kroker proposes in The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture and Hyper-Aesthetics (1986), “sado-masochism, in the postmodern condition, is not what it used to be;” it is “a little sign-slide between the ecstasy of catastrophe and the terror of simulacrum as a (disappearing)...
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