Travelling in Time and Space in Literature in English
Edited By Liliana Sikorska
Disappearing history: Scenes of trauma in the theater of human rights: Cathy Caruth, Cornell University, Ithaca
Cathy Caruth, Cornell University, Ithaca
Ariel Dorfman’s 1991 play Death and the maiden is set in the present time in a country that “is probably Chile” but “could be any country that has just departed from a dictatorship” (tr. mod.).1 Taking place in a remote beach house primarily on a single night and day, the play follows the actions of a woman, Paulina, who has been tortured by the previous regime and whose husband, Gerardo, a human rights lawyer, has just been appointed to head a truth commission established by the new transitional government. Surprised in the middle of the night by Roberto, a stranger who has given Gerardo a ride home and returns unexpectedly at midnight to give Gerardo back his spare tire, Paulina believes she recognizes the voice and idioms of the man who has tortured her while she was blindfolded. She ultimately manages to capture Roberto in the house and stage a “trial” at gunpoint in which, with the coerced cooperation of her husband, she forces from the stranger a confession, while playing a tape of the Schubert quartet that was played while she was raped. Unsatisfied by the “confession”, Paulina considers killing him, an act left suspended in the play, the last scene of which ends in a theater where the Schubert quartet is being performed and where Paulina believes she sees Roberto (or his ghost) staring at her in a phantasmatic light.
Written during the transitional government that followed the...
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