As a female playwright on the British stage at the peak of second wave feminism, Caryl Churchill presents many of the core issues and ideals at the centre of the movement. This thesis explores the ways in which the development and demise of second wave feminism are explored in Churchill’s theatre from the early 1970s to the early 1990s. As a feminist and a socialist Churchill captures the range of issues faced by women in the UK and US at this time.
Beginning with an introduction to early feminism the analysis continues to the rise of the second wave explored through some of the seminal works published at the time. The socialist element is introduced in the UK women’s movement with an outline of the socio-political climate in Britain and the divisions within the movement itself. This is followed by a brief look at the possibilities for the future of feminism in light of divisions and splits in the movement with reference to a post-humanist argument.
An exploration of Caryl Churchill in the theatre including a brief history of feminist theatre leads into a close reading of three of Churchill’s plays that display strong feminist and socialist motifs. Owners, Top Girls and The Skriker, written across three decades punctuate various stages of the feminist movement and present three protagonists that embody the varying and mounting issues faced by women in modern society.
The aim of this thesis is to illustrate the innovative ways in which Churchill captures the waves of feminism and how they affect society over time. It is also to emphasise the importance of feminism, to explore its faults and search for possibilities in its future.