Dissertation
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Resistance and Submission

Author ZhangSongYan
Tutor KangJianMing
School Zhengzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Strange Interlude Nina power discourse knowledge
CLC I712.073
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Eugene O’Neill is one of the most outstanding playwrights in modern America, and is widely recognized as "founder of the American drama". Devoting all his life to dramatic creation and innovation, O’Neill makes great contributions to the development of American drama. In1936, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his "dramatic works of vital energy, sincerity, and intensity of feeling, stamped with an original concept of tragedy". O’Neill’s plays concern the society, the real life, particularly the human existence in the real world. It can be said that O’Neill is such a playwright who regards it as his duty to remain true to life in his dramatic creation.Strange Interlude, one of O’Neill’s representative works, earns him the third Pulitzer Prize. In the play, O’Neill gives a vivid portrait of the heroine Nina, whose unusual life experiences serve as a thread stringing the nine acts together. This thesis takes French philosopher Michel Foucault’s power theory as the theoretical framework with the three important concepts, namely power, discourse and knowledge, trying to explore Nina’s living predicament in the patriarchal society, aiming to reveal her fruitless resistance and submissive state in her lifetime.Apart from the introduction and conclusion, this thesis is composed of four chapters.The introduction focuses on Eugene O’Neill and his play Strange Interlude, the literature review of the play, and the questions studied in this thesis.Chapter One gives a brief introduction to Foucault’s power theory and the three important concepts involved in the theoretical framework of this thesis.Chapter Two presents the complicated power relation between Nina and her father, Nina and her husband, Nina and her mother-in-law, Nina and Marsden, Nina and her lovers. Within the patriarchal power relation network, Nina is once again kept under the control of power in her lifelong pursuit of happiness.Chapter Three is about Nina’s resistance in the power relation network. Where there is power, there is resistance. Within the power structure, resistance coexists with repression. They interact with each other. In her lifelong pursuit of happiness, Nina shows constant resistance against the power control she has been confronted with, but all end in failure. Chapter Four discusses Nina’s submission under the exercise of power in terms of its two mechanisms—discourse and knowledge. In this chapter, the discourse of several main characters around Nina and the effects of their respective discourse in the power relation are analyzed in great detail. Nina’s voice is constantly ignored and excluded in the discursive practice. The production of knowledge is closely related to power and discourse. Through the practice of power relation, knowledge is produced; through the discursive practice, knowledge is constructed. In the power relation structure, Nina has become the object of knowledge. Her mind is guided and her conduct is determined by different forms of knowledge she acquires from the practice of discourse. With the mechanisms of discourse and knowledge, Nina is time and again reduced to a submissive state.The conclusion points out that Nina’s living predicament and her tragic fate result from the working of the complex social power network.

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