Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Jeffers, Jennifer

Subject Headings

Kane, Sarah, 1971-1999 -- Criticism and interpretation, Kane, Sarah, 1971-1999, Blasted -- Criticism and interpretation, Kane, Sarah, 1971-1999, Cleased -- Criticism and interpretation, Cruelty -- Fiction, Sarah Kane, Theatre of cruelty, Blasted, Cleansed


Sarah Kane uses cruelty in her plays Blasted and Cleansed to shock the audience out of their indifference, which will then allow Kane to subvert gender norms, through performed acts on stage, and the heterosexual patriarchal authority that creates the Other in society. Kane uses the theories of Antonin Artaud and Judith Butler to create a new style that melds these two theories while bringing a fresh take to the theater. Kane was twenty-three when her first play, Blasted, opened at the Royal Court Theater Upstairs on January 12, 1995. It was met with hostility by the critics when it first opened, but after the shock had quieted, there were many positive critiques on her plays. Kane used Artaud's manifesto on The Theater of Cruelty to bring the physicality and importance of the image back to the theater. The violence done in her plays is the central action that forces the audience to be a witness to cruelty. Kane shows blatant acts of cruelty on stage in Blasted, with the homosexual rape and the sucking out of Ian's eyes, and in Cleansed, with Carl and Grace being beaten, Rod and Robin's deaths, and the forced sex change. These actions are used to present gender as culturally constructed and open up the allowance of difference. The gender theory of Butler helps to interpret the way Kane uses gender through Butler's representation of gender as repeated acts performed daily that can be subverted through the repetition of difference. Kane uses the homosexual rape of Ian in Blasted and the homosexual love and incest in Cleansed to allow the audience to see difference and break down the binary that governs gender