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Doing the Usual Things: Gender, Race, and Inwardness in Harley Granville Barker's The Marrying of Ann Leete and The Secret Life


Bookending Harley-Granville Barker’s twenty year career in the theater, The Marrying of Ann Leete (1899) and The Secret Life (1923) both contain female characters who search for some kind of stable foundation for self-assertion and fulfillment as they struggle against an oppressive social imperative for women. Curiously, Barker chooses to express the divided subjectivity of Ann Leete and Joan Westbury in conjunction with images of racial oppression, a paratactic juxtaposition that is unexpected and tenuous in the early play but which solidifies in the later play into a more complex critique of colonialist ideology. In the end, Westbury comes to stand not only for women under patriarchy but for the nation itself, hollowed out by the “absent spaces” produced by aggressive imperialism and the Great War. Taken in tandem, the two plays become a forward-thinking political meditation that anticipate and call for new models of cultural organization.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.