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Maternal longing as addiction: feminism revisited in timberlake wertenbaker's the break of day

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This paper investigates intersections between female career, feminist activism and the desire for mothering as dramatised by Timberlake Wertenbaker in The Break of Day. Wertenbaker's 1995 play displays strong intertextual links with Chekhov's Three Sisters; however, while Chekhov anticipated women's paid work to constitute a solution for a multitude of societal problems, Wertenbaker focused on the long-term consequences of women's employment, including the deferral and inability of bearing children. Despite the Chekhovian parallels, The Break of Day is a contemporary play that explores the fatigue at the end of the second millennium alongside the identity crisis experienced by thirty-something women, whilst also contemplating, in an ambivalent-cum-optimistic mode, the future. I argue that the fashion in which Wertenbaker engages with her protagonists' past, present and future indicates a tendency to survey the transformations in women's lives from the seventies to the mid-nineties. In fact, I claim, Wertenbaker's protagonists replicate the very trajectory of women's presence in the public sphere: from the hey-day of the Women's Liberation Movement to times that re-interpret the successive feminist interventions, in order to meditate on the future of feminism and overcome the current crisis.
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Keywords: Wertenbaker; contemporary British theatre; female career; 1990s; feminism; motherhood/parenting

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2004

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