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Portrait of Dora


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A: Hélène Cixous Pf: 1976, Paris Pb: 1976; rev. 1986 Tr: 2004 G: Drama in 1 act; French prose S: Vienna, 1899–1900 C: 3m, 2f, voice (m or f)At the age of 12, Dora has coughing spells and is unable to speak. Her father Mr B seeks the help of Sigmund Freud, who analyses her for some years. Dora reveals that a friend Mr K, whose wife has become very close to Mr B, tried to seduce Dora by a mountain lake, but Mr B wonders whether this is merely a hysterical fantasy. Dora speaks of cutting the throat of a man who abused her (a dream?). She imagines Mrs K to be the Madonna and herself the Infant Jesus. Obsessed with Mrs K, Dora contemplates suicide. Mr K wants to take away the key to the jewellery box he gave Dora (Freudian images of phallus and vulva). Dora tells how she used to wake up with a man beside her bed (her father? Mr K? her imagination?). The 18-year-old Dora takes Freud to the lake where she claims to have been molested. Dora gives up her course of analysis. When she sees Mr K run over by a carriage, a burden is lifted from her.

A: Hélène Cixous Pf: 1976, Paris Pb: 1976; rev. 1986 Tr: 2004 G: Drama in 1 act; French prose S: Vienna, 1899–1900 C: 3m, 2f, voice (m or f)

Cixous has been one of the most prominent women writers in the move to develop a feminine aesthetic of drama. In place of plot, action, and climax, all of which can be dismissed as essentially male in their preoccupations, Cixous here offers a play for voices which, eschewing linearity and overt structure, recounts dreams, moments, insights, and ambiguities based on one of Freud's most famous case studies. In his attempt to probe the ‘hysteria’ of his young female patient, Freud's rational questioning fails to penetrate the true nature of Dora.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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