“Some Unheard of Thing”: How Incest Became Convention in Southern Women’s Drama

Liz Thompson

亂倫破壞我們人類最基本的生存規則;它是所有文化的禁忌而且也是最不情願地被探討的。一個有著性?害傳統、有著來自戰敗與蓄奴而對外來者恐懼心理、與為維持權勢不顧一切之父權式的無法無天的統治之文化,會不會使亂倫成為一種的一種眾所接受的常規?在美國傳統南方榮譽規範被棄之後數十年,這一倫理規範已對其文化後代的成果有著影響。南方作者無法在真空中寫作,如果他們想要紮實立足於南方文類之中,他們也無法忽略此一飽經磨難的區域的歷史意涵。但到底是什麼構成一種南方主題?亂倫是此一文類的常客。不論以直接或暗示方式,不同形式的亂倫與南方作家之著作密不可分,它特別充斥於南方戲劇中。從Carson McCullers開始,到當代南方女性劇作家,Naomi Wallace、Marsha Norman與 Rebecca Gilman,此股來自南方的女性劇作家的遺產,亂倫作為一種南方主題已成為一個戲劇傳統。南方女性劇作家探討面對性迫害之後遺症對於一個特定區域根深蒂固的影響,藉由將勞工階級的悲慘境況,對於自身土地與資財父權式的焦慮,以及眾所熟悉對於「異體」──尤其是對有色人種與同性戀──的恐懼,與南方文化中常被忽略的亂倫論述相互連結,以便加以探討。


Incest breaks our most basic rule of human existence; it is a taboo within every culture and one that is reluctantly explored, if at all. Yet, can incest become an accepted norm for cultures with a legacy of sexual abuse, a fear of outsiders stemming from war defeat and inhumane slave holding, and a patriarchal lawlessness that rules at all costs? Several decades after traditional Southern honor codes have fallen by the wayside, the aftermath of this code of ethics has affected the work of its cultural offspring. Southern writers cannot write within a vacuum, nor can they ignore the historical significance of this tormented region if they wish to be grounded firmly within the Southern genre. But what makes something a Southern theme? Incest has become a common tenant of the genre. Whether stated explicitly or subtly, incest in various manifestations is inextricably bound with the work of Southern writers and in particular, it abounds in Southern dramas. Beginning with the legacy of such female playwrights from the South as Carson McCullers and continuing through the works of Southern contemporary female playwrights Naomi Wallace, Marsha Norman, and Rebecca Gilman, incest as a Southern theme has become a dramatic convention. Southern female dramatists examine the deep-rooted effects of a region dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse by connecting the desolate condition of the working class, patriarchal anxiety about one’s possession of land and capital, and familial fear of “foreign bodies”──especially those that are black or homosexual──with the often neglected discourse on incest in Southern culture.
This piece shows how the fear of “foreign bodies” made incest something of a coping mechanism to keep Southern families feeling safe in their rural family lives. Research illustrates how incest, in some ways, became a cultural practice in the Old South connecting this historical fact with the occurrence of incest as a common theme in the work of Southern female writers. Focus on the dramatic form argues that theater has a unique ability to create a public dialogue about a private, universally taboo act.