초록 close

This paper examines how contemporary drama represents physical disability, focusing on Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man which is considered one of the most successful plays to deal with disability. Reworking the story of John Merrick, a Victorian sideshow “freak” whose deformed and disabled body earned him the name of the Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance especially concentrates on laying bare the specular economy in which Merrick's disabled body becomes the object of the voyeuristic gaze of Victorian England. Conflated with this gaze are both the medical and the white, middle-class male gazes as represented by Dr. Treves in the play. As a way to critique this gaze, Pomerance puts Merrick in the position of the voyeur in a crucial episode when Mrs. Kendal takes off her clothes to show her body to him and in the following scenes has Merrick question the legitimacy of the gaze of Dr. Treves. Treves in turn expresses skepticism about the medical and civilizing project that, as he ultimately realizes, only kills him rather than normalize him. Pomerance’s play presents a scathing criticism of medical discourse vis-a-vis disability and seems successful in implicating the spectator in the voyeuristic gaze of Treves’ society, but it fails to offer a space in which the disabled character can come up with an authentic disabled identity in his own terms.