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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 5 No. 2 (2024): Narrative, Environment, Social Justice

Aesthetic Innovation and Activist Impetus in Climate Change Theater: Beyond a New Formalist Reading of Chantal Bildoeau's One-Actor Play No More Harveys (2022)

May 28, 2023


Canadian-American playwright and activist Chantal Bilodeau finds that we need innovative plays that meld climate change into the aesthetics, arguments, and social fabrics of drama and performance. Testing Bilodeau's suggestion, this essay focuses on the poetics of her newest full-length play, No More Harveys (2022). This reading of climate change theater and in particular of Bilodeau's one-actor play applies Caroline Levine's New Formalist method, which strives to read aesthetic and social forms simultaneously and non-hierarchically, and which raises pertinent questions as to how activist theater manages to balance aesthetics and (political and/or scientific) argumentation. While Levine's New Formalism offers a productive analytical angle on small- and large-scale forms, it cannot cover all literary and social phenomena single-handedly. The analysis offered here proposes to demonstrate the usefulness of complementary readings that take into account (a) decolonial and ecocritical concepts of planetarity, (b) a historically informed understanding of monodramatic and of autobiographical generic practices, and (c) the affordances of climate change theater at the present moment. As this contribution argues, Bilodeau employs and modifies elements of form and genre in a manner that allows multiple narratives of social injustice, violence, and detrimental hierarchies across large swaths of time and place to bleed into each other.


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