Merlinda Bobis’s Poem-plays: Reading Ethics and Identity across Cultures

Dolores Herrero


Abstract

Merlinda Bobis is a bilingual writer who was born in the Philippines but now lives in Australia, which turns her into an in-between, a woman who has been carried across different cultures and cannot therefore be defined by making exclusive reference to any of them. The aim of this paper will be to show her two poem-plays Promenade and Cantata of the Warrior Woman, not as isolated phenomena, but as part of a rich tradition of (diasporic) Filipino poets and activist playwrights. Moreover, this paper will study these works from the perspective of a postmodern post-foundational ethics, since they are mainly concerned with writing as a means, not only to do away with fixed and rigid national/ cultural/ social/ gender/ ethnic categories, but also of liberation and celebration of a shared experience among the oppressed, especially women who have been suppressed by the combined oppression of nationalism, patriarchy and colonialism. By putting forward a quest for national, collective and individual identity through reconstructing the lost voices of women both in the pre-and post-contact periods, these poem-plays emphasize the importance of communication between self and other as the only way to give tolerance and peace a chance.

Keywords

Asian-Australian women writers; Merlinda Bobis’s poem-plays; Filipino poetry in English; Philippine radical theatre; ethical criticism.

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