Reorienting scarlet letters: Suzan-Lori Parks’ and Marina Carr’s Hester plays | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1753-6421
  • E-ISSN: 1753-643X



This article considers the figure of Hester from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850) and its adaptation to contemporary African American and Irish dramatic writing. It focuses on In the Blood (1999) and Fucking A (2001) by African American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, as well as Irish dramatist Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats … (1998). These theatre-makers consciously manipulate The Scarlet Letter in that each Hester figure is a racially different and already marginalized woman who goes on to murder her child. Drawing on the work of Sara Ahmed, I argue that Parks and Carr combine complex and overlapping processes of adaptation to expose the slippery relationship between signification and affect, and to reveal how affective economies shape and control racial and gendered bodies as well as their movements in space. In doing so, these dramatists call into question accepted conventions of judgement, justice and morality. Through processes of domestication, recontextualization and actualization, Parks and Carr engage complexly with hotly debated issues within their individual national contexts and in the wider, western milieu that they share.


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