Edward Albee’s Eugenic Theatrics: Disability Presence in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


  • Ann Fox




Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, eugenics, gender roles, normalcy, drama, theater, disability, pronatalism, positive eugenics, Blue Zone Theatre


Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a landmark American play for the challenges it presented to conventional theater, both thematically and dramaturgically.  In this essay, I argue that recognizing the disability presence in Albee’s play as embodied in the work’s references to eugenics is also important to a fuller understanding of the play’s revolutionary nature.  Through his references to pronatalism as well as genetic engineering and sterilization, Albee invokes the presence of those disabled bodies upon whose oppression the regulation of normalcy over the twentieth-century has rested.  In this way, we can come to see that disability does not simply metaphorize the gender oppression and middle-class complacency the play attacks, but is itself also recognized and historicized.  Reading Albee’s play in this way further suggests the importance of re-reading canonical drama through the lens of disability studies.