Definition of Man is a deeply intertextual work at heart that pulls from various sources, both academic and personal. As we are especially interested in language and its power, much of the scholarly sources come from rhetorical theory, ranging from classical to contemporary to postcolonial and feminist theory. Here is a partial list of the scholarly works that inspired the piece that Nikki drew upon in its creation, with a little description of their significance.
Kenneth Burke, "Definition of Man". From The Hudson Review, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Winter, 1963-1964), pp. 491-514.
Burke's "Definition of Man" offers the framework for the show's exploration: "Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal, inventor of the negative (or moralized by the negative), separated from his natural condition by instruments of his own making, goaded by the spirit of hierarchy (or moved by the sense of order), and rotten with perfection." As a symbol-using/making/misusing animal, we are driven to communicate virtually since we begin babbling as babies, yet so much of language serves to separate us from each other, creates a sense of shame or misbelonging, and the constant need to do more or be better. Our play explores this definition in the extreme setting of the last two people, seeing, with only two humans left, how much of this definition would still remain.
Plato, Phaedrus. (Specifically the allegory of the chariot.)
Plato's Phaedrus is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing on love, and how love can transcend the base realm of human desire and push us toward the divine. In the next source, this allegory is transformed into a metaphor about rhetoric on the whole, and how we can all make each other better.
Richard Weaver, "The Phaedrus and the Nature of Rhetoric". From his book, The Ethics of Rhetoric, 1985.
My personal favorite piece of scholarship from contemporary rhetorical theory. This gorgeous essay takes Plato's writing and expands the idea of the nonlover, the evil lover and the noble lover to rhetoric. For Weaver, the nonlover is like speech that leaves the audience unmoved, the evil lover is speech that is manipulative and moves the audience to do or believe harmful things for the speaker's selfish aims (think most modern politicians) and the noble lover uses speech to move her audience to a better place, to inspire them to become the best version of themselves. If we all were more aware of the power of our words and tried to use them for good in every moment, I truly believe we could change the world.
Anne Carson, "Decreation: How Women Like Sappho, Marguerite Porete, and Simone Weil Tell God." From Common Knowledge, Vol. 8, Issue 1, Winter 2002, pp. 188-201.
Anne Carson is my favorite poet, and this essay (and her novel) were wonderful inspirations for exploring the idea of sublimation of the self as a part of love and transcendence.
Donna Harraway, "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective". Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. (Autumn, 1988), pp. 575-599.
This essay establishes the idea of situated knowledges as opposed to the traditional hegemonic narrative model of the author as unmarked and all-knowing. It's why we chose to speak specifically (as the daughter of a German refugee and a Puerto Rican American man, in our case) even though we did not give our characters names but left them as XX and XY. We can't speak for everyone, but we can allow others a way into our story by speaking from somewhere.
Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
Anzualda's text was a genre-bending piece of scholarship that refused definition. She explores the difficulty of displacement and how imperfect language and categorization are when it comes to the intersection of culture, ethnicity and identity, a subject that is pivotal in our play as well.