What is the genre of "Top Girls" by Caryl Churchill?
Works of imaginative literature are conventionally divided into poetry, fiction, and drama. Poetry is written in verse. Although some dramas are composed in verse, such as many of the plays of Sophocles and Shakespeare, Top Girls is written in prose, and therefore is not poetry (nor even poetic or verse drama).
The remaining two genres of imaginative literature are distinguished by what Aristotle defined as the modes of imitation. One possible form of imitation is "mimesis," in which the work takes the form of dialogue involving the characters and in which actors can pretend to be the characters on stage; this is called "drama." The other mode is "diegesis" or narration, in which a narrator tells a story describing characters; this is "fiction."
Top Girls is a play or drama because it consists of characters speaking their stories and it was specifically written to be performed by actors on stage. There are embedded narratives within the play, but the overall structure is dramatic.
Top Girls is historical in content, feminist in construct, absurdist in execution, and somewhat whimsical in theatricality. The text itself is intentionally non-linear. The historical characters in the first act are symbolically connected to the characters in the more narrative second act, but Churchill’s disregard for Aristotle’s regulations for dramatic composition really develop this piece into an anti-drama of sorts. The piece is very much a commentary on the Thatcher Era in England and the struggle of Second Wave Feminists who sacrificed parenthood for the sake of their careers. The play is unique in its ability to straddle several genres, which is actually the wonderful thing about the playwright! Churchill, who began her career writing radio plays, has subsequently created works which challenge all previous drama constructs. She’s exemplary for blurring the lines of gender, structure, politics, language, and narrative.
Top Girls is a historical drama.This play places five women from five different historical periods at a dinner party. Thus, the historical accuracy may become a bit blurred. It has been described as a theatrical tour de force as the drama examines the fate of modern woman and questions that fate.