Accepted paper:

The comfort of home as an ethical value in Mick Packer's inheritance


Zuzanna Bulat Silva (University of Wrocław)
Stella Butter (University of Koblenz-Landau)

Paper short abstract:

By drawing on linguistics, literary studies and anthropology, this paper analyses how Mike Packer’s play Inheritance (2010) critically contrasts the idea of ‘homely comfort’ as an ethical project with a neoliberal understanding of ‘comfort’ in terms of lifestyle.

Paper long abstract:

The loss and search for comfort is at the heart of Inheritance (2010), written by the English playwright Mike Packer. This social realist play explores the burst of the housing bubble in England by depicting the declining fortunes of a family. The pensioner Harry decides to buy his council house as an inheritance for his sons, but when the economic recession hits, the house is lost. In our paper, we will gauge how the play negotiates meanings and sources of comfort by linking them with the theme of home. The semantics of 'home' and 'house' as well as the temporal dimension of 'feeling at home' play a key role when analysing what 'comfort' means for the different characters in the play. Packer's play is notable for the way it connects notions of comfort with models of the self, highlighting in particular how comfort may be understood as an ethical project and how neoliberal subjects reduce such 'ethical comfort' to a "sensuous appeasement [...] achieved through [...] appropriate technological devices" (Stefano Boni). In order to tease out different dimensions of comfort in the play, we adopt an interdisciplinary approach, conjoining literary studies, linguistics and anthropological phenomenology. In presenting our results, we rely heavily on the method of semantic analysis known as Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach (Goddard & Wierzbicka 2014). This method enables us to not only explicate precisely what notions of 'comfort' and 'home' different characters have, but also to break down these conceptualizations into basic categories and cross-translatable words .

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Dis)comforts of home: historical and cultural perspectives