EN 765.01 What Is Performance? (Fall 2010-2011: 3)

This course fulfils the MA theory requirement.
Performance--as trope, as practice, and now as interdisciplinary field of study--is everywhere in critical discourse today. Yet whether it be Richard Schechner's notion of "twice-behaved behavior," Judith Butler's concept of performativity, Erving Goffman's "framing" of everyday life, or what Rebecca Schneider has termed "explicit female body performance art," just what constitutes performance today remains contested. This course has two aims. First, we will attempt to map the still-emerging field of performance studies, which fuses theater studies, anthropology, ethnography, and feminist and post-structuralist theory (and thus provides a useful window on these broader discourses). To this end we will read some foundational texts, probably including extracts from Richard Schechner's Performance Theory, Peggy Phelan's Unmarked: The Politics of Performance,Joseph Roach's Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance, and Judith Butler's Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of `Sex,' as well as key theoretical essays by Jill Dolan, Elin Diamond, and others. Second, we will test the utility of the field's primary concepts, especially the performative, for the analysis of specific cultural performances. These will range from plays (Caryl Churchill, David Henry Hwang) to performance art (Anna Deavere Smith) to 1970s glam rock--and will include at least one local performance event chosen by the class. Work will include biweekly online responses; a class presentation; a short essay that engages a critical term or concept; and a final long essay in which students analyze a theater production or cultural performance of their own choosing. No background in theater or performance is required, although those wishing to get a head start are encouraged to read Marvin Carlson's lively and accessible Performance: A Critical Introduction (Routledge).
Andrew Sofer

Last Updated: 05-DEC-12