Postdramatic theatre as/or political theatre – representation, mediatisation and advanced capitalism
Wednesday, 21 - Friday, 23 September 2011
Venue: Stewart House/Senate House
Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies
University of London
London WC1E 7HU
Dr Jerome Carroll, Professor Steve Giles (University of Nottingham) and
Dr Karen Juers-Munby (University of Lancaster)
Call for Papers
Papers are invited from specialists in all areas of theatre studies for an international conference on postdramatic theatre.
In a famous discussion in the ‘Dreigroschenprozeß’, Brecht asserts that reality in advanced capitalism has become so complex that art’s artifice, its constructedness, rather than any photographic realism, is necessary for representing human relationships. Since the Piscatorbühnen in the 1920s, German language theatre has engaged with other media, and used statistics and techniques of montage to reconnect the stage with the decisive forces in advanced modernity.
A further decisive departure from mimetic realism is at the heart of postdramatic theatre, in which the value of theatre is sought in a communal, sensory or corporeal experience that is not subordinated to the categories of action, character, plot and meaning. It severs the usual links that are seen to result in determinate significance, for instance between body and identity, voice and meaning, image and referent. Hans-Thies Lehmann, in his book of 1999, popularised the concept of the postdramatic with such success that some have claimed it to be the dominant school informing theatre training and practice in Germany. The terms of Lehmann’s discussion are international, however, and it is fair to say that the move away from conventionally ‘dramatic’ modes has been one of the defining features of theatre in the West as a whole in the last thirty years or so.
Both epic and postdramatic theatre involve a shift from a naïve conception of representing external reality to a more self-reflexive focus on reception and formal techniques, increasing consciousness of the limits and qualities of dramatic form in a way that is akin to the Cubist revolution in painting. But many of the emphases associated with postdramatic theatre are at odds with Brecht’s concerns. Whereas Brecht sees art conceived as ‘experience’ as insufficient to the cognitive challenge of understanding more about an increasingly complex world, Lehmann’s concept of the postdramatic precisely emphasises theatre as something ‘real’ or ‘concrete’. With a clear debt to Artaud, intensity and emotion are preferred to questions of a play’s effectiveness in conveying truths or insights about external reality.
The primary question for this conference is to enquire about the political claims of postdramatic theatre’s challenge to dramatic norms, in the light of Brecht’s concerns about the representability of the modern world. Does theatre that seemingly absolves itself of determinate analysis of the problems we face and possible solutions to them in fact capitulate to powers beyond our control? Does the focus on performance and perception replicate the complexity of advanced modernity, rather than analysing or explaining it? Or can the political in theatre only ever be an ‘interruption of the political’ as we know it, as Lehmann suggests, central to which is the liberation from a ‘closed’ theatre of predetermined text and determinate meaning? Would drama that claims to offer an overview on modernity therefore be little more than a form of affirmation and consolation? This conference will ask where twentieth and twenty-first century theatre might be located within the nexus of post-Brechtian and Artaudian conceptualisations of the value of theatre, and its capacity for engaging with and offering responses to an increasingly complex and mediated world.
Broad themes might include
Dramatic and postdramatic theatre and the fate of representation
Theatre, mediatisation and the virtual world
Documentary theatre: art and reality
Drama/theatre after the individual
Theatre and the machine
Theatre and globalisation
Drama/Theatre and the contradictions of capitalism
Dramatic and theatrical responses to capitalism in crisis
Drama after politics: what does drama do when the big political questions have disappeared
Theatre as collaboration, theatre as anti-institution
Theatre and the ‘politics of perception’
Politics as the interruption/disruption of the political
The politics of non-sense in performance
The politics of mimesis/mimetic behaviour
The relationship between theory and theatre
Papers should last no more than 30 minutes; the conference languages will be English and German. Please send proposals (including an abstract of 200 words max.) by 30 October 2010 to:
Dr Jerome Carroll<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
The conference is being held under the auspices of the University of Nottingham, the University of Lancaster, and the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, University of London. An edited collection of papers from the conference will be published.
Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies
University of London School of Advanced Study
Room ST 272, Senate House
Malet Street, GB- London WC1E 7HU
Telephone 0044 (0)20 7862 8966
The German Studies Call for Papers List
Editor: Stefani Engelstein
Acting Assistant Editor: Olaf Schmidt
Sponsored by the University of Missouri
Info available at: http://www.missouri.edu/~graswww/resources/gerlistserv.html