CFP: ATHE Theory & Criticism

Call for Abstracts and Proposals: Theory and Criticism Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE), 2012 conference

Washington, DC, August 2-5, 2012

I.                   Theory & Criticism 6th Annual Roundtable Series (individual paper abstracts)

II.                Session Proposals (Theory & Criticism or Multidisciplinary focus)

I. “Criticism as Activism” – An Interactive Roundtable Event

In response to the 2012 ATHE conference theme of “Performance As/Is Civic Engagement: Advocate, Collaborate, Educate,” the Theory and Criticism Focus Group desires to create a series of roundtables that takes up the notion of Criticism as Activism. Tertullian, the French Academy, Zola, Brecht, Boal, Butler, Dolan, and . . . you!

Theatre is a cultural product, revealing who we think we are in a historic moment, and who we might want to be in the future. Theatre, like all art, engages with the political. It responds to, comments on, and shapes how we see the world and how we imagine the future. In propaganda performance, for example, the politics are overt. But often the politics of a piece of performance or work of criticism lies in unquestioned assumptions about how the world works. In the past, some critics scorned actors for their lowly social status, or resented their spectacular performances that pulled people away from more sober, and often religious, pursuits. Some monarchs embraced performance as a political tool, one that could be employed to bolster support or crush dissent. Critics have culled from Shakespeare evidence of Romantic sensibility, of racial bigotry, of queer subversion. As artists and pedagogues, we engage with the political each time we create a performance, or teach a script. As scholars and critics, we take up politics when we take up our pen. Our art, our voices, our writing, matters because it expresses who we are right now, and who we wish to be in the future.

Inspired by the ATHE 2012 conference theme, the Theory and Criticism Focus Group (T&C) responds to the challenge of considering performance as civic engagement with a roundtable series that encourages participants and audiences to explore the notion of Criticism as Activism.

We aim to create a series of panels where scholars, teachers, and practitioners can investigate, challenge, re-imagine, and explode how historical or contemporary theorists and critics have used dramatic and/or performance criticism to intervene in social and political debates. How does performance criticism empower voices, on stage and off? What can we learn from critical attempts to engage with publics and counterpublics? How do we theorize and apply historical criticism that supports diverging ideological viewpoints? What can theatre and performance criticism offer to contemporary debates in the field about new media or academic publishing? How are critics activists? What is activist criticism? What does criticism mean today?

T&C seeks submissions from theatre artists, pedagogues, scholars, activists, and critics interested in exploring these questions specifically or the notion of Criticism as Activism in general. Building on the tradition of our previous panel series, we strive to include a diverse range of participants from graduate students and emerging scholars, to professional critics, established artists, and senior scholars. For the 2012 ATHE conference, we will host a series of roundtable discussions, with each participant presenting a position statement or paper of up to 8 pages, which take up questions of Criticism as Activism from a wide range of starting points, including but not limited to:

1)     How has theatre or performance criticism engaged with individual artists or performing companies, or empowered specific social groups?  How does performance criticism empower voices, on stage and off? What ethical questions surround the critical relationship? How can theatre and performance scholarship be sensitive to critical ethics?

2)      How has theatre or performance criticism engaged with notions of nationalism and the nation state? In what ways have activist critics challenged or reified national ideologies, transnational identities, or diasporic imaginaries?  

3)     How has the changing media landscape supported or resisted the creation of the celebrity critic, that star author who wields great power? What historiographical strategies encourage or transcend the narrative of the celebrity critic? 

4)     How have fields or schools of criticism shaped theatre and performance historiography? How do specific schools of criticism consider and frame the notion of activism? How do we theorize and apply historical criticism that supports diverging ideological viewpoints? 

5)     How does theatre or performance criticism engage with its relationship to the media in an activist way? How has the changing academic landscape supported or resisted activist criticism? 

6)     What can we learn from critical attempts to engage with publics and counterpublics? How are critics activists? What is activist criticism? What does criticism mean today?

T&C will be accepting individual, 250 word abstracts for position statements or papers for this roundtable series until: Monday, October 24th, 2011.  At that point T & C will group these papers into a panel series and seek out respondents.  Participants will be informed of their acceptance by Thursday, October 27th, and T&C will oversee the submission of the series panels through ATHE’s online proposal process. Send your paper abstracts to cab0023@auburn.edu.

II. Complete session proposals

We also seek complete session proposals as well for the 2012 conference that include a broad range of theoretical interrogations and applications. We encourage multidisciplinary dialogues across the fields of performance scholarship and seek participants from a variety of focus group affiliations. Note that all multidisciplinary proposals must be authorized by three sponsoring ATHE focus groups; please contact the appropriate focus group conference planners and or committee chair for authorization. For a list of the ATHE focus group conference planners visit http://www.athe.org/getinvolved/focusgroups/index and click on the desired focus group.  

The Theory and Criticism Focus Group supports broad definitions of criticism and performance, and therefore encourages a wide range of examples and topics. Feel free to explore both historical and contemporary critics and theorists, in popular culture and academic scholarship. Panel proposals that engage scholarly conversation in creative ways are highly encouraged. 

Complete session proposals (separate from the roundtable series) should be submitted directly to ATHE: www.athe.org  All participants must be included in these proposals.  The website includes submission information and forms.  The session proposal deadline is November 1st, 2011.

A Final Summary of Submission Guidelines for Both Options:

For the “Criticism as Activism” Roundtable Series:

Individual submissions for the series should be submitted to the T&C focus group representative, Chase Bringardner: cab0023@auburn.edu. Submissions should include an abstract (250 words or less), title, contact information (name, institutional affiliation, email address, and phone number), a brief bio (50 words or less), and any specific A/V requirements. Deadline for these submissions is:  Monday, October 24th, 2011.

For complete session proposals (separate from the roundtable series):

Session proposals should be submitted directly to ATHE: www.athe.org  All participants must be included in these proposals.  The website includes submission information and forms.  The session proposal deadline is November 1st, 2011.

For single paper submissions (outside of our annual panel series) looking for a session home contact either cab0023@auburn.edu or sshawyer@gmail.com.

Individuals do not need to be a member or T&C or ATHE to submit abstracts or session proposals. However, if chosen and scheduled, participants must become members of ATHE by the time of the conference.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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About Sarah Bay-Cheng

Professor of Theater at Bowdoin College. Co-host for the On TAP (Theatre and Performance Studies) podcast at www.ontappod.com. Editor for the book series Avant-Gardes in Performance (Palgrave). Sporadically blogging about theatre, performance, and digital culture. twitter: @performaddict
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