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Edited Collection: The Thing Itself – Performance Phenomenology

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The term phenomenology is increasingly being employed to describe diverse approaches and tendencies in the study and practice of theatre and performance and throughout the humanities more generally. However, more often than the not, the term is not defined clearly and is used to mean a number of different things. This is partly caused by the nature of phenomenological philosophy itself. From Husserl’s original claim that phenomenology would be “the science of all sciences” to Heidegger’s observation that the term phenomenology does not denote a specific area of study but a method which derives its terms and procedures from the
phenomenon being examined, to Merleau-Ponty’s assertion that it is not possible to give a clear answer to the question, “What is Phenomenology?”,the field has remained open to many broad definitions, practices and interpretations. The recent fashion for loosely inserting the term in all manner of studies exacerbates the problem. This book aims to lend some clarity to the situation, with particular reference to theatre and performance.

The editors seek contributions from scholars and practitioners to a volume that will  form the first comprehensive book on phenomenology and performance.  Contributed work should aim to fit into one of three broad categories:

1. General concerns (histories, genealogies, principles, etc.) regarding phenomenology and performance;
2. Phenomenological approaches to and analyses of major categories in the study of performance (embodiment, place, time, language/text, object, audience);
3. Examples, critiques, and analyses of applied phenomenology (creative work which the practitioners considered to be ‘enacted, embodied phenomenology’, or work on and in the field of performative phenomenological writing).

While the above categories reflect the interests and structure of the book, work that combines or cuts across these would of course also be welcome. Specifically, some of the key questions that contributions might address include:

• How might the history and development of the relationship between phenomenology and performance be productively charted and analysed?
• How do we account for the recent resurgence in phenomenological approaches to theatre and performance? How might we most productively consider the relationship between this resurgence – and phenomenology in general – with the theoretical and philosophical paradigms that dominated the latter part of the 20th century?
• What constitutes a phenomenological approach to the study of performance?
• Is ‘approach’ a fitting term, or is it more apt to speak of phenomenological method(s)? If so, what defines such method(s), and how
malleable might these methods be?
• In what ways is the term phenomenology being deployed currently, and what case might be made for greater rigour and definition in the use of the term?
• How might phenomenology account for what we might term the fundamental ‘things’ of performance (body, space, time, language, object, audience)? Does phenomenology offer a justification for considering performance in terms of ‘fundamental things’ (a consideration which might readily be branded as essentialism)?
• What impact has phenomenology had on performance practitioners?
• Can performance itself be explicitly ‘phenomenological’? If so, what hallmark traits does a phenomenological performance bear? And are there tools or methods for effectively creating phenomenological performance?
• How might phenomenology bridge what has long been perceived as a gap between performance and its (written) reception/critique/analysis? Does phenomenological writing bring us ‘closer’ to the performance(s) that for its subject?

Please submit abstracts of 500 words along with a cv to both editors – Dr. Stuart Grant (stuart.grant@monash.edu) and Dr. Matt Wagner (m.wagner@surrey.ac.uk) – by 31 March 2014. If accepted, full contributions will be expected by 31 October 2014; conventional essays should be between 6000-8000 words, and the length and format of contributions from practitioners will be determined in negotiation with the editors at the point of accepting the abstract.
Visit Phenomenology of Performance at:

Stuart Grant
Director Performance Research Unit
Coordinator Graduate Research Program in Theatre Performance and Music
Centre for Theatre and Performance
Room 216, Building 68 (PAC)
Monash University Clayton VIC 3800 Australia
Ph: +613 9905 2133 M: +614 0312 0740 F: +613 9904 4209