Comparative Literature research event: Performance and technologies

Thursday 3rd December 2015 (Week 12), Quad 31

Comparative literature invites colleagues to join us for our research event this semester, in which we will be reflecting on ‘performance and technologies’. Performance, understood in its broadest terms and across multiple contexts, periods and media, may relate to theatre, oral poetry, performances of the ‘self’ or the authorial role. The term ‘technologies’ encourages reflections on the impact of digital media on creative practices and cultural transmission but, equally, generates consideration of ‘older’ media such as film, television, journalism, music, and print culture. How does the concept of ‘performance’ intersect with notions of the ‘original’, the ‘version’, the ‘adaptation’ or the ‘authentic’? How does the reproducibility facilitated by various media interact with the immediacy of the performance context? By focussing on performance and technologies across various cultural, historical, political and linguistic contexts, we aim to investigate the relationship between the socially embedded and physically embodied writer/artist/performer and the processes of mediation, transmission and circulation of cultural artefacts facilitated over time by various technologies.

The day will be divided into two parts. The morning will be given over to two guest papers including plenty of time for questions and discussions. After lunch, colleagues will have the opportunity to ‘workshop’ elements of their ongoing research by presenting short papers, case studies or by raising questions for discussion based on pre-circulated reading or on the morning papers.

Everyone is welcome to attend. We welcome contributions from postgraduate colleagues. If you are interested in contributing to the afternoon session, please send a brief description of your proposed contribution to Emily Spiers at es245.


10.00-11.00 Clare Foster (Cambridge/UCL) ‘Adaptation in theory and practice: from site of contest to site of collectivity’
11.00-11.30 Coffee
11.30-12.30 Mark Robson (Dundee) (title tbc)
12.30-13.00 Discussion
14.00-17.00 Short papers, discussion groups

Clare Foster is a British Academy Research Fellow and screen-writer

Abstract: The concept of adaptation in Anglophone culture is at an interesting crossroads, as it branches out from a previously narrow notion as a space of relationship between two single ‘texts’, and a disciplinary association with film studies. This essay looks at the history of the concept, drawing on approaches from Translation Studies, Performance studies, and Classical Reception to suggest that the term, and concept, articulate a nineteenth-century shift towards, and now a twenty-first century shift away from, an outdated semiotics of culture focussed on singular objects and singular subjects (both creators and receivers). It argues that adaptation, in its conceptual essence, is a space of encounter for multiple audiences, and as such usefully signals the characteristically mixed nature of the messaging of all self-consciously public artworks. Adaptation exemplifies the extent to which all works are a time-specific negotiation of present social and political identities, and thus the questions it raises are increasingly relevant as we move in to a post-print digital and global environment where originals and copies no longer exist.

Professor Mark Robson is Chair of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Dundee.